We all have tasks we dread, and some days, it’s really tough to scrounge up the motivation to tackle those tasks. To get yourself going, Charles Duhigg, author of the Power of Habit, suggests making a choice that puts you in control and linking your task to your values.
In his new book, Smarter Faster Better, Duhigg talks about the link between motivation and control. He cites a 2012 study in the journal Problems and Perspectives in Management that found people who have an “internal locus of control” typically have higher self-motivation, social maturity, and less stress. An internal locus of control is basically, believing that your actions can affect your destiny. In terms of motivation, Duhigg writes:
If you can link something hard to a choice you care about it makes the task easier… make a chore into a meaningful decision and self-motivation will emerge.
In other words, turn your chore into a choice that makes you feel in control of the big picture. As Duhigg says, this will “trigger the parts of our brains where motivation resides.”
For example, let’s say you’re writing a paper and you’ve set aside an hour to research one of your points. If you’re struggling to find the motivation, you first want to give yourself a choice so you feel in control. Maybe that choice is which publication you’ll start your research, or even where you’ll work (a coffee shop, your local library?). These choices work subtly to put you in the driver’s seat.
Second, you want to link those decisions and your task to a larger, meaningful goal. Maybe you’re completing the research paper because you want to ace the course so you can become a pro at the topic. Maybe you’re just doing it to get a good grade, get your degree, and find your ideal job so you can do something you enjoy for a living. The link doesn’t have to be direct; it just has to remind you of your larger goal.
Of course, this may not work for every task. I’d be hard pressed to find a larger goal for say, doing the dishes. But the process seems especially useful for smaller tasks that are part of a bigger project.
Smarter Faster Better | Charles Duhigg (Amazon)
Photo by College Library.