I’m following up on my post a few weeks back on what it means to really implement habit change. This post (and the one coming next week) focus on mental models that try to prime positive results.
My current thoughts are about motivation. The connotations behind the word typically indicate a “surge” or “push” that gets us to finish our tasks. This doesn’t actually seem very actionable of a model: We know motivation is supposed to be Productivity Fuel. Now what?
Right now, I’m interested in models that are more suggestive of Next Actions.
I’ve heard motivation also described as “automatic plan generation”. The idea here is that things we are motivated to do are things our brains easily make plans to carry out— and then we carry them out. From this perspective, eating is something we’re motivated to do, because when we’re hungry, we start generating plans to acquire food.
This view has some neat interplay with both causal decision theory and trigger action plans, and I’m sure there’s more room for exploring the conceptspace here. It’s also more actionable; when you need motivation, “forcing” your brain to generate steps to get something is indeed a concrete action.
Another model that seems to provide a better attitude is this reworking of motivation:
Energy + Opportunity + Reminder = Motivation
In this case, I’m viewing motivation as “the ability to get things done”.
I recently saw an article
(which I alas can’t find at the moment) about how people tend to take on cognitively tasking actions when they are content, rather than our perhaps more intuitive assumption that they’d seek out more pleasure.
(I did find this article that generally supports breaks, but that’s not exactly what I’m getting at here. Also, this formalization is definitely flawed and it misses out on the nice empirical backing Piers Steel’s Motivation Equation has.)
Energy refers to your physical state, how alert and rested you feel. Opportunity is about finding time to actually Do The Thing. Reminder refers to some trigger that lets you know there is a Thing To Be Done.
The above equation is an extension of my thoughts on fighting procrastination. If it is indeed true that we’re more capable of doing harder things when we’re in good states of mind, then being motivated to do X becomes a lot less mysterious.
Water, rest, food, exercise, a schedule, and a to-do list appear to approximate what you need to stay motivated.
With this (potentially completely unrealistic) breakdown, it’s no longer about finding some combination of mystical factors to generate magical Productivity Fuel, but it’s just about optimizing self-care, time management, and scheduling.