Motivation and Willpower in Time Management

Following my TEDx talk on time management 🇹🇷, some viewers asked how they can strengthen their persistency to follow their time plans.

In my opinion, we have two types of fuels to move us forward: Motivation and willpower. Motivation is the healthy and ideal type of fuel, while willpower is a necessary occasional boost.

Motivation

If you are really doing what you want to do and wouldn’t rather be doing something else, it means that you are driven by motivation. That’s more or less the ideal situation to get something done. Motivation can have the following forms.

Short termLong term
Motivation for pleasureYou really enjoy working on your subject todayYou are investing for a big prize of tomorrow
Motivation against sufferingYou are evading distress todayYou are precluding a big trouble of tomorrow

For most of us, motivation is an automated mechanism. We can’t turn motivation on/off like a switch. It simply occurs as a result of our given situation, belief system, capabilities, mental conditions, emotions, etc.

When you decide to invest time on a subject (such as writing a book, learning a language, composing a new song, etc); I recommend you to double-check if you really have short-term and long-term motivation for that subject at all.

Lack of long term motivation

If a new subject is appealing to you, but you lack a long term vision; you will possibly work on it for a limited span of time and simply leave afterwards. The experience wouldn’t be worthless, but you don’t get anywhere in the end. It’s like entering a nice bus without knowing where you want to go.

If that sounds like you, I recommend building a vision of you having done something in the end. If you enjoy writing, you can visualize your book being published. If you enjoy Spanish, you can visualize yourself traveling / working in Spain. You get the idea.

Whenever your short term motivation doesn’t seem enough, take your time away from the subject, meditate and focus on the picture where your long term goal has already happened. Think of it, imagine it and enjoy the scene in great detail.

Spiritual tip: Thinking and feeling like it has already happened is a very powerful tool to impel cosmic energies towards your goal. Abracadabra!

Taking a little break will make you yearn for your subject, and imagining the end scene will move you like a hungry kid imagining dinner. When those factors come together, you hopefully will get back to track and start working again.

Don’t extend your breaks too much though! No one wants to return to a stale subject where the details are completely lost.

If you can’t find any form of long term motivation, maybe it’s time to question if you have picked the right subject for you or not.

Lack of short term motivation

Sometimes, the opposite is experienced. You have a beautiful long-term goal, but you simply don’t enjoy working on the subject as much. You feel like you’d rather be doing something else.

If this is the case, I can recommend a couple of tricks.

Mixing pain with pleasure

You can set a schedule where you work on your subject for a while; then take a break and do something (even goofy) that you really enjoy.

So, you want to pass the exam but don’t like the subject? Make a schedule where you study for an hour, then play your favorite video game for an hour. That may not sound very productive, but it’s far better than procrastinating on Instagram all night without turning a single page.

This may be considered as an extended form of the Pomodoro Technique.

Intermittent goals

Sometimes the source of your long term motivation is simply too far away, and you have a hard time focusing on it. In that case, you can set multiple intermittent goals for yourself, and enjoy & celebrate each & every arrival.

Instead of…

Today ➡️(a long time) ➡️Big Goal

Do…

Today ➡️ Checkpoint 1 ➡️ Checkpoint 2 ➡️ Big Goal

This will help you focus and believe in nearer goals, and finding your motivation will be easier. Besides, you will have more visions to focus on – both mid-term and long-term!

Some of my personal examples are;

  • If you are writing a book, make each chapter an intermittent goal
  • If you are writing a program, split your end product into versions (sprints) and make each version/sprint an intermittent goal

Willpower

Willpower is the less ideal type of fuel. If you are working with sheer willpower and no motivation; it means that you are forcing yourself to do something that you don’t really want to do.

You might be getting results, but the cost is probably your long-term health.

Therefore; willpower should only be considered as a short term remedy to stay on track despite daily disturbances. I recommend using willpower only when you disconnect from your motivation temporarily.

Removing blocks

Before flexing your inner muscles, it might be easier to ask why you can’t connect with your motivation.

Human architecture is highly interactive. Our physical / energetic / emotional / mental / spiritual / etc states interact & affect each other all the time.

For example; bad sleep / nutrition habits or lack of exercise might be intoxicating you and disconnecting you from your positive emotions.

Or you might need to make peace with a certain person to get rid of a swelling sense of guilt / anger / etc; and once you leave it behind, your motivation could surface again.

You get the idea. Ensure that your physical / energetic / emotional / mental / spiritual bodies are aligned and cleansed as much as possible.

Strengthening willpower

Despite all the efforts to balance our bodies; we all have good days and bad days. Energetic days and sleepy days. Sometimes we get a couple of unfavorable days in a row. In such time, our motivation may hide under the hood. That’s where we can turn to willpower to keep moving forward.

Your willpower is either strong or weak. However, not unlike your muscular power, willpower can be empowered with exercises and practices. Some physical examples are;

  • Tapas practices of Raja Yoga
  • Dharana practices of Raja Yoga (helps with concentration too)
  • Enduring challenging poses in Hatha Yoga
  • Fasting (against your hunger)

You can find further examples, but you get the idea. Strengthening your willpower in “the gym” will help you on “the field”.

Conclusion

So; the idea is to find and sustain your short & long term motivation. Turning to sheer willpower works if you are strong, but it is unhealthy in the long run – so it should be considered as a temporary boost only.

You can watch my speech on motivation & willpower on YouTube 🇹🇷.

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