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10 Reasons Why The Most Productive People Make Time For Doing Absolutely Nothing

10 Reasons Why The Most Productive People Make Time For Doing Absolutely Nothing

Being productive can feel exhilarating. It can provide a rush that energizes you, inspires you, motivates you, and has you reach your goals. Productive people are focused on their goals and take charge of their lives.

It is a common misconception that productivity is tantamount to being busy. They are not one and the same. Busyness can happen at times, but it can really mean being over-committed instead. Sometimes, it is unavoidable. Sometimes, life throws us things to do that we did not plan on, nor do we have much of a choice about. The key to balancing these times of increased tasks is to take the time to “do nothing.” This nothing is intentional and fulfilling. It should not be confused with laziness or lack of drive. Doing “nothing” can actually increase your productivity.

Getting things done can take more than hard work, diligence, and knowledge. Sometimes, during “crunch times,” it can feel like the need to push is even stronger. You keep your head down and don’t allow any distractions to seep in. Working harder, is not necessarily the most productive way to accomplish tasks, however. It can lead to stress, burnout, insomnia, and even illness. In the effort to achieve greater success, we can actually lose our awareness and enjoyment of life

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Every now and then, a well-placed “timeout” can be extremely effective. When you are faced with so much to get done in so little time, it can feel overwhelming. It can feel like everything is an equal priority and has to all get done right away. You may go to bed wondering how you’ll ever get it all done. To-do-lists are great ways to jot down all you need to get done in your day, but the need to say “yes” to everyone and everything that comes along can actually hinder progress. Being busy can actually become a default setting. Worst of all, it may take energy away from the things you enjoy.

Some of the most productive people place importance not only on being effective, but also on the value of doing “nothing” so they can be more efficient at doing their many “somethings.”

Check out these 10 reasons why productive people make time for nothing:

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1. Doing nothing gives them perspective.

The big ideas often come when productive people step away from what they are working on. Taking a break and opting for a change of scenery can bring clarity when they return to their lives.

2. Doing nothing gives their bodies time to catch up on rest.

Rest and relaxation are keys to good health. Coincidentally, vital people get more done.

3. It leaves room for something new to come in.

When the most productive people step away from their busy lives, new people and experiences have the room to show up. The daily grind can lead to dissatisfaction and a hopeless feeling like nothing is getting done.

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4. Their creative fires are fueled.

Taking breaks can be the best muse.

5. Their minds quiet…

…and stress is alleviated when the most productive people take a timeout to themselves.

6.  Being prone allows our nervous system to rest.

According to Chloe Park of Mind Body Green.com, without this kind of relaxation, we are only operating at 70% capacity. Stress is actually counter-productive.

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7. Resting the body releases tension, which makes them able to endure longer days.

When they lay down to rest, their spines elongate, letting gravity give their bodies the rest they need to do more.

8. They mediate and find clarity and equanimity, alleviating stress and re-activity.

Oprah Winfrey talks about the value of meditation by saying, “Only from that space can you create your best work and your best life.”

9. They know if they do not take time to relish in their accomplishments…

…their productivity has no real value.

10. They understand the power of saying “no”.

If they say no to some things they can actually give themselves the breathing room to say “yes” to do more of what they want in life.

Featured photo credit: Handsome hipster relaxing on campsite at a music festival via shutterstock.com

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Bridget Baker

Web Presence Sherpa

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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