the 3 myths about productivity

working but it's one of the myths

When we think about productivity there are three main myths that prevent us from being productive. When I found out about these I was so surprised, because I realized I have been telling these myths myself every day.

Back in the days I used to play guitar. But I never played the guitar at home, so I didn’t make any progress. Of course I stopped playing the guitar after some time (any after my parents realized it’s not worth it hahah). But I always would tell me either: I don’t have time or I don’t have “motivation”.

Let me tell you, after researching my perspective has changed.

This article is also available in German.

The 3 myths:

1. I don’t have time

Okay this is my most used excuse for absolutely everything. But there is something I realized:

Our time is entirely in our control. Whatever we do, we actively choose to do this thing and don’t do the other thing. For example, if we watch youtube, we have actively chosen to do it and not study.

You are choosing not to make the time.

Try this exercise: track everything you do for three days. When I did this, I realized how much time I was wasting every single day, by being on the phone.

We have 24 hours in a day, most of us sleep like 7-8 hours. So we have 16 hours left. Then I’m at school from 8 am to 4 pm, and I still have 8 hours left.

I looked at what I am doing in these 8 hours. A lot of us do a lot of procrastinating, watch Netflix, or scroll through on Instagram. If you track your free time for just 3 days, you realize that you actually have a lot of time.

If you are watching Netflix for 2 hours every day, why not try to reduce this to 1 hour, and for one hour you can do anything you want. You could learn a new skill, like a new language, riding a skateboard, or learning to play an instrument.

The question is: What are you avoiding with “I don’t have time”?

2. Motivation is a myth

Whenever we have to or want to do something, we usually start with a thought like: “I should study right now”.

And at some point, there (hopefully) would be the action of studying. We need to get from the thought to the action, and we think this is done by motivation. Motivation would be the middle man between the thought and the action.

So, in this case the motivation would be: “I feel like studying right now”. If you would think this, you would probably study right?

We think that we need to the feel the thing before actually doing it.

The traditional procrastination is, that you get the thought and you think you need to “feel” like you can study right now. But we all have problems with getting started.

In an ideal world, if we get the thought we would immediately go to the action.

Motivation is just a feeling, and depending on our feelings as a way of setting the course of our life, is basically a recipe for disaster. If you have discipline, you go from the thought directly to the action.

We don’t need motivation; we just need the thought and the action and through discipline, we get from the thought to the action.

Screw motivation, all you need is discipline.

If we are doing something that is fun for us, we don’t need the motivation, for example, to watch Netflix (because we enjoy doing it).

Usually, we only need the motivation to do things that are short term painful, and long-term useful, like studying.

You don’t see immediate results from studying, so it takes “motivation” to study. The thing with that is that, the feedback loop is long.

If we get success, this brings us motivation. When you studied, and then you understand the topic or you can engage in a conversation later on, this is success and makes you want to study more.

How to change this: the action should be more enjoyable so we will do it more likely.

As an example, if you’re studying you can listen to some great music, so you enjoy it more. You could also make a nice drink or snack, so you can get more excited and drink it while studying. Or study with other people, it might not be as productive but it’s more fun than when you do it by yourself.

Think about how you can make the action more pleasant.

We could also make the inaction a lot more painful. If we don’t study, the end result will be a bad grad, the teacher gets mad or you can eventually get dropped out of school.

A good way is to put money on the line. But if you think about doing it, you actually don’t want to put money on the line, am I right? That’s because you actually don’t want to study and you are likely to lose your money, because there is a high chance that you won’t study.

We can also try to shorten the feedback loop. We, humans, love short feedback loops, you can especially see this with sports. When you shot your shot, you can see it a second afterward if you have made a point. Ask about how you can shorten your feedback loop.

Make the outcome more salient (clear in your mind).

Ask yourself: What’s the goal I want to achieve? How can I make the progress more pleasurable?
How can I make the outcomes more desirable?

3. Multitasking as one of the myths

I would say multitasking is one of the myths because our brain doesn’t work it’s best when we are doing different things at the same time.

We all want to get into the flow phase. That’s when time just flies by and you feel and perform your best.

And how do you get into this state? When we are voluntarily engaged in a task that’s using up all of our attention, that’s just difficult enough to be interesting for us, but not so difficult that it feels frustrating.

We need to avoid distractions in the flow state. The flow state relies on our full attention, with distractions you will never get into the flow state. When you are in the flow state you don’t realize what is happening around you.

I have experienced this the most during exams or intensive study sessions.

Have you felt like that in an exam as well? When you are so concentrated that you don’t realize when the time is almost up?

The thing I want to say is that when you multitask you can never get into a flow state, you can’t be in one task with your full attention.

What’s one situation when I was in my ‘flow state’?
What circumstances and mindsets led to that?
Can I manufacture those conditions for other stuff I need/ want to do?

Here you can learn more about the flow state.

I hope you have learned something new today and the last question of today: Have you also used one or more of these myths in your daily life?

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