What do purpose and motivation have to do with time management?

What do purpose and motivation have to do with time management?

Purpose Motivation Time ManagementThis is a guest post by Michal Stawicki

In the autumn of 2012, influenced by a book I devoured in a single afternoon, I decided to change the direction of my life.

When I began charting my new course, the first thing I realized was that I needed a source of daily motivation, an undisputed frame of reference to give me the strength to push forward.

In other words I needed a personal philosophy upon which I would build my new life.

Another book, Steven R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” was very helpful in this venture. Thanks to its advice, I spent a month writing, and rewriting, until I had a manifesto of 1300 words: my Personal Mission Statement.

Within a couple months, I joined an online Transformational Contest. As a contestant, I had to publish my daily progress in three areas – health, wealth and wisdom.

Other participants of the Contest read my entries and commented on them. I quickly saw a pattern in their opinions – amazement in how much I had accomplished in such a short time.

At the time, I didn’t know how I had done it. In hindsight, I clearly see the reason for my rapid growth.

Motivation: the source of achievement

Covey’s book is often mistaken as the bible of personal growth. It’s true that it covers the variety of topics surrounding personal development, but its title is not a marketing trick. It truly is the bible of effectiveness, because the true source of effectiveness lays in integrity.

People who act in accordance with their values and universal principles of human society outpace those who are savvy, but lack an ultimate sense of purpose.

An American scientist mapped out a model which explains the superiority of personal integrity and character over tips and techniques.

Foggs Behavioral Model

Image source and copyright: Dr. Fogg, BehaviorModel.org

In BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model there are three elements of behavioral change: Motivation, Ability and Trigger. According to the model, Motivation and Ability are interchangeable. So, if you have low motivation but high ability, you can still succeed with your change. And vice versa – if you don’t know how to introduce a change, but your motivation is high, you will find a way to succeed.

Finally I had found something to explain my success: I have enormously high motivation.  My abilities pale in comparison to the abilities of many people out there, and yet I have become more effective and successful than ever before!

A deeper examination of Fogg’s model reveals the beautifully simple logic beneath it. It explains why people interested in personal growth are able to squeeze more out of life than their peers who don’t pursue it. Ability summarizes your knowledge and experience, both of which can be gained from external sources.

Motivation however… that’s a totally different story. It’s an intimately intrinsic trait. You can borrow some from the motivational speaker or boss who bullies you into doing your job faster or better. But, those are temporary solutions and can bring you only so far. Without lasting motivation you will collapse sooner rather than later. You will stop growing.

Chicken-egg riddle solved

The fact that you need motivation to get ability in the first place is doubly ironic. To make something super easy to do, you need a ton of knowledge and/or experience. Developing these often requires a lot of effort, effort that requires motivation.

The interchangeable nature of motivation and ability is true in a simple case of getting people to provide a feedback on a website. But in the case of your life’s journey, it’s motivation which starts and sustains the cycle of gaining ability and accomplishing higher levels of achievement. In other words, at least at the beginning, ability is the result of motivation.

This applies to productivity and time management, too. If you want to adapt a new technique, you have to change your behavior. For example, to make and  follow a to-do list you need to resign from keeping track of these tasks solely in your mind. A basic example for sure, but it shows the true power of BJ Fogg’s model. How many people do you think have no ability to manage a daily to-do list? Considering that the most basic form of a to-do list requires no more than a pen, paper and the ability to read and write, the ability required here is quite low indeed.

And still, an overwhelming majority of people do not use this simple tool. Why? People lack motivation.

The weaknesses of techniques-oriented approach

Implementing a new tool, an app or a technique gives usually immediate measurable results. But are those results sustainable? They give you a boost in ability, making it easier for you to undertake certain tasks. But as the example of a to-do list shows, you need at least the basic level of motivation to commit yourself to doing them.

Motivation is crucial for achievement as my own example shows. Before my transformation I had read Getting Things Done once, one year prior. It was my only ‘ability’ factor regarding time management when I started. And yet, after a few months people were impressed by my productivity.

My motivating purpose put me on the fast track for gaining ability. My learning curve has been steep, but I studied, implemented and honed the time management principles in my life until my results were satisfying. And, my personal mission statement had raised my standards very high.

Science and rationalism

In modern society, it is so easy to belittle ‘soft’ skills and factors such as motivation. It’s hard to measure their impact, so they are often viewed with contempt.

For example, realists make fun of believers in the Law of Attraction. However, many of those believers DO get results, despite the fairy-tale language and unconventional belief system. Their actions may look confused or silly from the outside, but as long as they stick to their philosophy and keep trying, they will eventually develop the abilities to attract what they want to attract.

The hardcore realist may dismiss this as wishful thinking, however science confirms what the philosophers and sages concluded a long time ago. A recent study revealed that people pursuing their life’s mission are stronger at the cellular level than people who focus on instant pleasures.

Our bodies appear to respond better to a kind of well-being based on a sense of connectedness and purpose. And, I believe the advantages of a meaningful, purpose-driven life don’t end with just your body.

3 good news about your purpose

“Obsession” is a word lazy people use to describe dedication.

– “Write. Publish. Repeat.” Johnny Truant and Sean Platt

In my opinion, the best way to get “obsessed” is to discover your life purpose. The good news is that:

1. It’s real

Your life has a purpose. You may just be not aware of it.

According to Viktor Frankl, the founder of the psychology school of thought called Logotherapy, purpose is an indispensable part of being a human.

Psychology is not an exact science, but Frankl dedicated his life to discovering and describing the universal influence that purpose has on the human life and even today is revered as an expert on purpose and character

Frankl’s theories had been tested and confirmed in the most extreme circumstances: Frankl was held prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during WW II. Later, many of his theories would shape a great deal of accepted psychological clinical practice. For me, the science doesn’t have to be exact as long as it’s applicable, so I accepts his conclusions as valid.

Your purpose exists. All you need to do is to detect  it.

2. It’s discoverable

I didn’t ponder my purpose for many years. In fact, I was a teenager the last time I did.

As I mentioned before, I was not blessed with any extraordinary abilities, so if I was able to find my purpose, it is surely possible for anyone else. It just takes some serious soul-searching and ruthless self-honesty.

If you have thought about the purpose of your life at least twice during the last 10 years, your starting position is better than mine was.

3. It’s THE multi-dimensional game-changer

Pursuing your purpose won’t just enhance one realm of your life or make your body’s cells stronger, the quality of your whole life will improve.

My time management skills or my physical fitness (I did 40 consecutive pull ups last week, beating my personal record) are just the byproducts of my purpose-driven life. They are not ends in themselves, they are merely prerequisites to fulfilling my dream of becoming a full-time writer.

My physical health and effective use of my “spare” time are necessary to pursuing that goal. Armed with my true purpose, the things I needed “materialized.”

It’s your turn

I invite you to seek the meaning of your life. When you find it, productivity techniques will become adventures to embark on, not additional duties to complete begrudgingly.

Why? Because every iota of productivity will bring you closer to your destiny.

If you are interested in learning exactly how finding my purpose skyrocketed my productivity, sign up to receive updates on the launch of my latest book: “Master Your Time in 10 Minutes a Day.” When you sign up, you will instantly receive a free copy of my ebook: “A Personal Mission Statement: Your Roadmap to Happiness” which is sure to put you on the path of discovering your life’s true purpose!

Image credit: Sara | b

  • Hi Michael; Thanks for sharing this post. I too have been one of those people with more motivation than ability. as a blind blogger computer user and now podcaster people are often surprised by my progress and inspired by my journey. i tell people that the great thing about the internet and social media is that hard work and detication can overcome those with more skills and larger budgets. thanks again, max

  • You’re welcom Max.
    I don’t know about those with larger budgets, but I surely overcame myself. That tastes sweet.
    It’s is amazing how much you can achieve… when you start trying.
    I hope I’ll inspire more people to explore their limits.

  • Great post Michal! The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is definitely one of my favorite books. If it wasn’t for my purpose, I wouldn’t have the motivation that keeps driving my passion for writing! Thanks for the article.

  • You’re welcome Kalen.
    7 habits is full of wisdom. When I look at online world I’m amazed how accurate Covey’s teachings are. Integrity and lack of it – it is directly translatable ino results.
    I hope at some time to reach habit number 7. As for now I don’t think I’m further than 3.

  • One of your best articles Super-dad! Bravo!
    I agree that if there is 1 essential factor for success it would be Motivation. However, many people mistake motivation for something you get/do/ or feel once and after that it’s all success. WRONG!

    Motivation is something we need daily, like a bath to clean ourselves. By motivating ourselves we clean our Mental and Emotional being from accumulated, negative thoughts/emotions. We must practice this daily because our Mental and Emotional beings get dirty every day.

    With clean mind and clean heart it’s easier to see what we truly want /what’s our real purpose in life/ and by following your purpose only a couple of times you won’t get anywhere but be even more lost. PRACTICE MOTIVATION DAILY!

    • Timo Kiander

      Hi Dejan!

      Thanks – actually, this was a guest post by Michal Stawicki :)

      Anyway, if you are looking forward to read more about this topic, check out the post I wrote some years ago:



    • Hey Dejan,
      You seem to be an extraordinary motivation preacher ;)
      I completely agree with you. Every morning I use first 20-30 minutes to ignite my motivation. I read lectures which shaped my philosophy, my philosophy manifesto, I repeat my personal missiona statement and look at my vision board.

      • Thank you Michael!

        This may sound strange, I don’t know if it’s Destiny or Synchronicity or people like us eventually find each other following the same Frequency but that’s what I also do everyday.

  • Hi Michal,

    Great post and great wisdom.
    Reading books adds a lot in our lives and that is why it is very important to keep on reading. The topic pulled my eyes and I landed into this post. Talking of motivation and time it is true that both will determine how quickly you are going to be success and how long it will take you to get what you want in life. As you said we all have a purpose in life and what comes in between us and our purpose is that mind of not detecting and seeing it. This is a killer in any persons life and that it why I find it very important to discover it.
    I like, I Like, I like this post. Laura.

  • Thanks a lot Laura. I appreciate your enthusiasm.
    You’ve nailed it! Not detecting and not seeing your purpose is like living in darkness. I know everything about it, I tased both states.