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Behavioral Activation: When Motivation and Discipline Wed

For the last few weeks, we have been re-exploring time management. Sorry we're still harping on this subject, but it is indeed an important one. Our midyear review reveals that seven long months ago, many of us were planning to do our new year differently. To save money. To get out of debt. To eat healthier. To exercise more. To be more productive in our vocational pursuits. To make more time for friends and family. To cut off things that mean us no good. You know, the usual stuff. In four short months we get to have our end of year evaluations. How will we do that you may be wondering? Well, it's really quite simple. If we are making those exact same promises to ourselves next year as we did this year, it probably means we didn't do too well.

Last week in our article: "Motivation & Discipline: Can't Have One without the Other," we explored which has a bigger role and impact on our ability to manage time and reach goals, motivation or discipline. If you haven't had a chance to review our article from last week or to participate in the poll, please click here. To continue our journey on time management from where we left off last week, you my dears are invited to a wedding.

Maintaining a healthy balance between productivity and well-being is essential for our overall mental health and wellness. We simply were not designed to be all work and no play or all play and no work. We have to have balance. Before we can balance the two, we do need a healthy marriage of motivation and discipline. When these two combine, Behavioral Activation is born.

Behavioral Activation, what is it exactly?

Behavioral Activation (BA) is an evidence-based therapeutic approach that has emerged as an effective intervention for depression. This approach places considerable emphasis on actions and behaviors, aiming to alleviate depressive symptoms and promote overall well-being. At its core, Behavioral Activation is rooted in the belief that purposeful and rewarding activities can effectively alleviate depressive symptoms by increasing positive reinforcement while reducing negative reinforcement. The therapy revolves around the idea that depression leads to a reduction in a person's motivation to participate in activities they once enjoyed, which in turn reinforces their negative emotional state. Therefore, the primary goal of Behavioral Activation is to disrupt this cycle by encouraging participation in positive and fulfilling activities. Even though this article is not about depression nor is this article being recommended as a substitute for treatment of depression by a qualified medical care provider, we can use some of the principles of Behavioral Activation as a means to assist us with the motivation vs. discipline debate in time management and goal setting.

The Nuts and Volts of Behavioral Activation

When it comes to Behavioral Activation, there are a few guiding principles to go by: activity monitoring, goal setting, graded task assignments, activity scheduling, and problem solving. Behavioral Activation requires that we start small and gradually increase our level of activity. Before we can do this however, we have to see where our time is going (activity monitoring). What are our own personal time bandits? Put it to pen and paper or an excel spreadsheet, or Google calendar.

​One of the best ways to see what you are doing is to see what you are doing. This Weekly Activity Schedule can be a starting place for you to document your activities by the hour so that you may more easily identify any time bandits that distract from your day. I didn't create this worksheet and therefore cannot take credit for it.

Weekly Activity Schedule
Download PDF • 110KB

After we have monitored what we actually are doing, we can begin setting goals around what we actually need to be doing. Our goals should be a balanced blend of what we need to be doing and what we would like to be doing in accordance with our personal values and interests. Once we figure these out, we can move on towards activity scheduling. When doing this we need to include activities that bring us pleasure or enjoyment, activities that give us a sense of accomplishment or achievement, and activities that give us some sort of social interaction. With each of these, we can start with smaller, manageable tasks and gradually progress to more challenging activities as our confidence and motivation improve (graded task assignments). Last but definitely not least, we can utilize problem-solving techniques to address obstacles that may hinder our progress. This helps us develop adaptive coping strategies to deal with potential barriers.


When attempting to implement a time management program one of the first mistakes we make is being so disciplined that we focus too much on the things we have to do. Doing this causes our motivation to wane. Whether we are depressed or not, when we find ourselves feeling unmotivated, it can be a challenge to imagine work activities as being pleasurable. Just doing anything can seem overwhelming. When we combine discipline plus motivation the result is Behavioral Activation. Behavioral Activation becomes a potent tool for increasing productivity and achieving a balanced lifestyle which encourages our overall wellness.

Through the baby known as Behavioral Activation, we get to identify activities that bring us joy, fulfillment, and a sense of accomplishment. By prioritizing these activities and allocating time to them, our time management becomes purpose-driven. We're not just haphazardly going through the motions of a "to-do" list. Behavioral Activation encourages us to create structured daily schedules that incorporate planned activities (yes this includes fun activities as well). Behavioral Activation can help us combat procrastination by breaking down tasks into smaller, more manageable steps therefore providing us with a sense of achievement with each completed step. This new organized and structured approach to time management can help us to reduce stress and anxiety by minimizing the chaos often associated with my, I mean our, poor time management. By making time for self-care and relaxation activities, we can effectively manage stress and prevent burnout.

Incorporating both motivation and discipline is a powerful approach to enhance our productivity and overall well-being. Effective time management empowers us to make the most of our time by ensuring a balanced lifestyle that encompasses productivity, self-care, and leisure. Behavioral Activation offers a pragmatic and effective approach to promoting action and behavior change. By harnessing the power of Behavioral Activation, we can unlock our full potential, leading to a more enriching and gratifying life. It's important to remember that finding the right balance between productivity and well-being is a continuous journey. As you begin your wellness journey, do not worry about getting it perfect; just get it going. Until next time. Happy reading!

"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little." ~Edmund Burke

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Valerie De la Rosa
Valerie De la Rosa
Aug 10, 2023

I love this! Such great information and clearly written. Thinking how to implement some of this in my middle school classroom!


“Our goals should be a balanced blend of what we need to be doing and what we would like to be doing in accordance with our personal values and interests.”

I love that line right there.

I’m definitely not where I said I would be 7 months ago. Not even going to lie.

Thanks for the great advice once again!

Letecia Griffin
Letecia Griffin
Aug 09, 2023
Replying to

You are not alone. The way I see it, it takes a strong person to reflect on where they said they'd be and measure it against where they are. We are not going to beat ourselves up about it though. Instead, we take one area, no matter how small, and celebrate all the little wins. Those little wins will add up to big wins. ❤️

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