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The Importance of Why

In the newly released and highly acclaimed productivity book “Smarter, Better, Faster,” Charles Duhigg opens with a chapter about motivation. He asserts that those who have control and understand the big picture are more motivated. He writes, “If you can link something hard to a choice you care about, it makes the task easier.” He adds, “Make a chore into a meaningful decision, and self-motivation will emerge.”

So many of us spend a lot of time and energy making lists, tracking tasks and keeping up with all of the things that we need to get done. But, how many of us are asking, “Why?” Why should I do this task? Why is this task important? Why should I spend any time on this task? Why is this beneficial?

Early in my career, someone shared a great story that stuck with me and have since shared with many of my team members and colleagues over the years. A man is walking by a construction site and comes across three workers doing the same job. He stops and asks the first one, “What are you doing?” The man quickly replied, “I am laying bricks.” He then asked the second guy the same question but he responded, “I am building a wall.” The man then turned to the third guy and when he asked him the same question, the guy stood up, paused and smiled and looked to the sky and then shared, “I am constructing a cathedral.”

While each of them were doing the same task, they thought of their work completely differently. There’s a big difference in terms of thinking that you’re just laying bricks versus constructing a cathedral. Through their descriptions of their work, you can tell which of the three workers would be most motivated, driven and productive.

So, next time you’re about to start a new task begin by asking yourself, “Why?” If you can’t come up with a strong answer, it’s fine to just remove that task from your list and move on to the things that have greater meaning and significance. You will find that’s motivation enough.

TRY THIS OUT: Think about the things that you rush to complete and love to do. What motivates you to do them? What drives you to get them done? Then, think about some of the things that linger on your list. Why don’t they get done? Think about how you can attach a greater meaning or calling to those tasks to increase your motivation to tackle and complete them.

After 25 years in the corporate world, working at Lotus Development, Ernst & Young, The Weather Channel and Play On! Sports, Monisha Longacre has founded her own company, Productivity101 and created priorigami: the art of productivity. Her mission is to provide simple, actionable and easy-to-use tools to help busy adults track, prioritize and complete tasks, to better manage their time and become more productive. Her goal is for priorigami to become the "FitBit" for productivity to help people lead more meaningful lives.

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