I write for Time Management for iPad Magazine, an authority on Time Management. This article was originally published in September2013.
The formula is quite simple: to be motivated to do something means that your body wants to do it, but not your mind. Take gold or diamond prospecting, for example. It involves a great deal of back-breaking work, for small-time operators anyway. They persevere, day in and day out, spurred on by the possibility of striking pay dirt and its promised riches. Intellectually, the mind knows that a lot of labour is involved, but the body, with its instincts for survival and a better, safer life, is motivated to continue, regardless.
It is the same for all tasks, even those smaller in scope than panning for gold. Motivation must speak to the body, not the mind.
Leadership, for example, is a school of knowledge in which certain people learn, or try to learn, how to extract consistently great behaviour from other human beings. Good leaders learn that motivation and quality are best achieved through positive reward as opposed to punishment, and great leaders learn that positive reward is a process that requires consistent conscious application. Great leadership though, comes down to a few simple concepts, such as acknowledgement of other peoples’ hard work, a vision and communication style that inspires confidence, and the skills to build great teams and realistic plans. All of these attributes inspire confidence in others, and confidence, just like the potential riches of a gold mine, speaks to comfort and security: very human, very instinctive, very basic desires.
Therefore, when an individual seeks to find the motivation to get a task done on time, whether at work or at home – a PowerPoint presentation or the laundry – an intellectual knowledge of the task is not sufficient. There must be a human desire – an enjoyment of the result – a confirmation of the value of this task to one’s own existence, which must factor in.
If you are seeking to motivate yourself to perform a task, what can you identify as the pleasure – as the physiological reward that your body and instincts need? Will this task bring you money? Respect? Promotion? Further opportunity? Such results are positive, tangible rewards and they need to be identified and written down as part of your plan. Tangible rewards symbolize an end point of an action; the point at which the body can rest and recoup its energy, while enjoying a slightly better living situation than it had prior to the task. To schedule an activity without such a promise of reward is to work blind, and the human body doesn’t like to do that. It needs to see that it will be better off after the task or it will not want to do it.
Granted, not all tasks carry a positive reward, or at least not an obvious one. Sometimes the reward lies in just getting it done. The relief of getting an onerous task off your plate might be sufficient reward. A clear awareness of the road ahead, a visualization of the fact that life exists beyond this task, that there are other things happening in your life this afternoon, tomorrow, next week, might be sufficient to keep the task in perspective and to stave off procrastination.
Ultimately, motivation is connected to pleasure. Motivation to diet or eat right must be connected to the pleasure of buying slimmer clothes or of living long enough to enjoy one’s children, grandchildren or one’s leisure activities. The motivation to undertake a new time-effective technique such as organization or planning must demonstrate a similar benefit, to yourself and to everyone else involved.
Think about distraction for a moment. Have you ever found yourself drifting off? You read a paragraph (like this one) and suddenly discover your mind has looked at the words but not processed them? Intellectually you know it is important to read this, but physiologically and physically, your body says there is greater benefit to drifting away and resting for a moment. If that’s the case, it’s time to stop reading and go and do something else instead. Or find a nicer place, maybe a coffee shop or a place with a nice view. Your body knows what it wants, and it will only behave when it gets it. Motivation in yourself and in others comes from tapping into that vein and leveraging the energy that emanates from positive expectation and actual reward.