4 Motivators for Productivity and the Science Behind Them

Motivation is difficult to return via. There’s at all times every other job, every other mission, every other goal—and any motivation you arrange to scrape in combination for one factor is absent for the subsequent. “If handiest I had extra of it,” we expect.

But motivation is not a useful resource—no less than no longer in the manner the language surrounding motivation suggests. Motivation is a reaction to stimuli, and that reaction is not at all times the similar. Different stimuli cause other portions of the mind and inspire us towards productiveness in numerous techniques. So as an alternative of wishing for motivation or searching for extra motivation, it could be extra useful to take into accounts the several types of motivators we enjoy and what is going on in our brains after we enjoy them.

There are a wide variety of motivators for productiveness, however right here we are going to focal point on four commonplace varieties of skilled motivation:

  • Creative expression
  • Financial incentive
  • Curiosity/finding out
  • Fear

The Basic Science of Motivation

In order to grasp every motivator’s courting with the mind, we flip to neuroscience and psychology.

Over the years, neuroscientists and psychologists have established that we in most cases enjoy motivation when dopamine—a neurotransmitter that relays alerts between mind cells—is launched and travels to the nucleus accumbens. The nucleus accumbens is a space of the mind that mediates praise habits: So when dopamine reaches the nucleus accumbens, it solicits comments on whether or not a just right factor or a foul factor is set to occur. As Kimberly Schaufenbuel, program director of UNC Executive Development, explains, this prediction activates us to reply in ways in which both “reduce a predicted danger (the unhealthy) or maximize a predicted praise (the just right).”

Image of the brain with the nucleus accumbens highlighted

So for those who get an e mail out of your boss with a brand new project, dopamine hits up the nucleus accumbens to shape a prediction of what’s going to occur for those who do the project or no longer, or for those who do it nicely or poorly. With that prediction in position, you’ll be able to both act to extend the chance of praise (cost, reward, sense of feat) or lower the chance of punishment (demotion, yelling, sense of failure).

So we are motivated via the promise of praise or punishment. But zoom in a little, and we will be able to separate motivation into two extra classes: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation, in keeping with psychologists Stefano Domenico and Richard Ryan, is the “spontaneous tendency to hunt out novelty and demanding situations, to increase and workout one’s capability, to discover, and to be told, even in the absence of operationally separable rewards.” In different phrases, intrinsic motivation comes from inside of, no out of doors prompting concerned.

Extrinsic motivation is the reverse. It happens after we’re caused to behave via exterior stimuli.

Reward vs. punishment, intrinsic vs. extrinsic—those are the large strokes of motivation. But there are all kinds of nuances relating to motivation, so let’s take a look at our four motivators for productiveness and see what actually drives us.

Creative Expression

In scripting this weblog submit, I am motivated via ingenious expression. It provides me a chance to flex my ingenious muscular tissues and categorical myself via prose and storytelling. But what is going down in my mind whilst I am writing?

Creativity could be one of the toughest neurochemical phenomena to grasp as a result of it is a mixture of a number of neurochemical processes. But lately, we’ve got began to pin issues down in the swirl of ambiguity.

When you might be motivated towards productiveness by way of ingenious expression, it is most probably that one of two issues is occurring:

1. You’re “in the zone”

This is the colloquial time period used to explain an uninhibited ingenious go with the flow, wherein it kind of feels as if you are no longer even interested by what you might be doing. Many artists describe being “in the zone” like being a conduit, the place concepts go with the flow via them onto the web page, the canvas, the device, and so on.

When you might be in the zone, a area of the mind referred to as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) turns into much less energetic. Research performed via neuroscientists Dr. Charles Limb and Dr. Allen Braun connects the DLPFC to making plans, inhibition, and self-censorship, which is smart bearing in mind that the ones qualities are nearly antithetical to uninhibited ingenious go with the flow. When mediating a hurry of concepts, there is not any time to investigate or arrange. Planning and censoring handiest get in the manner.

Rolling Stones guitarist, Keith Richards, explains it this fashion in his autobiography: “Great songs write themselves. You’re simply being led via the nostril, or the ears. The talent isn’t to intrude with it an excessive amount of. Ignore intelligence, forget about the whole thing; simply practice it the place it takes you. You in reality don’t have any say in it, and all at once there it’s […] And you already know that songs write themselves; you might be simply the conveyer.”

2. You’re “methodically sculpting”

If creativity had been handiest conceivable when in the zone, artwork galleries can be so much emptier. Ask any artist and they will inform you that the “zone” is intermittent, and to rely on it’s folly. Every artist has to position their nostril to the grindstone and create, whether or not they are in the zone or no longer.

Most creativity is difficult, tedious paintings, and all over those pre- or post-zone ingenious classes, task in the DLPFC can in fact ramp up, particularly if you are reviewing or enhancing. That’s as a result of ingenious expression generally comes to a steadiness of uninhibited go with the flow and methodical sculpting. Similar to the well-known piece of writing knowledge, “Write inebriated, edit sober,” a just right ebook or shifting music is ceaselessly the made from each stream-of-consciousness inspiration and meticulous craftsmanship.

The emotional connection

Okay, so we all know what is going down in the mind when you are “in the zone” vs. “methodically sculpting.” But how will we get to these mind areas in the first position? While the science is not whole, one factor we are positive of is that the DLPFC can show off other ranges of task when responding to certain or unfavourable stimuli.

In a learn about printed in Scientific Reports, jazz performers had been requested to have a look at images of a lady dressed in a favorable, unfavourable, or impartial expression, and then attempt to reflect the photograph’s temper with improvised melodies. Those responding to unfavourable stimuli skilled extra task in mind areas hooked up to visceral consciousness (i.e., a heightened sense of one’s emotions); the ones responding to certain stimuli skilled much less.

So when the jazz performers had been brought about into a favorable emotional state, their visceral consciousness went down—and with out that analytical 3rd eye, they had been extra at risk of uninhibited ingenious go with the flow.

But once they had been brought about right into a unfavourable emotional state, they turned into extra conscious about their very own emotions, and thus extra analytical, extra grounded, extra rational, and extra at risk of methodical sculpting.

Takeaway: Being motivated via ingenious expression can lead to an arranged supply of latest, surprising, and imaginative concepts.

Financial Incentive

Yes, ingenious expression unquestionably motivates me towards productiveness whilst I am scripting this piece. But it will be cheating to mention that I am not additionally motivated via cost. It’s a part of my process, and I do it to pay for such things as meals and refuge and HBO, so the promise of monetary praise trickles down for positive.

Our brains glance very other when motivated via monetary reimbursement. And simply as several types of ingenious expression are related to other neurochemical processes, so are several types of monetary incentives, particularly wage vs. added incentive.

Motivation from wage

Money can unquestionably inspire us towards productiveness—somebody with a role can inform you that. But extrinsic motivators like wage paintings perfect when paired with different, extra intrinsic motivators. Edward Deci, a psychologist at Rochester University, says that we’ve got three mental wishes that lend a hand complement monetary motivation: autonomy, competency, and the sense of feeling hooked up to others.

Salary by myself does not inspire us, Deci says. In truth, he argues, “Over-emphasis on monetary praise undermines autonomy and due to this fact intrinsic motivation.” So whilst our wage can inspire us to be productive, there wish to be different components at play too.

Motivation from added incentive

Many employers be offering added monetary incentives like fee and bonuses: If you carry out to X degree, you get Y more cash. Even if you are already motivated via a wholesome steadiness of intrinsic and extrinsic components, issues trade when those performance-based monetary incentives are presented.

In a learn about led via Dan Ariely of Duke University, researchers requested individuals to play video games that examined reminiscence, creativity, and motor abilities. They would every obtain a monetary praise in line with their functionality, however one crew used to be introduced a small praise, every other a medium praise, and every other an overly huge praise. The learn about discovered that individuals who had been introduced the greatest sum of money carried out the worst.

Three different sized stacks of coins

In every other learn about, Ariely realized that after introduced a selection of rewards—on this case money, a circle of relatives meal voucher, or verbal reward—that selection “counteracted the demotivating results of financial incentives.”

Ariely concluded that whilst performance-related rewards in most cases building up task in spaces of the mind fascinated with motivation, there comes a tipping level. When the attainable praise is just too huge, it might probably undermine functionality via making folks overly targeted or mentally aroused. Excessive task in those spaces can compromise decision-making skills and lead to extra errors.

Bottom line: To get the maximum from their workers out of monetary incentives, employers will have to bolster the wage motivator with different necessary motivators like autonomy and interpersonal connection, and be sure that their incentive pay schemes do not be offering rewards so huge as to dominate decision-making.

Takeaway: Being motivated via an overly huge monetary incentive can lead to a mistake-riddled product, whilst a reasonably-sized monetary incentive (paired with intrinsic motivators) can lead to one thing extra considerate and polished.


Light bulb on a chalkboard

While scripting this submit, I in finding myself finding out new and fascinating knowledge. It makes me curious to be told extra, so I dig deeper…and the cycle continues.

Curiosity and the want to be told are purely intrinsic motivators. Our mind is signing up for an extracurricular task. It’s taking the trail much less traveled. There’s no monetary praise or looming punishment. There is not anything else that must be created or configured. It’s in search of wisdom for wisdom’s sake.

According to Domenico and Ryan, we are motivated towards productiveness via interest/finding out after we come upon new varieties of stimuli “that provide optimum demanding situations or optimum inconsistencies with one’s extant wisdom.” Translation: We need to examine issues that we do not perceive or issues that run counter to our stories. This explains why, for instance, anyone would possibly listen a ringing payphone and solution it. Sure, you yelled at Colin Farrell when he did it in Phone Booth, but it surely in fact is smart. Most people remember the fact that pay telephones are for calling other folks. Nobody calls a payphone. So when any person does name a payphone, the mind recognizes the stimulus as inconsistent with its basic figuring out of pay telephones—and of the international at huge—and nudges you to move solution it.

So what is going on in the mind right here? Dopamine, as with just about all varieties of motivation, performs a key function when motivated via interest/finding out, and dopamine neurons generally tend to show off two modes of task: tonic and phasic.

  • When dopamine is in tonic mode, neurons hearth at a gentle charge, reflecting what Domenico and Ryan name the “basic power of animals’ exploratory in search of inclinations.” When we are in tonic mode, we could be strolling round smelling issues, having a look at issues, being attentive to issues. You know, customary human stuff.

  • In phasic mode, neurons enjoy quick bursts of task or inactiveness based on particular stimuli, resulting in an building up or lower of dopamine, generally lasting a number of seconds. Whereas in tonic mode you could be forced to look at an extraordinary having a look tree, a unusual noise from its branches would possibly cause phasic mode—and all at once you might be inching towards that tree, keen to find the supply of the noise.

Whether we are motivated towards productiveness via a sustained, baseline degree of interest or particular stimuli that fan the flames of our neurons, the tendency to hunt out the new and the novel, the difficult and the inconsistent, is deeply intrinsic.

Takeaway: Being motivated via interest and finding out can lead to a extra thorough investigation of concepts and a extra fleshed out ultimate product.


What if I aroused from sleep considering this submit used to be due in to my editor the next day handiest to appreciate the time limit used to be in two hours? Fear would ensue. Fear of being reprimanded, worry of being humiliated, worry of no longer getting every other mission. And that worry would inspire me to do no matter it took to reduce the probability of that unhealthy factor going down.

Fear usually drives you towards productiveness as a result of you need to steer clear of a danger or punishment. And whilst a “due in two hours!” worry won’t achieve the degree of worry you enjoy when a grizzly fees at you, it does cause a identical neurochemical reaction: The amygdala, part of the mind essential in the formation of reminiscences, processing feelings, and making choices, is going haywire. Once it detects threat, it sends your frame into fight-or-flight mode, all over which survival is prioritized above all else. Whether it is completing an project to fulfill a time limit or operating for your existence, you’ll be able to do no matter it takes to live to tell the tale.

Cat being scared of a dog

But simply since you’re being productive on this second of worry doesn’t suggest you might be generating one thing of high quality. When worry kicks in, maximum of the mind’s assets are diverted from their same old duties to accomplish that survival serve as. So when worry hijacks your mind, it might probably compromise your decision-making. You’re no longer considering logically. You’re no longer being analytical. You’re simply looking to get out of there “alive.”

Fear could also be no longer a long-term motivator. In his ebook Personal Effectiveness in Project Management, Zachary Wong writes, “Fear handiest fulfills a short lived want and due to this fact has restricted motivational worth. Motivation via worry isn’t sustainable for long-term luck.”

Fear would possibly inspire you to paintings tougher or paintings extra, but if worry is the dominant motivator, intrinsic motivation is nowhere to be discovered. There’s no room for ingenious expression or interest and finding out. And with out the ones, there is not any urge to hunt out new knowledge or let concepts go with the flow via you naturally. So whilst the paintings could be finished, it may not be as well-rounded. More most probably, it’s going to merely expose your urgency to only get it completed.

Takeaway: Being motivated via worry can result in a decrease high quality—albeit promptly delivered—product.

Each of those motivators has the energy to propel you towards productiveness, however the result of that productiveness may not at all times be the similar. And, in fact, those motivators do not at all times serve as in a vacuum: Your bonus could be tied to one thing that calls for ingenious expression; you could be curious to be told extra about one thing even if there is a worry of failure concerned. But if we acknowledge why we’re motivated towards productiveness, we may be able to establish how we paintings perfect, and what sort of motivation produces the perfect effects.

Hero symbol from gentlegiant27153 by way of Pixabay. Image of cash from nattanan23 by way of Pixabay. First symbol of the mind from Quasihuman by way of Wikimedia Commons. Second symbol of mind from the NIMH by way of Wikimedia Commons. Image of cat and canine from creisi by way of Pixabay.

Author: Apple Glory

After this article was published, Apple told Dave Choffnes that his iPhone app, designed to detect net neutrality violations, will be allowed in the iTunes App Store. According to Choffnes, Apple contacted him and explained that the company has to deal with many apps that don't do the things they