Is Motivation Really the “Switch” you to Super Charge Your Productivity?

A classic moment in many (American) movies is the point where the protagonist reaches a breaking point and, as though a switch was flipped, they suddenly have an abundance of motivation. Roll vignettes of the hero suffering through training, study, practice to achieve the heights that had been previously unattainable. Outcome, victory.

While fiction lends itself to the short form of a movie and can instill a similar feeling of motivation in the viewer. “Heck yeah, if the geeky hero can transform into an unstoppably juggernaut, of course I can too! I’m going to crush this thing I’ve been toying with for months and not just get it done, but knock it outta the park.” Yet the following morning, that motivation has evaporated (unless is was a really good movie) and its back to business as usual.

Truth is, in the absence of external inputs, motivation tends to be a fickle ally. It can be useful to get over the inertia of starting. But the movie story line of subsequent, unrelenting, motivation-driven productivity is the stuff of fairy tales.

I’ve seen recommendations of maintaining motivation by considering (pretending) that our life depends on our maintaining a level of commitment, effort or productivity. Yet motivation easily sees through this ruse. …and laughs.

While motivation can be an ally that helps overcome, sometimes massive, inertia – you need to have the real A Team ready to pick up where motivation will leave off. That is commitment, movement, and consistency.

While the sometimes large initial gains of a motivation driven start are generally hard to maintain, being ready to continue forward, likely at a less spectacular pace should be planned for. You may have a stellar session at the gym and find yourself having a hard time moving at all the following day. This is where you need to have planned for recovery day(s) and a commitment to keep doing some sort of exercise. Your legs got blown out, work your arms. You cranked through the first week’s coding exercises and need to wait for the next week’s to be available? Go back and run through this week’s exercises and reinforce your learning.

It is easy (and common) to belittle smaller strides made after a spectacular, motivation-induced start, but these small steps add up. Knowing that each step, no matter how small, moves you towards the goal means you should not belittle them. Building a habit of progress will trump motivation any day. It is the consistent commitment to doing something to move you forward, even if you are being pushed back, that will get you to and carry you through the goal posts of spectacular success.

Use motivation to your advantage, flip the switch as often as you can to kickstart or accelerate what you are already doing – every day, without fail.