Daniel Pink on motivation: "Don't escalate the stakes too much"

Lost your mojo? Focus on small wins and take breaks - they are part of your work, not a deviation from it, says the bestselling author.

by Kate Magee
Last Updated: 13 Jun 2022

Speak to most leaders and one word comes up repeatedly: exhaustion. 

After a difficult two years of the pandemic, when social norms have been upended and leaders forced to navigate an increasingly complex working world, it’s not a surprise. 

So when Management Today interviewed Daniel Pink about his new book on the power of regret, we asked his advice on how people can rediscover their motivation. He wrote the bestselling book “Drive”  about the topic after all. Here's his advice.

“It's difficult and I'm facing the same challenges myself, so I don't want to suggest that this is easy. Among the things that you can do is to go for small wins. Years ago, we got seduced into the idea of big, hairy, audacious goals and always pointing toward the horizon.

That's useful sometimes, but right now, I think it's just about trying to have a good day today. Try to get some small wins. Don't escalate the stakes too much. Just make some progress today. That's it. And that's going to give you some momentum to make it to the next day. 

The other thing that comes out of the material on When [his book on the importance of timing], is that we should be systematically taking more breaks. In remote work, people aren't doing that. They don't have as many punctuation marks in their day. We should be much more intentionally taking breaks.

We know that human beings are not machines that can run on full blast all the time. It is bad for our productivity. It is bad for our mental health. It is bad for our physical health.

Breaks are part of our work. They're not a deviation from the work. We need to think about them very differently. We also know a lot about what makes an effective break. We know that you're better off in motion than sedentary, you're better off outside than inside, you're better off social than solo. 

I'm convinced that if everybody took a 15 minute walk outside every afternoon, with someone they like talking to, about something other than work and leaving their phone behind, that we would have an increase in both mental health and productivity.”



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