The old-fashioned conditioning or punishment-reward system. At the beginning of the 20-th century Ivan Pavlov conducted an experiment on conditioning the behavior. The Pavlovian or classical conditioning method refers to the learning process during which a biologically potent stimulus, such as food, is paired with previously neutral stimulus, such as a bell, for example.
This procedure triggers a learning process, in which the neutral stimulus provokes a response like salivation, which is created by the biologically potent stimulus.
The best known experiment Pavlov did is on dogs. He would ring a bell prior to offering the dogs food. In a short while the dogs would subconsciously link the bell sound with getting food and would start to salivate heavily just by the ring of the bell. This basic concept has been used a lot in human behavior management and manipulation with some controversy results.
Although Behaviorism (the psychological branch claiming every person is born a blank canvas and can be shaped into any personality and that all psychical processes are basically stimuli-response) has been dethroned a long time ago. Some of its basic principles can be of help for our purposes, mostly because they are easy to understand and follow.
Step 1: Motivational Punishment
“Motivational punishment” does sound like an antonym, but is extremely effective mode of self-motivation. First you get to punish yourself and later, perhaps, reward yourself as well. Presumably if you are reading an article about motivating yourself at work you lack such motivation at a larger or smaller scale. This is why we are starting with the less pleasant part – the punishment.
In order for this simple strategy to work you must believe and fully realize you are in control of your feelings and particularly of your work motivation. If you keep looking for reasons and persons outside of you to blame, you are on the wrong path. Here is the first moment you will get to punish yourself until you manage to create a person fully in charge of his/her feelings.
The easiest way to monitor your behavior and spot whenever you are blaming others for your lack of motivation is by carefully monitoring what you say.
If you phrase your frustration in the similar manner to: “The glass broke”, instead of “I broke the glass” then you have to work more on your locus of control. After all, it is highly unlikely that the glass grew feet and jumped in a suicide attempt from the shelf.
Once you’ve mastered your locus of control the rest of the punishments are going to be less frequent and less demanding – for bad time management, procrastination, and over-reaction and bad anger management.
Last, but not least – always punish yourself when you think you are having a bad day. This means you are throwing away all your self-control efforts. Bad days are not some extraordinarily natural occurrence. Actually good or bad days are all in your head – you are the decider if this day is going to be a good or a bad one.
Step 2: Motivational Reward
As in many areas of life reward comes after punishment. In our short work motivation manual it is no different. Only after you have managed to change your locus of control and to take control of your emotions and the outcome of your actions you can take the next step of rewarding yourself.
Rewarding yourself in order to get motivated for work is much easier than punishing and comes much more naturally. Create your own “bell” of sorts. For example, if you are a chocolate lover, start rewarding yourself with a piece of chocolate every time you finish a small task (please, just a piece, we are watching for your figure, as well).
After a while just by having the chocolate on your desk you will feel a sense of accomplishment. Of course this could work with anything you enjoy and is o.k. to consume at work. Keep it simple!
Create a hierarchical reward system – smaller rewards for smaller tasks you have already finished, medium rewards for the harder tasks you have accomplished and big rewards for the hardest tasks.
We are sure you are not going to forget to reward yourself, but also make sure you do so only after you have completed fully the task at hand. Premature rewarding could ruin your efforts!