How To Get Motivated Enough To Get Things Done

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Rome was built on the last day.

The above line is a common project management adage. It means that things get done at the last minute, even if there was enough time to plan well.

It is human nature to prioritise things on the basis of the pleasure principle – personal gratification and ease of use, or the pain principle, that is avoidance of discomfort.

Each day, there is some crisis that throws intentions into disarray. I use the word intentions deliberately, since ‘intentions’ are not actions. ‘Want’ does not lead to action. Motivation comes in between.

Motivation to do things come because of 2 reasons. The obvious one is the stick-carrot or risk-reward. Enough has been written in management literature about it. The other reason is probability of success. The two are multiplicative. Whatever be the size of the carrot or stick, if the chances of success is low, things won’t happen. Similarly, if it is easy to do but the reward is not great, it won’t happen.

A word about reward. It is in the eye of the beholder. It is very difficult to fathom what motivates another unless I know the person. What I consider as gratifying may not be important at all to my colleague. Which is why most HR policies can only be at best, hygiene factors. Motivators is the job of the immediate manager.

I have meandered a bit. The aim of this blogcast was to point out that, as it is, we are not motivated enough, and on top of that, if we have to do things on a consistent and regular basis, it requires a sustained stamina for what seems like a marathon, with no end in sight nor any instant gratification. Hence, Rome is built on the last possible day.

Activities like exercise, building skills, reading a book cannot be done on the last day. But we postpone starting these things or are at best do it intermittently. How do we motivate ourselves so that we do not wake up one day to see a muffin-waist, or need to finish a lot of books before the exam? How do we motivate ourselves to ace that super tough aptitude test, so that we can get admitted in a top business school?

We can’t. All of us are different. If we are in the military, such activities are regimented and forced on us because they are the raison d’etre for the army. If we are civilians, with a choice, most of us will fall on the wayside, so to speak.

I do not mean to say it is futile to attempt to regularise our life. Our moms have got up every day for all our life to provide food to the family. She did not do ‘last day Rome’ by cooking food for the month on one day. She did not look at motivation theories or excuses thereof. She did it every day out of a sense of duty or love. Maybe she had no choice, or she considered the alternative, or she got tuned to that way of life. She is a true professional and mostly taken for granted.

If we need motivation or inspiration, we do not need to go far. Look at our mothers, and be inspired by her, to keep plugging away and be a true professional. Rome will be built day by day, brick by brick.

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