Is this a familiar picture? It’s getting towards the end of a busy week juggling everything we are all juggling at the moment. I’ve got a beautiful to-do list, a neat 5 actions for today note, a well-structured diary and a clear couple of hours now before lunch to crack on. And yet….I’m staring out of the window, procrastinating and counting the time down until my sandwich. I’m sure you know how that feels.
We have shared lots of ideas around productivity over the last few months; they are all genuinely great and I try really hard to embrace them. However, there are times when no matter how organised I feel, I’m simply not motivated to get going.
There will be a myriad of reasons for that – some related to physical energy, some connected to what is going on in our lives around us and so on. But when it comes to getting to the root cause of the lack of motivation, I find the work by Daniel Pink enormously helpful.
In his book “Drive” he posits that there are three factors that make a difference to how motivated we are in our work:
Autonomy – This is the extent to which you feel like you have control, or are taking control, over what you do. How this shows up in your work will, of course, be partly a function of your particular job role. But none of us are robots on a production line, so consider what steps could help you feel like you are making decisions for yourself. This might include the way you set yourself up for the work day, how you plan and schedule your work, the conversations you have with your line manager about ideas you have, the approaches you are taking to deliver on your goals. Whether you are in a job that allows you to self-determine and be creative in everything you do, or whether you are in a job role that is relatively fixed in process or output, there will be opportunities for you to make choices. And if you really feel that there aren’t – perhaps this is impacting your motivation, so your choices are connected to what you want to do about that.
Mastery – when we feel competent and confident in a task or role we are more likely to feel motivated to work. So if you are procrastinating, it might be worth asking yourself: is that because you are unsure about what you are expected to do, or don’t have the confidence that you will do a good job? To work on your mastery you can reach out to others for help (including us here in People Development of course!), learn from those around you, take time to do some learning or study and, most important of all, stay curious and keep asking questions.
Purpose – to have a purpose, a goal, an end result that you can say “there, I achieved that”, is satisfying. This purpose might be micro/modest/immediate (I will complete x by the end of the day), or somewhat larger or broader (I want to be a psychiatrist). Either way, it allows our brains to connect the work needed now with a desired outcome, and recognise that its worth putting in the effort. Holding on to this purpose also helps our resilience if it starts to get tricky along the way or we are blown off course (a global pandemic for example!).
This video is an excellent overview:
So if you are feeing unmotivated, today or more widely, have a think about these three elements: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose, and consider if the issue is connected to one or all of them. Then, of course, decide what steps you will take.
Juliet Flynn, Organisational and People Development Team