In a world that seems busier by the day, productivity is on the minds of many, but instead of downloading the latest time management app, or forcing yourself to stay at work for hours on end. How can we use science to crack open the potential of our minds? Is their a secret to being productive?
The first thing to come to terms with is that your willpower is simply not enough. In fact some studies suggest that willpower is an exhaustible source that can be entirely used up. This is a concept known as the ago depletion. So instead of convincing yourself to simply try harder, a more methodical approach is suggested.
The first step: Get started! It may seem obvious but studies have shown starting a project to be the biggest barrier to productivity. Before starting our brain visualizes the hardest parts to come, and instead tries to simulate real work by focusing on small mindless tasks.
Luckily there's construct of the mind known as the Zeigernik Effect, which compels humans to finish a task that they've already started. The Zeigernik Effect shows that when we don't finish a task, we experience discomfort and intrusive thoughts about it. So get started.
Now what about time management? Shockingly when we look at some of the most of the elite musicians in the world, we find that they aren't necessarily practicing more, but instead more deliberately. This is because they spend more time focused on the hardest task. And focus their energy in packets instead of diluting their effort over the entire day. But how can you develop the discipline to follow this routine?
They have periods of intense work followed by breaks. Not relying on willpower they rely on a habit and disciplined scheduling. Studies have found that the most elite violinists in the world generally follow a 90 minute work regime with a 15 to 20 minute break afterwards. Instead of trying to maintain energy throughout the entire day, breaking it down into sessions with planned relaxation is most effective.
One key component is giving yourself a deadline; write it down; mark it in your calendar. And you'll be much more likely to complete your task. On top of this, create something called an accountability chart to document your progress. In one column write the time span, and in the other the activities you accomplished during this time, similar to those on a diet who document their food intake.
Writing down your progress allows you to realistically evaluate your work. As opposed to inaccurately assuming what you've done, furthermore tracking your progress helps to avoid small mindless work.
And finally, stop multitasking. Well it may feel like you're accomplishing more. Studies show that multitaskers are much less productive. Instead try and make a list at night of what you want to accomplish tomorrow. This way you hit the ground running with your action plan. And avoid trying to complete multiple activities at once while you're at it split up your large tasks into smaller bite sized ones.
Your brain will find these less daunting. And it will make the starting process easier. With a clear goal and action plan in mind, your productivity levels can soar to new heights.