When reading last year, I came across the following formula for describing motivation:

How much you want to do it   =   Confidence you can do it   *   Perceived Value of doing it
                                 Proneness to being distracted * How long you have to do it

I’d be grateful if anyone can source this for me, as I can’t find the reference and would love to link to it!

It seems simple enough, but it’s suprisingly effective at helping us out of a motivation pit. We’ve all had times when we have had something we need to do, yet we cannot seem to bring ourselves to get on with it. It’s like we’ve fallen into a pit of despair about a certain task and cannot get out.

So what can we do to boost our motivation? This formula gives us a few tools to help us complete that task. They’re listed here in the order in which I’ve found them useful:

Break it down

If it’s too big to imagine completing it, break it down: what’s the next thing you can do to progress it? Do that, then rinse and repeat. This is one of the main things I learnt from GTD.

Ensure you can do it

This is all about raising our confidence in whether we can get it done. Remind yourself that you have ability and knowledge to not only do it well, but knock it out the park! If you don’t, either get someone to help you with the task or schedule another task to find out what you need to know. Both these things will raise your confidence and increase your motivation.

Remind yourself why you’re doing it

In other words, raise your perception of the value gained through doing the task. What is the task achieving for your? What good things will happen when it’s done? Remember, the tasks you feel the least like doing are the ones you feel best about having done: there’s value in that in itself. After this, if you still cannot see the value, why are you doing this in the first place?

Reduce distractions

Some distraction is inevitable, but we can work hard to overcome it. This is where I’ve found the pomodoro technique very useful. Change your environment and space to help you concentrate on what you’re doing. Tracking your distractions and intentionally overcoming them can be very effective in helping to get something done.

Raise the bottom

When do you have to do it by? If it’s in six months time, then you’re unlikely to want to bother now. But if the task is going to take six months (such as writing a dissertation, for example), then you will naturally doubt you can do it, and you’re really going to struggle to get started.

Instead, break the task down, and think: “If I’m going to get this done, I have to do this first thing by next week at the latest.” That will raise your confidence level (smaller task) and artificially reduce your deadline, both increasing your motivation.

Do it later

In a week you’ll have less time to get it done, and therefore you’ll be a bit more motivated. I’ve found this is the least effective, as it plays into my natural tendency to procrastinate, but sometimes we have to question why we’re doing this now at all, and get on with the really important tasks.

Hope this formula helps you as much as it’s helped me.