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3 Simple Productivity Hacks From Prison Inmates

3 Simple Productivity Hacks From Prison Inmates

What’s your first thought when you think of a prisoner?

Often, people have a negative perception of those doing time, even if the person was convicted of a victimless crime. That’s one reason why former convicts have such difficulty finding work and forming new relationships once they are released from prison.

However, it’s important to remember that ex-cons are people — and no less human than someone who has never done any time. In fact, you might be surprised what you can learn from those who have been incarcerated.

We are students of this experience called life. The truth is that we can learn from everybody. After speaking to a number of prisoners, I learned a lot.

Here are two of the most important lessons:

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  1. Most prisoners have developed remarkable mental strength. (Many of their habits are described in this article.)
  2. Time spent in prison can be productive or unproductive. Despite their limited resources, inmates tend to get creative and at times are even more productive than those who are not limited in resources.

So, what can we learn from prison inmates that will make us productive in life?

1. Write Every Day

Prisoners typically have three mealtimes and a recess period every day. Unless one has a job in prison, the other 19 hours are spent in their prison cell. 19 hours is a long time to sit and be unproductive. What would you do if you were confined to a room for 19 hours?

Prison inmates frequently write to pass time. Some write song lyrics. Others write daily entries in a journal. A few even write a book: Andrew Medal wrote Hacking The Valley during the time he spent in prison.

Medal’s advice: It’s better to spend your time being productive rather than sitting there doing nothing.

2. Read Every Day

Besides writing, reading is one of the other activities that prisoners do a lot of. Since inmates do not have laptops and WiFi, they use those 11 to 19 hours to educate themselves the old school way — by reading books.

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Inmates often have family and friends who bring them newspapers, magazines, and books from the outside. Having such resources allows prisoners to educate themselves and stay informed about the trends happening in modern society.

Unfortunately, for many who have access to the internet, things like video games, music channels, and social media become distractions to the point that they cannot focus on the resources they need to reach the finish line.

Getting a magazine subscription or joining a book club is a good idea. I like to follow the reading list of successful people in my niche. Peter Sage (commonly known as The Extreme Entrepreneur) is one example of people that I follow for reading recommendations.

3. Bootstrap

Life in prison can be expensive for the majority of inmates, especially when money is low. But borrowing from a bank or investor isn’t really an option.

For many Americans, the financial situation also looks bleak:

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50% of Americans make no more than $28,013 a year.

Only 40% of Americans with student loans are paying them back.

22% of American children are living below the poverty line.

So how do you move forward with your idea or goals when the situation is so bad?

Bootstrap.

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Likely, no matter how dire your situation is, someone is surviving with less. Bootstrapping makes you productive because it forces you to be more resourceful. It is a skill that inmates develop in prison, and it can be just as helpful for people who live outside those four walls.

Hopefully, you’ll never have to serve any time in the big house. But for those who do, it can be a huge learning experience — leading to extreme productivity.

Why not take a few moments, and see how you can incorporate their hacks into your life?

Featured photo credit: diegoattorney via pixabay.com

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Kallen Diggs

Bestselling Author / Magazine Editor / Syndicated Radio Show Host

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Last Updated on November 15, 2019

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems, why?

What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

The Biology

Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

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The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

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The Psychology

Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

1. Identify Your Habits

As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

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It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

3. Apply Logic

You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

4. Choose an Alternative

As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

5. Remove Triggers

Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

6. Visualize Change

Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

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For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

Final Thoughts

Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

More About Changing Habits

Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

Reference

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