🥱 the boredom / motivation correlation

What happens at work often affects my ability to get things done outside of work. If I don't have enough to do, if there are too many meetings, or if I'm not being challenged at the right level, my brain turns to mush. While in this state, it becomes difficult to maintain focus and find the willpower to make progress on anything. I call this phenomenon The Boredom / Motivation Correlation.

Human beings, it seems, are at their best when immersed in something deeply challenging.
- James Clear | Atomic Habits

In my experience, boredom has a direct negative effect on motivation. It happens in a linear fashion: as boredom increases, motivation decreases. I find myself in these situations when I'm not getting enough focus time or there isn't enough work to keep my productivity as high as I like.

boredom linear

But there is a breaking point. Eventually, I become so bored and unmotivated that I find inspiration and create a project for myself to invest in, and my motivation shoots back up. Typically these projects are personal projects, not work related projects. We can adjust the graph to look something like this.

boredom spike

My motivation can also be affected by being too busy at work, which would be the opposite of boredom. In my case, being busy decreases my motivation slower than boredom. I'm still getting things done and feeling productive, but it comes with a high mental cost. Work feels overwhelming, but I'm also knocking out side projects in my free time. This high rate of productivity on work and personal projects eventually leads to burnout. With this in mind, now we can see the whole picture.

boredom full

The Boredom / Motivation Correlation is a spectrum that shifts every day for me. Some days I'm super productive and highly motivated because I've got the right balance of challenging work. Other days I don't have a full task list or I have too many meetings and all I want to do is mentally check out and play video games. On the days where I do feel unmotivated, I lift weights or go for a run to shake off that feeling, and then spend time with my family to re-energize myself.

boredom constant

Ideally, boredom and busyness would not have any effect on motivation, and the graph would look something like the one above. If you have mastered your motivation levels and broken the correlation, tweet at me and share your tips on how you did it!