In today’s busy world we’ve become a people obsessed with “work hacks” and supposedly hidden secrets on how to be more productive.
Getting more done in less time helps us get ahead, and even gives us more availability to do the things we love outside of work—whether that’s making time for a personal hobby or pursuing a small business idea. The problem we run into is that it is easy to get motivated, but hard to stay disciplined.
Most of us look at productivity in the wrong way: task management tools are shiny at first and then go unused. Being chained to your desk is as unhealthy as it is unproductive. Achievement isn’t about doing everything, it’s about doing the right things. Productivity is about saying no.
Focus and consistency are the bread-and-butter of being truly productive. Let’s take a look at the science behind how the brain works in the synthesis state, and what changes you can make for the better.
in 3 minutes
willpower isn't enough
The first thing to acknowledge in the pursuit of getting more done is the mountain of evidence that suggests willpower alone will not be enough to stay productive.
According to research by Janet Polivy, our brain fears big projects and often fails to commit to long-term goals because we’re susceptible to “abandoning ship” at the first sign of distress.
Think of the last time you went on a failed diet.
You stocked your fridge with the healthiest foods and planned to exercise every day, until the first day you slipped up. After that, it was back to your old ways.
To make matters worse, research by Kenneth McGraw was able to show that the biggest wall to success was often just getting started. Additional research in this area suggests that we’re prone to procrastinating on large projects because we visualize the worst parts; the perfect way to delay getting started.
According to researcher John Bargh, your brain will attempt to simulate real productive work by avoiding big projects and focusing on small, mindless tasks to fill your time.
Big project due tomorrow? Better reorganize my movie collection!
Perhaps worst of all, numerous studies on the concept of ego-depletion have provided some evidence that suggests our willpower is a limited resource that can be used up in it’s entirety. The more you fight it, the more gas you burn. An empty tank leads to empty motivation.
With all of that stacked against us, what can we possibly do to be more productive?
In order to figure this out, one of our best bets is to observe the habits of consistently productive people.
Start working on what really matters.