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What lockdown teaches us about motivation

One of the many benefits of being one of the ‘haves’ in lockdown, is that there is  a lot of free material around, which is normally inaccessible or expensive.

My love for learning bias has meant that I have had to be clear about what I won’t be watching/listening to, rather than what I will!

Being part of a global coaching platform, however has allowed exposure to some very high quality learning sessions, including one with author Daniel Pink yesterday evening. Pink has written a lot on motivation over the years, but I really appreciated his application to working remotely.

Autonomy: ironically we have  probably never had more freedom in how we work and felt more imprisoned! I have spent the past 3 weeks nagging my family about structure and was only too grateful when a start date to online schooling resumed, not to burden my kids but to allow structure to bring autonomy.

Pink advises to start and end  the virtual work day at the same time every day, and I was relieved to hear that he is not part of the 5am club! 

Mastery: if we disregard the lower level biological drivers, the single biggest motivator according to Pink is making progress on meaningful work.

In practice that means commencing the day with your MIT (most important task) and ending the day with 60 seconds to list what you got done today.

For many who are not used to working alone, there are no feedback loops and building in a daily progress ritual provides that support.

Purpose: In short this speaks to the ‘WHY’ of every task rather than the ‘HOW’.

Pink’s challenge of spending more time thinking and talking in meetings about the ‘why’ we are doing what we are doing and less about the ‘how’

is one I want to tackle both with my clients and for myself. It reminded me of Simon Sinek’s concentric circles of ‘why’,

and a couple of daily check-ins to anchor why you are doing a task before you embark upon it, confirm purpose and discard time wasters.

Pink suggests an added visualisation of one or more people who are helped by what you are doing (even indirectly) to reinforce purpose.

Practices:  Getting stuck is a normal and human part of any work day, particularly from home. I’ve seen my tten boys staring off into space at the computer and caught myself leaping into my inbox before a task is done…I liked his JFM (just five more ) minutes or emails or laps around the garden, which can help you push through the wall of procrastination.

Scheduled breaks are a really important part of the lockdown day and Pink suggests these principles;

  • social beats solo – can you take a break with a family member?
  • outside beats inside – go and literally smell the roses if you can
  • moving beats stationary – my husband and I have walked more laps together in lockdown than I think in the preceding year!
  • something beats nothing -just 20 seconds every 20 mins to stare 20 metres away helps online fatigue



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