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Why Motivation Management is the New Time Management

· 6 min read
motivation management is the new time management

We've been taught to manage time with sophisticated tools and frameworks. And we should; time is a precious and limited resource. But what about another resource that has proven to be a key driver to productivity, motivation? In today's post, we explore why motivation management is the rising star in the productivity conversation. And of course, it has something to do with AI!

I got introduced to the concept of time management at a rather young age. I was, I think, in the third or fourth grade. School let out at noon. My mother, ever so worried about my development, did not want me waste away all those precious afternoons. So she gave me a directive: "Write down everything you do, the time you start, and the time you finish."

"Even when I go to the bathroom?" I asked.

"Especially when you go to the bathroom," she replied, "bathroom time adds up, and if you are not vigilant, you will waste a lot of time there."

So I did. In squiggly handwriting, I recorded my activities on a notebook.

  • 1:00-1:30 Eating
  • 1:30-3:30 Reading
  • 3:30-3:35 Bathroom
  • 3:35-4:55 Homework
  • 4:55-6:00 Reading

I definitely played and watched TV. But of course I wasn't going to include these. Instead, "reading" and "homework" got featured prominently. At the end of the day, I handed my "time utilization report" to my mom. I never knew what she thought of it, but after a few days, she stopped asking for it. Quietly gleeful, I also never mentioned it again.

Modern time management is a lot more advanced than my "pencil and paper" approach, with sophisticated frameworks and softwares. Pomodoro, Eisenhower metrix, Kanban, agile, Gantt chart, and so on. There are many ways to structure and optimize your time.

As it should be. Time is a precious resource. And time management will remain to be a crucial skill in today's busy world. However, it's not enough.

More and more, motivation management is becoming the key to productivity. Here, let's examine why.

Time Can Be Measured; Not Motivation (Yet)

One reason time management tools have proliferated is that time is easy to measure. And like the saying goes, "what gets measured gets managed."

Motivation, on the other hand, is not so easy to measure. We can't even precisely define it at the moment. Such lack of clarity makes it difficult to build generalizable tools around motivation.

However, this is changing rapidly. Researches have repeatedly demonstrated the power of motivation. This has driven the development of new tools and frameworks. And as these tools and frameworks become more widely adopted, together with scientific advances to illuminate the true nature of motivation, we will have a new generation of motivation management techniques.

This is akin to the long process of developing time management tools. Once upon a time (pun unintended, I promise), time was also only loosely tracked and managed. And we did not have a central, agreed-upon definition. But as time became more critical to our lives, we developed tools to measure and manage it. Science has even given it a precise, atomic definition.

Our journey to motivation management is just beginning. More tools will emerge to help us tap into the power of motivation.

Time is Necessary But Not Sufficient

Have you heard of the saying, "You can bring a horse to water, but you can't make it drink"?

Have you ever had the experience of blocking out time to do a task, but when the time comes, you just can't bring yourself to do it? Instead, you find yourself procrastinating, eventually having to reschedule the task to another time.

This is because when it comes to completing a task, time is necessary, but not sufficient. You also need the drive and self-discipline to actually do it.

More importantly, if you have the drive, you will find the time. "When there's a will, there's a way." This is why optimizing motivation can be more effective than optimizing time. If you have the motivation, you will figure out how to fit it into your schedule. If you don't have the motivation, even if you have the time, you might not be able to do the task.

Time is Finite; Motivation is Not

Time is a finite resource. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. And we can't get back any of the time that's past. This is why time management has been and should remain to be an important topic for productivity. We want to make the most of the time we have, and we want to be productive and efficient with it.

Motivation, on the other hand, does not have a known limit. We know we can boost our motivation, whether through exercise, meditation, or simply taking a break and doing something fun. We know when we are motivated, and "in the flow", we can accomplish a heroic amount that almost seems impossible.

The ostensibly "renewable" nature of motivation means there's so much hidden potential still yet to be tapped. And this is why motivation management is becoming more central in the productivity conversation. If we can learn to dig into the well of motivation, we just might figure out new ways to get more done, with less agony, in less time, and live a more fulfilling life.

The Era of AI

The final reason motivation management is increasingly important is AI. I know, I know, this sounds like a stretch that is just hitching on the recent AI hype. But it's not.

In his 2016 book, "Thank You for Being Late", Thomas L. Friedman talks about the future of work. In a world where machines are becoming more intelligent and capable, humans will need to focus on developing the skills that machines can't easily replicate.

What kind of skills are those? Machines and AI are great at processing large amount of data and identifying patterns. More and more, any task that can be broken down into a series of steps and rules will become automated.

This means that humans will continue to be the best at tasks that are unstructured, and require creativity and deep thinking.

And what is the key to creativity and deep thinking? Motivation.

We can't simply block out one hour to be creative. We can't schedule a meeting to make new discoveries. Non-routine tasks require drive and motivation. It takes practice, trial and error, experimentation, patience, and continued learning. And motivation is what fuels these activities.

As AI continues to advance, we will need to keep on developing our motivation management skills. Those that can leverage tools to stay positive and motivated will be the ones that, in the words of Friedman, thrive in the age of accelerations.