We read a lot of books, online articles that give us 5 small hacks and 10 big life-changing tips which claim to make us successful and change our lives forever. But why doesn’t anything change, even if it does, why it doesn’t stay for long.
This all could be understood with a simple understanding of human brain and in the way it takes decisions and forms habits. We all are wired in a way that we all wish to improve and become better than our present self.
But on other hands the human brain tends to do those things first, which it is already accustomed to doing as per our current habits as they are easy to do. In simple words, we are resistant to change in our way of living or doing any other thing.
We all wish to quit the bad habits that we currently have whether it is smoking or binge-watching YouTube when we should actually be doing work. It all works in the same way.
Also, reading and studying about productivity tips gives you a great amount of sense of progress towards a goal i.e. being a better person, which sometimes makes you think that you have already started becoming better just by reading without even applying those steps or hacks in your real life.
Therefore, in the process of improving yourself and becoming a better human being, studying about different hacks and productivity tips is comparatively easier than the real work of applying those habits into your lifestyle.
For example, buying and reading a book on self-improvement or productivity gives you a sense of accomplishment which sometimes meddles in the actual work to be done to become a better version of yourself.
On another instance, me buying a guitar or a DSLR camera and showing it off to friends might give me an ego boost with a sense of being better than others, but it doesn’t make you a better guitar player or photographer. In order to be one, I have to learn that art and strive for perfection on daily basis.
This is because of the very same reason that even after reading more 100+ articles on fighting procrastination at work, we still procrastinate and struggle with those deadlines.
Now, the real question comes, if it is so tough to apply to these productivity tips then how do we actually apply them in our real-life scenarios.
That’s exactly what we are here to discuss, a blueprint to apply those productivity tips:
Start with a problem in mind:
We all come across various problems on a daily basis for which we seek to find solutions. Some of them are urgent, some are important and some are both.
Over the years, I came to realize that my brain performed in a much better way when I had a problem in hand to be solved, a practical and real problem. It became even better when that problem was a prioritized one.
Therefore, before diving in those productivity tips and find a real problem to be solved. A problem about which you care for. Using a problem – a specific one helps you focus on one single task and saves you from getting distracted more often than not.
Follow the Benjamin Formula:
Benjamin Franklin, this name needs no introduction. Lately, I was reading Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography wherein he wrote about how he struggled with his habits and made continuous efforts to arrive at perfection.
In his book, he wrote about the method he arrived to achieve the habits he wanted to inculcate in his daily life.
He began with a list of all the virtues including the moral standards he wanted to achieve such as temperance, silence, sincerity etc. total 13 of them, along with a short precept with each one of them, just to define what these virtues stood for.
He further wrote in his book:
“My intention being to acquire the habitude of all these virtues, I judged it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time; and, when I should be master of that, then to proceed to another, and so on, till I should have gone through’ the thirteen; and, as the previous acquisition of some might facilitate the acquisition of certain others.
I made a little book, in which I allotted a page for each of the virtues. I ruled each page with red ink, so as to have seven columns, one for each day of the week, marking each column with a letter for the day. I crossed these columns with thirteen red lines, marking the beginning of each line with the first letter of one of the virtues, on which line, and in its proper column, I might mark, by a little black spot, every fault I found upon examination to have been committed respecting that virtue upon that day.”
An excerpt from the notebook
Benjamin ended this chapter with a quote:
And like him who, having a garden to weed, does not attempt to eradicate all the bad herbs at once, which would exceed his reach and his strength, but works on one of the beds at a time, and, having accomplished the first, proceeds to a second.
This one habit of self-improvement proved life changing for the former US president and made him the man we all look forward to.
Just remember, one step at a time.
Set up an Accountability Mechanism:
No one in this world has accomplished all his goals or have achieved my every single expectation. I agree that most of us quit when we don’t see any result coming or when we get tempted by our strong old habits and lose the track of our goals.
But I have realized that, we put more efforts and perform better in tasks when we realize that someone is holding us accountable for something. We feel responsible and perform better at tasks.
Therefore, you have to trick your mind in order achieve your desired goals, I suggest you to establish an accountability mechanism.
What is an accountability mechanism?
It means that you need to find someone who will hold you accountable if you do not perform the required tasks. It can be anyone from your family, your life partner, a best friend or a colleague in othe ffice.
Simply anyone who is willing to remind you that you have established a goal and will hold you accountable if you didn’t do it. Moreover, you can add a little fun to it, if you do not complete your goals or do not follow a set routine then you have to give a treat to that other person.
In case you could not find anyone to be your accountability master, you can use various apps available on the internet such as Beeminder (The me-binder).
What Beeminder does is to charge you a fixed amount of money, if you go off track. Thus, you will have to follow your schedule, if you do not want a hole in your pocket.
Another alternative could be to schedule an embarrassing email or post on your Facebook timeline which you can use to wake up early in the morning, where if you do not wake up early in the morning like 6:00AM to shut it off, it will send that automated mail to a specified person or post it on your Facebook wall.
Set up a small reward system:
Your motivation to complete a task is somehow dependent on the reward you’ll get for doing it. Technically, it releases a chemical called “Dopamine” inside of your brain nerves. Dopamine makes you feel happy, so that your brain records it and makes you to do that thing again from which it was released at first.
While rewards may come in the form of big, one-off returns – like getting a good grade, being able to get in good shape, and being a better guitar player– rewards can also mean smaller, but equally rewarding payoffs.
These smaller rewards can be an effective incentive to accomplish your goals, or even just to putting in a certain amount of time into them that day. They might come in the form of getting to watch Game of Thrones guilt-free that night, or eating a candy every time you finish reading a page of your textbook.
(Although I’m not sure how effective that really is – I mean, I would just eat all the candies and close my book, wouldn’t you?)
One thing to note is that these rewards should be high-density fun, like going out with friends, or letting yourself play your favorite video game for a while. Unlike dumb rewards that make you more tired afterward – like going on Facebook or refreshing your Instagram feed – higher-density activities actually rejuvenate and replenish your energy stores as you do them.
Another thing to remember is that it’s important to pre-plan your rewards.
As the author Piers Steele notes in his book The Procrastination Equation, rewards are much more motivating this way because they build anticipation. This means that knowing in the back of your mind that you’ll get to do something fun once you finish doing your workout will make you that much more motivated to power through it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take my own advice and get some work done!
Got a comment, tip, or suggestion? Feedback is welcome!