Learn about motivation waves and be more productive

Below I’ve embedded BJ Fogg’s keynote from the recent Healthcare Experience Design Conference in Boston. It’s a must-watch if you’re at all interested in the subject of facilitating (not motivating!) behavior change. (Follow the link to BJ Fogg’s website because there’s a wealth of really great stuff there!)

I’ve extracted two screenshots after the video that I think are especially interesting for the L&D crowd.

The screenshot is of what Fogg calls Motivation Waves. An illustration of the fact that people’s motivation varies over the course of a day, week or month. Once in a while you feel like if you can swim over the Atlantic and that anything is possible and other days you feel like you can’t even manage putting your socks on.


So, motivation waves is a simple enough concept right? Now that we know our motivation goes up and down – what can we do to work around this to make us more productive? The big take-away is:

When in high motivation – do stuff that facilitates performing the behavior when in low motivation.

Priority 1: Do hard things that structure future behavior

When you’re at peak motivation, do things that create a structure to make it easier to follow through on when you’re doing the behavior the next time you’re not that motivated. For example, if you want to get fit and notice yourself being in a state of high motivation, don’t just go to the gym and workout! Book a couple of appointments with a personal trainer because then you get dates in the calendar that you have to go to the gym so the decision to go to the gym that specific day will be easier to make.

Priority 2: Do hard things that reduce barriers to the behavior

It’s easy to just dive into stuff you want to do all randomly without any plan, isn’t it? And isn’t it also most likely that you only do the fun stuff? For example, being motivated to put pictures in a photo book is fun but since it always takes alot of time you only get one or two pages done and the photo book is left unfinished. If you think about it, it would make more sense to use the time being highly motivated to do more boring, but oh so necessary stuff, go through all of your pictures and sort them based on situation, place, people etc. and then, when your motivation is low, you could do the easy fun things.

Priority 3: Do hard things that increases people’s capability

Cooking your own dinner isn’t always that fun but if you could use a moment of high motivation to learn a complex recipe by heart it would give you a sense of pride when it’s time to cook that specific dinner again. You’d know that you’ve got it and it’d give you a kick in the butt to go ahead and not buy that easy-to-order pizza.