Motivation is a bottle of water.
There are moments in my life when I feel completely unmotivated to do anything, and it’s frustrating.
I have been dealing with motivation problems for many years now, and I struggled to find a successful technique to strengthen my motivation and work more easily towards my goal. Instead of making progress, I was back where I started every time, and I didn’t understand what I was failing.
Motivation is a crucial point of our behavior. If you strengthen it enough, you can achieve anything with less mental effort and more serenity. However, there’s a downside because each time you use motivation, you burn it out quickly. And so, in a couple of days, you empty your inspirational tank, and you feel unmotivated, powerless, and exhausted.
So is there a way to avoid burning out your motivation while using it to boost your productivity and efficiency? Of course, there is, and it works more efficiently than I ever thought possible.
Studies on Motivation
One of the principal roles of motivation is to keep you focused when your productivity systems are not working. So motivation is a compensation power that helps you get the work done by pleasuring you with the illusion of a close happy ending.
A study led by Quinn Kennedy discovered the close relationship between motivation and happiness. It has been observed how adults have a more positive view of their past thanks to their long-term autobiographical memory. However, it is possible to introduce the same positivity in young people by raising their motivation.
But the same principle can apply oppositely.
According to many studies and researchers, increasing positivity results in higher motivational and productivity power. However, positivity is not enough, and it is challenging to maintain without the proper rewarding system. Using motivation is highly stressful for your body, so reward yourself when making meaningful steps towards your goal to re-equilibrate stress levels.
Moreover, according to a study led by Brynne DiMenichi, competition has a strong influence on motivation. The more you compete and feel the social pressure of your peers in a stable environment of collaboration, the more your motivation will strengthen.
The Regeneration Principles to Strengthen Motivation
One of the easiest ways to manage motivation is through the regeneration principle. That is nothing more than a visual representation of the motivational levels of a person. Using this principle allows you to understand better how to strengthen, regenerate, and use your motivation effectively.
The concept is simple.
Imagine putting an empty bottle under the faucet and pouring one drop of water into it every minute. At this rate, at the end of the day, you may have a bottle full of water. Or you may have a half-full bottle.
In this visual example, the bottle is the amount of motivation you can store, and the drops represent its regenerative power.
The regeneration principle example
But let’s imagine other scenarios. For example, imagine a hole in the bottle that loses one drop every two minutes. In the first case, at the end of the day, the bottle would be half-full while, in the second case, it would be empty for three-quarters. Moreover, if the hole loses one drop every minute, the bottle will never refill. So in these cases, your motivational power will be considerably lower or even inexistent.
In the bottle example, the hole represents your need for motivation to complete a task. Therefore, if your consumption is too high, you will empty your motivational tank soon, but if it is sustained, you will refill it in time for another work session.
So if you want to strengthen your motivation, there are three things you can do:
- raise its max cap
- increase the regeneration power
- reduce its expenses
How to strengthen motivation
1 — Raising the max capacity
As for the bottle with a physical capacity barrier, motivation has a fixed amount you can have at your disposal too. More than that, you cannot store, even if you wait for days.
So the first thing you can do to strengthen your motivation is to raise its maximum cap. To do that, you need to change the bottle and use a bigger one, which means changing your current work system and using a better one.
When dealing with motivation, our system is not functioning correctly. Every time you start working, there’s some kind of friction that stops you. So even if your motivational levels are high, your system makes you sweat.
If you keep working in this environment, you will use more motivation than needed, and you will run out of it too soon. So in these cases, you need to fix your working plan to remove friction and difficulties.
Most of the time, those problems result from a non-productive environment or a discouraging goal-setting strategy. But if you learn to set an efficient work environment and optimal goal-setting strategies with consistent small steps, you won’t need that much motivation to keep working.
2 — Increasing the regeneration power
Every night, when you stop working, your motivation regenerates for the following day. However, if your regeneration power is weaker than your expenses, you will end up absorbing each drop of incentives as soon as possible. Therefore, you won’t be able to use bursts of motivation when most needed.
To remove this possibility and strengthen your motivation, you need to increase your regeneration power by using efficient relaxation techniques.
Taking frequent breaks from work is crucial. I am a workaholic, and I perform from 5:30 a.m until 10 p.m, but I know that I need to take frequent breaks to oxygenate my brain and allow my motivation to regenerate.
When talking about taking pauses, you will fall into one of these two categories: you either take too many and inefficient ones, or you don’t take enough of them.
You take too many breaks, but inefficient.
In this case, try new regenerative habits. Some examples are yoga, meditation, mindfulness, body scan, or breathing techniques. Avoid anything that provides your brain with more information: the notification feed on your phone, emails, or even reading books.
You don’t take enough breaks.
In this other case, you get so deep into work that you forget to take breaks. So besides your work sessions, you can schedule your pauses too. The classic Pomodoro Technique can force you to take a breath following a fixed criterion. However, if you want to plan your breaks at will, try to maintain the twenty-five to five minutes ratio. For example, since I don’t like short pauses, I modified the classic Pomodoro to work for an hour followed by a 15 minutes break. This way, I can completely disconnect from work, and my motivation regenerates significantly faster.
Also, to increase your regeneration power, learn to split work and personal life.
In the past, I had a problem separating them. So even when I finished work, I still thought about it for a while, ruining my free time. However, in the past few months, I learned to close the office door and leave every problem there.
3 — Reducing the motivation expenses
The last thing you can do to strengthen your motivation is to reduce its expenses.
As I said before, if you use too much motivation, you will drain all of it. So besides increasing your regenerative power, you can also focus on reducing the motivation expenses, which you can achieve by improving your efficiency.
If you work poorly, and it takes you too much time to complete a task, you will feel unmotivated because of the prolonged time you spend on it. So if this happens for every activity, you need to use motivation to finish, which leaves you without any emergency resources.
Reducing your motivation expenses is crucial in these cases, so you need to work on efficiency and concentration. For example, you can study a system to enter deep work and flow or a technique to reach high efficiency without burning out.
I’ve dealt with motivation problems for my entire life, but I finally found an equilibrium. Once I understood that motivation is a regenerating power, and I shouldn’t use too much of it, my problems disappeared. So each time I notice I am unmotivated, my motivational alarms turn up, and I perform my behavioral check.
First, I make sure my systems work properly without friction. In the past, I changed many of them, and I keep changing. As humans, our needs change constantly, and so should your productivity system if you want to keep up with life.
Second, I analyze the ratio between regenerated and spent motivation. If there’s no equilibrium, or the expenses surpass the profits, I need to fix my relaxation techniques or efficiency.
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Article first published on Curious.
Cover photo by Julia Larson from Pexels.