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Want A Productive Day But End Up Wasting It? Here Are 3 Obstacles You Need To Remove

Want A Productive Day But End Up Wasting It? Here Are 3 Obstacles You Need To Remove

Remember all those times you wanted to get back in shape and you told yourself, “I’ll start Monday”?

Sunday night rolls around, you set your alarm, it goes off in the AM, it’s earlier than you would normally get up so you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through your social media and the next thing you know, two hours have passed by and now you have no desire to go to the gym. The day comes to a close and you find yourself wondering at what point in the day your desire to be productive dwindled away.

Sound familiar? Well, there can be quite a few contributing factors that can affect your productivity and end up wasting the day away.

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3 Obstacles You Need To Remove for A More Productive Day

1. Optimism

You have a day off from work coming up so you plan ahead all the things you want to get done that day with the intention of tackling them all. The day comes and you realize that one of the things on your list is taking much longer to get done than you had anticipated, and you realize that there just aren’t enough hours in a day to get it all finished.

Being optimistic is a great quality to have, however, it will really get in the way sometimes when you’re trying to get a laundry list of tasks done in a short 24-time window.

2. Distractions

When you have a task to complete but there is no one around to check up on your progress or put pressure on you, probably you’ll end up procrastinating and allowing yourself to become distracted. You get distracted by the computer or your phone checking social media and sending texts back and forth you aren’t getting anything done. Pay attention to the people that you are surrounded by as well as your distractions. These play a big part in whatever environment you are in.

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3. Being overwhelmed

You wake up ready to take on the day and crush your tasks. You sit down to eat your breakfast and suddenly you start thinking about all the things you need to do that need to be done that day. Suddenly, your anxiety sets in and you’re extremely overwhelmed. You feel that you just won’t get everything done, and you start feeling discouraged. So as the day progresses, you start losing your motivation to get anything done that all you have to show for yourself is a half-completed task in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

Whether you want to admit it to yourself or not, we have all done these things at one point or another. You are probably wondering what you can do to help overcome some of these issues, and it really can be quite simple.

3 Ways to Overcome these Obstacles

1. Shorten your to-do list

Realize and accept that you only have 24 hours in a day. It sounds like a lot, but when you have a million things to do it isn’t. Then also realize that you are a human being and not superman/woman. Think about what needs to be done and what you want to get done. By doing this, you’re surely going to cut that list in half.

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2. Start a routine

Once you get yourself into a routine, you’ll be surprised at how much easier it is for you to stay on task. For example, if you want to get back in shape, get yourself in a good morning routine to get ready for your trip to the gym. Instead of checking your phone when you wake up, get up and take a big stretch, walk to the bathroom and brush your teeth, wash your face, and change into your gym clothes.

Make yourself some breakfast and head out the door. Doing this every single day will eventually become a habit to the point where if you missed something in your routine, something would just feel off.

3. Put your phone down

Put down those cell phones! More often than not, our phones can be one of the biggest reasons we lose our motivation because they are so distracting.

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You wake up in the morning and one of the first things you do is pick up your phone and check your social media apps instead of getting up right away and getting things done. You get caught up in the motion of checking the same apps, refreshing, and scrolling. It happens.

When it’s time to get something done and you know you need to focus, put your phone out of reach so you don’t get the itch to pick it up. Leave it in your car, your purse, at home. When you start doing this you’ll begin to realize how much more you can get done when you aren’t constantly being distracted by what’s happening on your phone.

Featured photo credit: https://www.understood.org via understood.org

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Erica Wagner

Freelance Writer

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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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