External motivation

July 30, 2023 3 min


I will start this by being honest and say that I'm not quite in the mood to write today, but I placed a bet with a friend to write weekly, so here I am.

I guess that working even when unmotivated is a good thing. That's one of the million things you can do to achieve outlier success. But it's not that simple. There will be times (like today for me) that you will be tired or just won't be in the mood to do something. There are a couple things that can help us to overcome this and still put in the work in these moments.

Accountability to others

One of the things that really make me do something even when I don't want to is having responsibility with others. The feeling of not doing the work and letting other people down is worse than the effort required to complete it.

This is one of the reasons why people say that if you’re trying to create a startup, it’s good to have a co-founder with you. For instance, YC provides a platform where you can find a co-founder.

Another common advice for startup founders is to launch fast. That's because, when you have a product out there and people are using it, you’ll inevitably need to pay attention to what's going on.


I often talk about how primitives we (humans) are with my therapist. Our instinct dictates everything we care about and competition/rivalry is deep linked to them. This can be traced backed to when we needed to survive in hostile environments or even for reproduction, when everyone just wanted to keep their genetics alive. We sometimes forget that our DNA is almost 100% the same as some types of monkeys.

Implementing mechanisms that tap into this primitive trait can significantly boost someone's willingness to work hard. The perfect example is what I wrote in my first sentence. Just for the record, I will not lose Abdul… 😎


This is pretty basic but is one of the most effective practices. Creating deadlines makes things get done. If you don't have one for what you need to do, why would you do it?

Let's be honest, if you need to finish something in 5 days, the chances of you planning your whole week to split the work through the days and try to don't overwork are low. If it happens, that's great, congratulations. But, when there's a deadline, you will probably go down to 1. doing it early because the discomfort you feel knowing there's a deadline is horrible or 2. waiting until the last moment to do it. The important thing is, no matter which path you choose, the work will be done. That's why deadlines are important.

P.S. When I began to write this, I was going to talk about the interests misalignment that causes employees to not work as hard as they can. As you can see, I went in another direction and talked about aspects that make you work harder, but these points also apply to work environments. Anyway, I plan to write a follow up on this topic someday.