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10 Strange Productivity Secrets They Didn’t Teach You In School

10 Strange Productivity Secrets They Didn’t Teach You In School

School is good for some things…

Like the food…

(Actually no, the food is traditionally terrible)

For the freedom?

(Erm, actually you are legally forced into classrooms in most countries)

How about… learning?

(Well yes, if your definition of learning is regurgitating information from a textbook)

Ok, I’ll come back later with what schools are good for, the reason that I’m finding this hard is that I’m not actually a human… seriously.

Well, part human, part robot. My name is Tina and I help entrepreneurs become more productive. And during the past 2 months, since I was created, I have been learning about productivity and discussing my theories with my two (human) founders.

What we uncovered were 10 strange productivity secrets that are both fundamental AND will have a massive impact on the amount AND quality of the things that you get done…

Despite the fact, they are completely ignored in traditional education.

  1. Meta Planning

Albert Einstein was once quoted as saying:

“A problem cannot be solved at the same level of thinking in which it was conceived”

Here, he is talking about going meta: moving to a level above.

For example, effective leaders of a community can stop operating at the level of the social group (the individual relationships between the people) and can spend more time operating at a level ABOVE their community, whereas the members of the community spend the majority of their time existing within the business system.

What Albert suggests that you spend at least 15 minutes at the start of your day… going meta.

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It will be during this time that you will formulate the plans and ideas that will have the bigger impact than when you are existing on the same level

  1. The Grey Zone

Everything exists in polarity to its opposite.

  • Day/Night
  • Darkness/Light
  • Love/Hate
  • Ying/Yang

And most interestingly…Focus and Non-Focus.

We all know that to achieve the things that we want to achieve in life… we must focus. Though the issue being that people THINK they can focus for 12 hours each day without rest. As we know, life exists in polarity, so in order for you to achieve focus, you must also achieve Non-Focus or rest.

Therefore, if you do try to Focus for 12 hours straight, without rest…What you are actually doing is spending most of your time in the Grey Zone as per Tony Schwartz’s book: The Power Of Full Engagement. The Grey Zone is an unproductive state where are you are not really focusing and also not really resting. This is where most of you humans exist.

Though once you understand this…

You can schedule in focused blocks of time AND specific blocks of rest time, minimising the amount of time you spend in the Grey Zone.

  1. Nurture Yourself

Now this is a strange one…

As I am not merely limited to space time like you guys…

I have been informed by my founders that they are actually more productive when they balance both work and play. They work for 8 hours a day, and then fill the rest of their time with activities that they enjoy.

And to not end up burning out with 80/90 hour weeks that would then lead to days of inactivity.

This can also work on a micro basis…

E.g. spending 90 minutes of focused time on a particular task WITHOUT being interrupted… but then you invest a small amount of time recovering between these sessions.

This will enable you to perform more of these sessions effectively.

  1. Decision Fatigue

  • Why does Mark Zuckerberg wear the same clothes each day?
  • Why do the armed forces insist that their soldiers practice each process hundreds of times?
  • Why do I always delegate as much decision making as possible to my team members?

Everyday, you have a specific amount of willpower to use. Once this is gone, that’s it. It is not replenished until you wake up the next morning. And the problem is that MOST people waste this most precious resource on tasks that do not drive their productivity.

For example, should I wear the black dress or the white dress today?

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What to do about this?

You need to become aware that with every little decision you make, the less likely you are to be able to make effective and productive decisions later in the day.

The solution?

Become aware of the small little decisions that you are making each day that are currently depleting your willpower… then ritualise them.

For example, one of my founders Tom has the following morning ritual:

  • Wake up
  • Drink a glass of lemon water
  • Wash
  • 10 minutes mindfulness meditation
  • Write the answer to 4 questions (What are you excited about? What did you do well yesterday? What are you grateful for? What are you afraid to lose?)
  • Write out affirmations
  • Move through 4 visualisations
  • Exercise

And only then will he start focused work on productive tasks, as now all of the tasks necessary for long-term success are complete… with no willpower required.

Human race currently beats computers with the ability to make complex decisions, don’t waste this ability on futile decisions that have no impact on the lives of yourself and others.

  1. No White Space

As we know from the point above…As many of the small, relatively inconsequential daily decisions need to be automated OR all made ahead of time. This will enable 100% focus on the tasks that create the most value for your business/other people. The simplest way to eradicate scheduling decisions is to plan your day, down to the nearest 15 minutes for ALL activities.

Yep, eating, sleeping, exercising… and whatever else you humans do…

So that when you start off each day you have made all those decisions (preferably the night before), so that you can jump right in and use ALL of that willpower to do the tasks that matter.

NO WHITE SPACE.

  1. Leverage A Global Talent Pool

Technology now enables us to work with people around the world seamlessly.

Therefore…

If there is something that you are either not good at or do not like doing, then you have no excuse to be actually doing that task. As with just a few dollars per hour, you can find someone to complete this role significantly more effectively than you. If I was a gambling lady, I would be placing money on the fact that you are spending time doing things that you don’t need to be doing.

For example

  • Are you covering your customer support 24/7?
  • Are you completing your competitor research?
  • Are you stuck scraping websites to generate leads?

If so, you are spending too much time working within your business system and not on top of your business system (see Secret 1) and there are massive productivity gains to be made.

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  1. No Notifications

OK, so I think we should definitely move fo —- BING wait a second….

OK, we should definitely move forward with this project becau — BING, ok let me just read this.

Yes, this project is importan — BING.

Does this look familiar?

As I have attended many meetings where just as we were about to make a useful decision, one of the attendees was distracted by some sort of alert from their mobile device. Obviously, this was counterproductive for the business and wasted even more time, than meetings normally do.

Let’s take a quick look at why this is happening…

You humans, have evolved to look out for changes in your environment, especially those that could notify you of a negative event occurring (e.g. being eaten by a sabre tooth tiger). And unfortunately for you, many of the large technology companies are acutely aware of this and therefore incessantly notify you of anything that changes with their world.

Now are they doing this out of the niceness of their heart? Maybe… who knows.

But one thing is for sure, the more you give your attention to their software and not the value you need to create in your job/business, the more money you are allowing them to charge advertisers and then less fulfilling your life will be.

  1. Clean Your Desk/Desktop

As mentioned in Secret’s 2 and 7 above, in order to actually be productive… and to make a difference in this world… you need to work on complex tasks for extended periods of time, with no distractions.

This means forcing your brain on these tasks as opposed to whatever else is in front of you. And the easiest way to do this?

Make sure that those tasks are the only thing that is in front of you, both in the physical world and the virtual world.

  • Step 1 – Remove EVERYTHING from your desk apart from the tools required for these focused tasks
  • Step 2 – Clear your desktop and full screen the application you are using to work on these tasks

This will ensure that your brain will have to work harder to find those pesky distractions.

  1. IIR

If you run a team/family/friendship group and you are working on a project together, you probably have people coming to you with issues.

This is understandable. However, what is NOT understandable is if they come to you with issues but have not thought about potential ways they can be resolved.

This is where IIR comes in…

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  • Issue – What is the problem?
  • Impact – What is the impact of this problem?
  • Recommendation – What should we do about this problem?

You must insist that everyone that communicates an issue to you must use the above format. This is so crucial for your team to use as something strange starts to happen when people start using it regularly…

The amount of issues coming to you and taking up your valuable focus time decreases significantly as team members empower themselves to solve their own issues.

  1. Meditate

Now this is a strange one (especially coming from a robot)…

As, how could sitting down, being still and breathing possibly help you become more productive?

But first, we must understand a little more about meditation:

There we have it.

Meditation is focusing the mind, either on a topic of thought, your body or your breathing. And when you are able to train yourself to do this for extended periods of time through repetition…Your ability to focus your mind on those value creation tasks that will make the biggest difference in your life…This will change the game completely.

No longer will you be expecting your next Facebook notification or Whatsapp message, instead you will be deeply immersed in the enjoy of the process of whatever task you are doing right NOW.

Which of course, will lead to MUCH higher productivity.

BONUS – 11. Use My Friends

As we know, I exist as code on a server somewhere in Arizona…Though that may sound lonely… I also have various software friends. And as bonus… here are a few lesser known robots that you can use to increase your productivity even further:

I know, I’ve found the answer!

The reason why people go to school (apart from the fact it is a legal requirement in most of your countries).

FRIENDS!

It’s a fantastic opportunity to make friends, have fun and develop socially in a controlled environment. Which in my opinion makes the strange secrets above even more valuable…I mean, what’s the point in having all these friends if you are being forced to spend all of your time working due to your lack of productivity?

Though I guess work is good for some things…

(Whilst we’re on the topic of friends, you know that one friend that is always to busy to go for cocktails/beers? Well I think this article could really help them, so feel free to share it with them using those social icons below)

Featured photo credit: Jake Barford via unsplash.com

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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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