January 18, 2021

Determine The Why Behind Your Work For Increased Motivation

Reading Time: 5 mins

At the start of a fresh new year, or when you’re planning out the week ahead during your weekly review, it can be tempting to pile on more and more things to your to-do list.

More projects to work on, more goals to achieve, more habits to build.

You’ll have a list of amazing things to do and to work on.

Then you get even more inspiration from other influencers who are sharing all of the amazing things they are doing and working on.

By the end of all of this, you have a colossal list of projects that you could realistically never even work on let alone complete.

Maybe you can look at your list and pick out the top 5 or 10 things that seem like the best to work on or would be amazing to say you’ve completed.

Then you actually start working on those things and you hit a wall.

The motivation to actually work on each task is impossible to conjure up.

So you end up procrastinating and pushing things off until later in the day, then to the next day, then to the next week, and so on until things never get done.

Increased Motivation - Pin

Does This Sound Familiar?

If this all sounds familiar to you, then you’re not alone. This is something I’m always struggling with but have begun to tackle and overcome.

Most recently this happened to me with a course I was planning to create.

I liked the idea of having created a course so I haphazardly picked a topic, planned out the course, and even started creating some outlines for each topic.

But that’s when the lack of motivation set in. I found I would dread the idea of working on that course each day during its allocated time.

Consequently, that project completely stalled and now it sits in my list of Projects inside of Notion where it is a painful reminder of something that I failed to complete.

Why My Course Failed

Having read some particularly great books recently, most notably The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll, I began to understand why this particular project was a failure from the start.

The problem was that I didn’t really establish why I wanted to create a course.

Sure, in my head I liked the idea of having created a great course but I never sat down and asked myself why I wanted to create it, what was the purpose of the course, who was it for.

These are basic things you would ask when starting a new project at work, so why wouldn’t the same be true for any other type of project?

Maybe if I did this exercise before starting work on my course, I would have realized that the topic just didn’t appeal to me, or maybe a course wasn’t something I wanted to do; perhaps creating an eBook would have been a more valuable resource.

Determine The Why Behind Your Work

Simply put, the most effective way to work on a project through to completion is to understand the motivation behind why you want to do that project in the first place.

By asking yourself why you’ll understand the meaning behind something.

Once you know why you want to work on a project, this will drive you each time you spend time working on it.

This increased motivation will make working on the project much easier than slogging through a project that you really don’t see any value in working on.

Here’s an excellent quote from How To Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens that perfectly illustrates this point:

“Having a meaningful and well-defined task beats willpower every time. Not having willpower, but not having to use willpower indicates that you set yourself up for success.”

How To Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens (p10)

The Five Whys Technique

One excellent framework for understanding the why behind your work is the Five Whys technique.

This technique was first adopted in the Toyota car manufacturer and it revolutionized the way their work was carried out.

Since learning about this technique, I’ve been able to make use of it in a number of scenarios from general problem solving to UI design decisions to website development problems.

All you have to do is to consider a problem or a project you want to work on and ask yourself why five times.

Here’s an example to illustrate:

“I want to create an online course”

​ #1 Why?

“Because I would like to be able to help beginners use Notion”

​ #2 Why?

“Because when I first started using Notion I completely didn’t know where to start and it was very confusing”

​ #3 Why?

“Because I couldn’t find any online resources that provided a step by step simplified approach to getting started with Notion”

This is a really simplified and hypothetical example but it should get the point across.

By asking yourself why a number of times, you break something down into it’s simplest form.

This can help you to understand your motivations behind wanting to work on a project which in turn will fill you with motivation when you start working on it.


I encourage you to set aside some time before you start a new project to try out “The Five Whys Technique”.

Write down your answers so you can refer back to them if you find your motivation dropping as you work on your project.

Over time, this is something that will become second nature to you and you’ll even start to enjoy the process, especially when you realize the benefits of such a simple exercise.

I hope you found this article helpful having read it all the way to the end!

If you did, please consider sharing it on social media as it will help others to find it. That would really help me out too.