Take Control Of Your Day With P, M and A

It was time to start work last Tuesday morning. I was feeling tired and struggling with motivation to get on with the day. It had been a disrupted night with my little boy waking a few times. The morning coffee hadn’t had the desired impact. There were clients I needed to connect with. Workshop sessions to plan. No lack of things to do. But procrastination kept tapping me on the shoulder. Sound familiar at all?

My mind turned back to conversations I’d been having with a client the previous week. We talked about the need to take control of your day. Starting with a plan to ensure motivation throughout the day. To be proactive. Setting up a system to keep you on track even when you’re not feeling like it. Defining what prompts and reminders you need to make sure you are focused and productive.

Intrinsic motivation, our internal drive, is the pathway to engagement. We need to integrate this into our daily plan. As Daniel Pink suggests, intrinsic motivation includes three drives. Purpose, Mastery and Autonomy. How can we use these drives as prompts to guide how we go about our day?

But first, what do these terms mean? Purpose: this is about the work I am doing contributing to what the organisation stands for. Mastery: involves goals for both performance and learning. It involves feedback and setting the right conditions for the best possible performance. Autonomy: self direction leading to accountability. To be most accountable we must understand what we are responsible for. Self direction must come with a focus on productivity.

Charles Duhigg argues that many that have achieve great success have done so by transforming their habits. To ensure the daily plan habit is formed, put a reminder in the calendar for 10 minutes at the beginning of each day. Here are some suggested questions to serve as prompts for taking control of your day. I include these questions in my daily reminder.


  • Where can I make my greatest contribution today?
  • Why does the work that I’m doing matter?
  • How does the work I’m doing connect with the mission of the organisation?


  • What are three meaningful tasks I want to complete today?
  • Who do I need to get feedback from that will influence the prioritisation of my tasks?
  • How will I set the conditions of my work to ensure that I perform at my best (environmental factors such as finding a quiet space)?


  • What tools or skill should I use to be most productive?
  • Who do I need to communicate with to ensure I can self direct my work (don’t leave your team in the lurch)?
  • Where can I create space to work on something that is important but not urgent?

This list of prompting questions is not exhaustive. Something that I will revisit and tweak over time. Go ahead, try these and think of your own. Put a recurring diary entry in your calendar for when you start work each day. See if this habit helps to keep you engaged during the day and improves your performance.

Despite my feelings of tiredness, I found this exercise brought focus to my day. I achieved everything I needed to and broke the blah!

Doug Maarschalk is a trainer, facilitator and coach who uses the principles of intrinsic motivation as the foundation for his work. He has worked with New Zealand businesses in the horticulture, legal, accounting, financial services, real estate and healthcare sectors.
Read more about the Services Doug provides and the Clients he has worked with.