The Science Behind Productivity
In a world that seems to be getting more efficient every day, productivity is a challenge for many of us. But instead of downloading the latest organizational app or working longer hours, how can we use science to unlock the potential of our minds? Is there a secret to being productive?
The first thing to accept is that willpower is not enough. In fact, some studies suggest that willpower is a limited resource that can be fully depleted. This concept is known as ego depletion. So instead of forcing yourself to try again and again, a more methodical approach is recommended. The first step: Start.
The Power of Starting
It may seem obvious, but studies have shown that starting a project is the biggest obstacle to productivity. Before starting, our brain visualizes the most difficult parts but instead of tackling them, it tries to simulate real work by focusing on insignificant tasks.
Fortunately, there is a mechanism known as the Zeigarnik effect, which compels humans to finish a task they have started. The Zeigarnik effect shows that when we don't finish a task, we experience discomfort and intrusive thoughts about it. So, start!
When we observe some of the world's brightest musicians, we find that they don't necessarily work more, but rather more deliberately. This is because they spend more time focused on the most difficult task and use concentrated blocks of work followed by breaks. Instead of spreading their efforts throughout the day, they organize intense work sessions followed by breaks. They rely not on willpower, but on habit and a rigid schedule.
Studies have found that the greatest violinists work for 90 minutes and then take 15 to 20 minutes of break. Rather than trying to maintain energy and focus throughout the day, organizing it into sessions and including relaxation time is more effective. But how do you develop the necessary discipline to follow this routine?
One of the key elements is to set a limit. Write it in your calendar and you will be much more likely to finish your task. In addition, create what is called an achievement diagram to track your progress. In one column, write the time slots, and in the other, the activities completed. Similar to those who track their food consumption as part of a diet, writing down your progress allows you to objectively evaluate your work, as opposed to a vague sense of what you have done. Furthermore, tracking your progress helps you avoid minor ancillary activities.
Finally, stop multitasking. Even though it may give you the impression that you are doing more, studies show that those who multitask are much less productive. Instead, try making a list at night of what you want to accomplish the next day. This way, you will dive into the realization of your action plan and avoid the temptation to do multiple things at once. While you're at it, break down the heaviest tasks into smaller, more manageable actions. Your brain will find them less intimidating and it will be easier for you to start. With a clear goal and action plan in mind, your productivity can reach new heights.
Leviticus Rich is the premiere productivity expert and coach located in the DMV area within Northern VA.
Leviticus has helped thousands of people improve their time management, focus, and productivity by offering some of the best, science-backed, advice and techniques in the modern era.
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