What makes you procrastinate? How do you get motivated? What should you do?
I personally like the explanation provided by Temporal Motivation Theory (TMT)… Google it! But, here’s my take for now. Say you want to write a blog post/report/paper, go to the gym, etc… TMT says (and to be fair, I’m rewording an already stripped down version of the theory) that for one of these tasks
What this means is that when it comes time to pick between two tasks, all other things equal, you will pick the
- the task with the larger reward
- the task with the greater likelihood of success
- the task with the least time remaining
However, that’s all pretty much common sense! So what?! You want to write that blog post/report/paper or go to the gym, but you can’t be motivated to tackle it… How should you proceed?! In my opinion, the logical course of action is NOT TO DO IT!
TMT is basically telling you (at least my interpretation of it) that you are procrastinating because that task has one or more of the following traits
- a relatively low likelihood of success
- a relatively low reward on offer
- a relatively long period of time before you get the reward
Essentially, the thing you’re trying to get motivated about is a low quality task, and I for one see no good reason to force yourself to be motivated about doing low quality tasks! In cases like this, I think the solution is obvious:
find a better task, i.e., a task that offers at least a decent (or preferably an astronomically awesome) reward with a good chance of success within a reasonable time frame.
I will leave you with some final thoughts:
- Assumption: you know how to produce accurate assessments of the rewards, likelihood of success and time commitments of tasks.
- Point of clarification: changing task ≠ changing objectives. You can always find a better task that motivates you and moves you towards your objective.
- Hard truth: should I give up on that dream project that I just can’t seem to motivate myself to work on? Short answer YES! Long answer: find a better dream project.