Fall 1987 // Volume 25 // Number 3 // Ideas at Work // 3IAW1

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Catch the Spirit


Virginia Powell Diem
Madison County Extension Agent, 4-H
London, Ohio

Nothing is more frustrating than to be sitting at you desk with no desire to do what has to be done. You know that you should be working and you know that there are a thousands things to finish, but the longer you sit, the more guilty you feel and the less you get done.

What's the problem? You've run out of steam. We've all experienced that lack of drive at some time in our careers. It may last an hour, a day, or longer. No one likes to feel the pressure of having to finish any project.

Motivation is the key to getting things done and enhancing creativity. Evaluate your current work situation to see if your environment stimulates you. Everyone responds differently; it's important to identify what "starts your wheels turning." Here are a few points that may help.

Work on Variety of Tasks

Don't let yourself get bogged down with one task that prevents you from doing anything else. With a little time management, you should be able to work on several different activities at the same time. For example, you know your plan of work is due in January. That's an extra responsibility beyond your normal routine. Most people don't enjoy paperwork and long-range planning, so give yourself the task in small pieces. Work on one section at a time, take breaks frequently, and reward yourself at the end of the section by doing something you like to do. Perhaps you enjoy writing news articles or preparing for a workshop. Working on several items at once will give you the variety you need to keep yourself going.


Sometimes when you just can't seem to get the task at hand finished, you'll find your mind wandering to all those other things you'd like to be doing. Take advantage of your thinking by writing down those ideas, no matter how strange they may seem, and begin a new ideas file. Anytime you think of a program you'd like to try, or a thought to put in a newsletter, write it down. Don't depend on your brain to allow those ideas to resurface when they're needed. Use your ideas file. Look at it every week, or at least every two weeks. You'll be amazed at the number of great ideas you've forgotten.

Try Something New

Although it's important to be realistic about goals and the resources needed to complete them, it can be exciting to try a new program. Remember, variety as well as flexibility are the keys.

Find Uplifting Force

Some people turn to religion or a close friend, spouse, or co-worker. Share ideas and frustrations with someone. He or she might be able to give you a new perspective on the idea, a better solution, or at least be a good listener. Don't forget to share your joys as well as your frustrations.

Attend Workshops

Sharing with co-workers in your district, state, or throughout the nation can be inspiring. Attending a national conference for your program area and seeing over a thousand professionals all interested in serving others re-emphasizes this shared value. None of us would be working in the Extension profession if we didn't feel such a challenge.

Feel Good About Your Work

If you're discouraged, unhappy, or burned-out, it will be extremely difficult to become a satisfied performer. Many times, Extension work seems to be a thankless job, but there are rewards. Nothing's wrong with giving yourself a pat on the back when you feel you've done a good job. Perhaps you need to plan one favorite or pleasant task a day that can be a reward or an inspiring activity.


Motivation comes in all shapes and sizes, and it's up to each of us to identify what works best. It's a matter of attitude. For example, are we offering 4-H camp to youth because we've always done it, or because it's an opportunity to provide learning experiences? Do we plan 4-H camp exactly as always, or try to improve it? Are we inspired to try?

The challenge to all of us is to find our own stimulus, and use it to help further Extension programs. The results will be progressive. A good program will motivate you to provide another special program, which will lead to another special program , and so on.

Catch the Spirit! Believe in what you do, and do it to the best of your ability. Go for it!