Possibility and Probability

A Python programmer with a personality thinking about space exploration

20 September 2005

Focus and motivation are not the same thing

by Nick

My plan last week (to turn off the internet-related distractions at my desk in order to achieve a greater focus) didn’t turn out like I expected it to. But as is the case with most experiments, there is still a lot that can be learned. I have learned that having focus is not the same as having motivation. All throughout my time in school I heard so many people say “Oh, I wait till the night before to do my project/report/homework/study because I do my best work under pressure with a deadline looming.” I never really understood that line of thinking, true I felt I did do some of my best work when time was tight, but I always swore I’d never wait till the last minute again. But invariably, I would fall back on this self-promise and put some task off until the last possible moment. I think now I understand why people put things off. They need an external motivation to get them going. By waiting till the last minute the fear of failure (bad grade, getting fired, etc.) becomes the motivation to get the job done. Most of the time it doesn’t have to be this way, yet for some reason we still rely on this as a motivator. I think part of the reason why is that it is hard to find a equally powerful substitute. My motivation for turning off the internet was to focus so that I could get more done. It turns out that is not that great of a motivator by itself. If I had combined that effort with something else (say the boss promised me if I finished up the project I could take the rest of the week off) then it might have turned out differently. Thinking about this makes me wonder if this is the reason that people don’t keep their new years resolutions. The motivation to do what ever self-improving task (exercising more, eating less, bathing more often) just isn’t that “overwhelming” to make them stay on task. Something to think about…