Have you ever said, “Why am I so much more motivated at work then I am at home?” Ever wonder why you can get yourself to wake up early and go to work every day, even if you hate your job, but you can’t get yourself up early on the weekend to do a special project at home, even when you actually want to do it?
Why are you able to stick to deadlines at work but you can’t stick to them at home? If you’re like me, the goals you set outside of job-related goals, are more important, but it seems so much easier to get yourself to follow through on work-related goals. There’s a good reason for that, and with the right strategy, you can improve your motivation at home and accomplish more like you do at work.
Keeping the Boss Happy
Being motivated at work is easy because there are consequences built in. People often fool themselves by saying that they’re just naturally more motivated at work. But they just haven’t made the connection to all the wonderful natural consequences they reap for not getting things done at work by their deadlines. Gotta love the deadlines with consequences!
When you have a deadline at work, you typically have no control over it. The deadline is given to you and it’s your responsibility to complete the task by the deadline. The consequences can range from missing out on a bonus or a commission, letting your team down where they all get penalized with a consequence, or getting chewed out by your boss and maybe even getting fired.
Extreme consequences, like getting fired, are hard to ignore, especially when other people get penalized as in a team project or if your kids need your support on something. If you don’t come through when others are depending on you, it can really hurt, not only you, but those who were depending on you.
When I worked as a mental health counselor at a school for children with behavioral disorders, I was in charge of doing social skills lessons for an hour each day. If I wasn’t prepared to fill up that hour every single day, there were huge consequences in many different ways. As a result, I was ALWAYS prepared and ALWAYS motivated to have my material lined up for the entire week before Monday morning.
In the above example, I was able to use known (and imagined) consequences as a driving force of motivation. There was always a looming deadline and I never lost sight of it. Often at home, no such deadlines exist and, therefore, no such pressure exists.
Consequences that Sting
When I began experimenting with deadlines and consequences at home, I knew I was on to something but the results weren’t consistent. My productivity went up (for a while, at least). But this wasn’t enough to sustain high productivity. It wasn’t until I made the consequences more meaningful and real that I finally got consistent results. This strategy of using meaningful consequences more closely mirrors effective conditions at work.
However, you don’t necessarily want to be in high gear, constantly facing deadlines while at home. I think time at home needs more balance. You won’t want to set consequences for every little thing that you want to improve because that can increase your stress level and you probably don’t need more stress in your life.
At home, we often have other obligations to family members, friends, and relatives, etc. so some flexibility is important. But when you set your mind to accomplish a task or goal, it’s best to commit to the ones that are truly meaningful to you and then set consequences that sting a little. This strategy is especially effective if you give someone else permission to dole out the consequence if you don’t meet your self-imposed obligation by your deadline.
So here’s what you do. Find someone else who has a similar goal, then both of you commit to a specific outcome by a specific date. Each of you select a different reward or consequence, something that’s meaningful to each of you individually. Consequences tend to be more effective. But you can use both a consequence if you don’t succeed and a reward if you do. If either one of you fail to reach your goal on or before your deadline, BOTH of you suffer your individual consequences. You can only get rewarded if both of you accomplish your goals. It’s all or nothing, and you don’t want to let your partner down because then you ruin it for them if they actually do accomplish their goal.
It may take some time to tweak the consequence to get it right. But when you come up with the right consequence, it will scare you to think about failing to reach your goal. Make sure that your goal is very specific. You don’t want to reach your deadline and say, “Did I accomplish my goal or not? Does this count?” If it is ambiguous and you aren’t sure if you really accomplished your goal by the deadline, that’s an instant fail and the consequences kick in.
Mike and Brianna vowed to lose 15 pounds in 10 weeks. Each selected their own consequence and reward for this goal.
For his consequence, Mike chose to give away his last two weeks of pro basketball season tickets if he hasn’t lost at least 15 pounds. If he does succeed, there’s an autographed jersey he’s been watching that he’ll finally buy as a reward.
Brianna has two concert tickets for her favorite singer. If she doesn’t trim her 15 pounds off, she’s going to make someone very happy when she gives away surprise concert tickets that she originally bought for her and her sister (who doesn’t know anything about the tickets). Brianna was planning to surprise her sister by taking her to the concert. She feels pretty confident that she’ll trim those 15 pounds. And if she does, she’s going to upgrade to a better cell phone and she’ll get to enjoy the concert to boot.
Not only have Mike and Brianna committed to losing 15 pounds in 10 weeks, they’ve also committed to each other because if one of them fails, both will suffer their specific consequence and neither of them get their reward. How’s that for pressure? Mike gave Brianna his last two sets of season tickets to hold on to and Brianna gave Mike the concert tickets. Now, the only thing they can do to get them back is lose 15 pounds by the deadline. Think you could do it?
What type of consequence and/or reward would be most motivational to you?