4 Motivational Theories That Will Help Supercharge Your Productivity

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We all have dreams and imagine how our lives should be. But the motivation that drives us to act is often fleeting so we are often not working consistently towards transforming our dreams into reality. This fleeting motivation, can, in turn, negatively impact our productivity.

We’ve talked about how to stay motivated before, but there is so much to cover on this topic, that it is worth exploring some motivational theories. Psychologists have come up with interesting theories on motivation to explain why it can be so transitory. You can even use them to help you work more effectively and become more productive.

Later, we’ll explore Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, one of the most relatable motivational theories. First, though, let’s sink our teeth into Herzberg’s theory.

Herzberg’s Motivational Theory   

There is a direct relationship between productivity and satisfaction and understanding that will help you make great strides towards becoming more efficient. If you get a sense of satisfaction from your work, are you more likely to complain about it or procrastinate? But what creates that feeling of pleasure and fulfilment?

Fredrick Herzberg developed a two-factor theory that explains how we can control our levels of satisfaction by taking motivation factors and hygiene factors into account.

Hygiene factors – Hygiene factors (sometimes called dissatisfiers) can give rise to job dissatisfaction and are things that characterise your work environment and the context of that work. They are the bare minimum we need to prevent dissatisfaction. While the presence of these might not give us great satisfaction, their absence can cause huge dissatisfaction.

They may include:

  • The rules of the company.
  • Pay.
  • Job security.
  • Your relationships with colleagues and your social needs being met.
  • Working conditions.

Motivation factors – Create job satisfaction, help you improve your performance, and drive you to work harder.

Some examples are:

  • Acknowledgement of your efforts.
  • Chances of career advancement.
  • More responsibility.
  • Higher achievement.
  • Doing meaningful work.
  • Rewarding yourself.

As you develop, you must also find new motivating factors, because when a need is met, motivators stop affecting behaviour and become a hygiene factor. Thus, you must find new ways to motivate yourself and maintain the drive you need to keep going.

How This Theory Can Help You Become More Productive

Let’s explore how knowing about this theory can put you on the road to becoming more efficient, by looking at common hygiene factors.


Being underpaid breeds dissatisfaction. If you constantly feel you are being taken advantage of at work, the amount you’re paid could be the core of the issue.

You should:

  • Work out if your discontentment stems from not being paid what you believe you deserve.
  • If you discover that this is true, your next action should be to summon the courage to ask for a raise or up the price of your services, so you feel you are being fairly and appropriately compensated for the effort, time, and energy you put into your work.


The surroundings you work in must be conducive to productivity. Choose a quiet spot where you are not likely to be interrupted often, if possible. Get yourself organised, make sure your desk is tidy and include personal touches to create an atmosphere that will help you be more effective and productive because you can get straight into work when you sit down.

Social needs

Fostering healthy, fruitful, and harmonious relationships is key to developing a balanced, calm, and productive mindset, no matter if you’re an extrovert, ambivert or introvert. If you cannot build good relationships with others, your productivity will suffer.

Job security

If you always feel insecure about your position or role within a company, it will be nigh on impossible to keep yourself motivated and be efficient. You should:

  • Ensure that all your team members are secure in their position so that they can be confident and thrive.
  • Try to increase your confidence by talking to your supervisor or manager about your role, the business aims, and the long-term vision of the company, if you are an employee.

If you are confident and secure in your job, it is much more likely that you will be productive.

Now it’s time to turn to Abraham Maslow’s motivational theory.

A board reading, turn ideas into reality propped up on a window sill.
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is one of the most well-known motivational theories out there. It is based on the idea that nothing motivates us more than the drive to satisfy our needs. This theory splits human needs into a hierarchical pyramid, showing lower order needs on the base and higher order needs on the higher layers.

When one layer of needs has been met, those needs no longer function as motivating factors. The next tier of unsatisfied needs now drive us. The 5 levels of needs, from the base of the pyramid to the tip, are as follows.

  • Physiological needs – These are the basic needs that must be met for us to survive, such as the need for air, food, warmth, water, and shelter. These needs are the most critical.
  • Safety needs – Once our survival is assured, we start to crave safety and security. These needs include things like emotional security, safety from danger, maintaining good health, and becoming financially secure. Meeting these needs spurs us to work harder as we often need more money to satisfy them.
  • Social needs – As social beings, we long for companionship, need to socialise, and yearn to belong somewhere, so these needs come next in the pyramid because if these needs are met, we have an improved quality of life.
  • Esteem needs – These needs have everything to do with being respected. If these needs are fulfilled, we can build our self-confidence, make the most of our abilities, and realise our potential.
  • Self-actualisation needs – This is at the top of the hierarchy and these needs only motivate us when all our other needs are met. Self-actualisation is the drive we have to become the best version of ourselves.

How Maslow’s Theory Can Improve Your Productivity

Where would you place yourself in Maslow’s pyramid? Your highest-level unmet need is what currently motivates you. Set goals and make strides towards satisfying that layer of needs, so that you can move closer to the ultimate goal of reaching self-actualisation.

When your esteem needs are met, you will face the challenge of finding a purpose. What sort of work do you find the most meaningful? Try to find work that is important to you and that allows you to express yourself so that you can excel in life.

Hawthorne Effect

According to the Hawthorne effect, we are motivated to work harder and display increased performance when we are being watched.

How This Effect Boosts Productivity

In most workplaces, this effect happens anyway because we have supervisors, managers and leaders observing us and evaluating us every so often, making sure that our performance consistently meets the required standard and that we are not becoming less productive.

There are ways you can use the Hawthorne effect in your personal life as well. The simplest thing to do is to find yourself an accountability partner, you could do this to help you smash your goals at work too.

When you have paired up with someone, you can help each other become more productive by:

  • Sharing your goals with each other, they can be short-term, medium-term, and long-term depending on what works best for you.
  • Draw up a schedule showing how you are going to work towards those goals, then keep track of each other’s progress.
  • If you wish, you can even decide what penalties there will be for you both if you fail to achieve the goals you set yourselves. That way, you’ll be more motivated to meet them.

By pairing up with someone, you have the joy of experiencing personal growth alongside a friend.

It’s time to look at the last motivational theory we will cover and see how it can help us.

The Expectancy Theory

This theory is based on the idea that our behaviour is affected by the results we expect to get. According to this theory. our levels of motivation depend on 3 things:

  • Instrumentality – The belief that we will be rewarded if we behave in a specific way and put in enough effort.
  • Expectancy – The way we choose to act depends on how likely it is that the effort we put into something will yield the results we want. The outcomes we expect are drawn from our past experiences, the difficulty of the task before us, and the confidence we have in our abilities.
  • Valence – This is how valuable we perceive the reward to be. For example, some may value recognition over financial reward. When a reward is more valuable to us, we are more highly motivated.

How the Expectancy Theory Can Help Us

When you set yourself goals and take the time to make a note of why you want to achieve them and the results you are hoping for, you will be able to imagine the outcome, which will help you keep going.

So, when working towards a new target, write down the outcomes you expect and imagine how you will feel when you reach that goal, and why you want to achieve a particular result. On your journey towards your goal, periodically glance at your notes to boost your motivation, help sustain you, and remind you that the effort is worth the reward.

Wrapping Up

We hope that by reading this, you have gained some insight into how you can use motivational theories to supercharge your productivity and help you achieve your dreams. So, why not try to use one of the theories discussed to give you an extra push towards your goal. Good luck!

If you are familiar with other motivational theories and would like to see them covered, drop us a comment.

Published by Lizzie

Lizzie here. I'm a freelance copywriter and editor based in the UK. I'm also passionate about volunteering and hold an MA in History from the University of Warwick. I've written for a multitude of fantastic websites and companies, including a legal automation software company, a dog training site, and more. Check out my reviews on Fiverr and Upwork for more info!

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