The Difference Between Motivation and Productivity

We’ve found a number of people looking for ways to increase productivity when their biggest issue is motivation. Alternatively, there are many people who blame a lack of motivation for lower productivity. The two concepts are related but not the same. We’ll shed some light on the differences between motivation and productivity so you can identify which areas to focus on to achieve your goals.

There are countless ways to improve your productivity and increase your motivation, but the first step is identifying which one to focus on. We explain the difference of productivity and motivation.

Before comparing motivation and productivity, let’s set a definition for each one for the context of our article. Then we’ll compare and contrast them with each other and provide some ideas of how to improve each one.

Let’s jump in!

What is Motivation?

We consider motivation as the internal desire to complete a task. The task could be big or small, half-finished or not yet started. It’s the will to take action. With proper motivation people can be driven to achieve great things. Without motivation they may find themselves lacking direction, ignoring critical work tasks and finding that their productivity has drastically fallen.

Common symptoms of low motivation

  • Constantly feeling tired and low energy Levels
  • Neglect of self care
  • Avoidance of tasks or problems
  • Constantly distracted and off task

These are only a few of the common ways to identify a lack of motivation. More often than not people who find themselves lacking motivation are already aware of the issue. It’s one of those things that even if you can’t quite define it, you know it when you see it and when you feel it.

What is Productivity?

Productivity is how quickly and efficiently we can complete a task once started. It could be the completion of one very large task, completing a portion of a task, or the completion of many smaller tasks in a shorter period of time. Typically, when people are being productive, they feel good about the amount of work that they are accomplishing and completing. However, there can be times when you may find that you are not get much accomplished or as much accomplished as you think should be possible.

Common symptoms of low productivity

  • Missing Deadlines
  • Starting but not finishing tasks
  • More Work than You Know What to Do With
  • High Stress Levels

Low productivity is typically a sign of being inefficient at the tasks you are trying to complete, or at times can mean that you have too many tasks and are unable to complete them. Afterall, there is a limit to how much a single person can achieve in a set period of time.

Now let’s compare Motivation and Productivity.

How are Motivation and Productivity Different?

Motivation is the drive or desire to complete tasks and achieve goals. Productivity is how quickly and efficiently you can complete them. Without motivation you may find yourself taking on less tasks. Without productivity the tasks you start take longer than necessary to complete.

An increase in productivity is Irrelevant with no motivation.

For example, a roofer who invests in a pneumatic nail gun will complete more roofs than if they only had a hammer. But if the roofer doesn’t have the motivation to get to work and climb the ladder, the extra productivity from a better tool is meaningless.

Methods to increase motivation vary greatly from one person to another, and the tools and skills to boost productivity will vary depending on the task or goal to be completed.

How to Improve Motivation

The reality is that motivation is unique to each and every individual. What drives person A may be completely different than what drives person B. Motivation is driven by the mind, psyche, and the way a person’s brain works. Because of this, it’s impossible to provide concrete steps that a every person should follow to get more motivated.

To become more motivated, you have to experiment. By trying different things and researching a variety of techniques you will find the ones that work best for you.

The following are some ideas and places to start.

  • Physical Well Being – Exercise, diet and sleep are commonly cited as top ways to improve motivation in other parts of your life. Low motivation can also be caused by physical conditions that can be diagnosed with the help of a doctor.
  • Set Clear Goals – Establishing a goal or an objective to work towards can be motivating and give yourself a purpose of something to invest time in and work towards.
  • Find a Resource You Believe in – There are countless books written on the topics of motivation and productivity. One of our favorites is 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, but you should check out a few different ones and find one that speaks to you and try to put it into action.
  • YouTube – YouTube has a lot of short form video content related to productivity and motivation. If all you need is a small nudge to get you going this may be the right platform for you.

For a quick dose of motivation, the following is one of the top motivational videos on YouTube with over 69 million views and 1.9 million likes.

Some of the message seems a bit questionable like if everyone worked hard everyone could have a Rolls Royce, but overall people seem to really enjoy the video.

How to Increase Productivity

Improving productivity is conceptually easier. Your goal is to complete tasks faster and more efficiently. In most cases this is accomplished by increasing your skill level related to the task, or investing in tools that help you complete the task faster. In both cases the exact methodology will depend on the task at hand and the starting point of your existing skillset.

Let’s look at some examples of improving skills and investing in tools.

Improving Skills

  • Training Courses – Either be in-person or online.
  • Books – has books for every interest, from the 101 most popular Excel Formulas to How to Create Cocktails Like a Pro. If there’s something to do, there is someone who has written a book about how to do it better.
  • Time Management – Learn how to focus and manage time. There are a number of books that go into great detail on the topic of time management. And even specialty devices like Pompodoro timers that can help you focus on one task at a time.

Investing in Tools

Tools are much more specific to the tasks that you normally work on, but we’ll point out a few things that we find useful while working primarily in front of a computer every day that we’ve found useful.

  • Wide-Screen Computer Monitor – When your work is based on staring at a computer monitor all day, a large high resolution one helps you see more at one time and avoid wasting time flipping between screens.
  • AI Chat Bots – The world is changing and tools like ChatGPT can act as a reference or even write simple computer programs for you.
  • Quality Computer Keyboard – Between a keyboard and a mouse they’re the only two items you touch when working on a computer. A good keyboard lets you type faster and more accurately.
  • Outsourcing – We would love to outsource our jobs entirely, but it’s not really possible. Instead, we have found some things that can be outsourced in our daily lives such as grocery shopping and running to the store with services like Instacart and Amazon Prime.

These are just a few examples of tools that we have found helpful in our jobs. The items that help you the most will depend on the use case. Try searching Google for ideas of how to do things more efficiently, look into purchasing related books for ideas, or even ask an AI like ChatGPT for suggestions!

The Limits of Productivity

Even when equipped with the knowledge and tools to complete tasks faster and more efficiently, you can find yourself in a situation where there is still not enough time in the day or days in the month to complete everything on time. This is especially true when working for a number of employers that are more than happy to assign additional work rather than assign additional resources.

That’s okay.

What becomes important is realizing that you do not necessarily have a productivity problem, but a workload problem. If tasks can be outsourced, eliminated or moved to others it can free up time to work on the most important tasks. If there’s still too much work to do, then it may warrant a conversation to appropriately set expectations or ask for help.

Be careful when you reach the limits of productivity. When there are too many tasks to complete and not enough time you can find yourself overwhelmed and losing motivation to keep trying.


Our primary focus is improving productivity at home and at the office, but none of it is relevant when lacking the motivation to start new projects or complete existing ones. Sometimes it’s useful to do some self-reflection to identify which issue is most important to you.

Productivity can often be boosted by practice, learning new skills, or investing in better tools. However, there is a natural limit to how productive a single person can be. When you’ve reached your limit of productivity it’s time to start prioritizing tasks and communicating with the impacted parts to try and get additional help, re-assign tasks, automate or outsource them when possible.

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