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3 Harsh Truths About Your Productivity — and What to Do About Them

3 Harsh Truths About Your Productivity — and What to Do About Them

As the father of a four-year-old, I often find myself in conversations with other parents complaining they no longer have time to get anything done. They have to get the little ones dressed and fed in the morning, drive them to school, then bolt out of work to pick them up, shuttle them off to an activity and back home, prepare dinner, and finally get them bathed and into bed. Lights out. Day over. No time left to be productive. All right, all right — it’s usually me complaining. And I’m dead wrong.

Ready for some harsh truths?

How to Overcome 3 of the Real Reasons You’re Not as Productive as You’d Like to Be

1. You’re not a “victim” of “distractions” — you’re choosing to avoid the work

There’s a new narrative spreading so far and fast that it’s becoming a full-blown cultural meme. It goes like this: In the digital age, information is “coming at us” all the time, and we’re all but powerless to stop it.

You hear it in our language: With smart phones, tablets, and social media, we’re “bombarded” with information. It’s “everywhere.” Most of us can barely “keep up.” How are we supposed to “deal with it all?”

Sorry, but that’s called… [censored for publication].

Being productive is a choice. So is being unproductive.

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You want to constantly stop working (or not start at all) so you can check email, read headlines, or browse your friends’ Facebook status updates? Or maybe read a blog post, or 10? Okay. But please understand that these things are not “distractions,” nor are they “coming at you.” You’re selecting them — and you’re doing so, often, as a way of procrastinating.

What to do about it:

Two suggestions, both of them easier than you’d think:

First: Fight back! Reclaim your productive time. Yes, today you have constant and immediate access to every conceivable entertainment and distraction you can think of on any number of electronic devices on your desk or in your pocket. Leave them there. Set aside enough time for the real task at hand — whether that’s your job or a creative project or whatever you want to accomplish — and “single task” the hell out of it.

Second suggestion: Trick yourself. Sometimes you put off starting a new project because it seems overwhelming. Don’t think about tackling the whole thing at once. Simply promise yourself you’ll put in 15 minutes before you take a break. Can you guess what will happen?

In most cases, the very act of digging into the project, getting started, putting some energy into it, will get your creative and productive juices flowing — and you’ll keep right on producing well beyond that 15-minute goal you set. (And all the incoming emails or tweets won’t distract you at all.)

The late Roger Ebert wrote, “The muse visits during the act of creation, not before.” That’s Ebert’s ingenious way of saying that the great ideas and productive energy don’t fall out of the sky. You have to earn them — by starting.

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2. You’re avoiding the work… because you’re depressed

By this I don’t mean you’re experiencing clinical depression; I mean that you are in a negative emotional state. But when it comes to your productivity, feeling even slightly depressed can have the stopping power of a cannon.

In the brilliant book Finding Flow, a follow-up to his groundbreaking psychological work Flow, author and professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, notes that when you think about yourself, you tend to drift into negative emotions.

Indeed, the main concept of “flow” is that when you engage in certain complex, all-consuming activities (playing the piano, rock climbing), you lose all sense of yourself — and as you become fully engrossed in the flow activity, you experience more joy and productivity.

What to do about it:

Get out of your head.

A well-established principal in psychology states that you can’t experience two opposite emotional states at the same time. What a great thing to know!

If you’re feeling down, chances are you’re focusing on some aspect of yourself — your problems, your shortcomings, your frustrations. Luckily, there’s a simple, but not easy, way to climb out of this trap. Find something else, something positive, to focus on. As long as you can hold on to that positive feeling, you can’t — literally, cannot — fall back into a depression.

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Sounds difficult, right? It will be. But keep in mind that you need to switch your focus from whatever is bothering you only long enough to get started on your project. Maybe you can think about how great it will feel to finally be done with the task. Or maybe you need to put on some uplifting music. (Movie scores are a great choice here; as you work the background tunes will make it seem like you’re conquering an army!)

A few minutes into the task, and your natural positive energy will start to take over (see tip 1), and you’ll leave those feelings of depression behind.

3. You’re afraid to start the work… because you might make a mistake

Why when deer see car headlights coming at them — or a human being, for that matter — will they freeze instead of running off the road to safety? Because often in a terrifying situation, they’re so afraid of doing the wrong thing that they instead do nothing. Running this way might be a mistake. Running that way might be a mistake. Splat. Humans sometimes make the same choice.

One reason you might not be as productive as you’d like is that you’re feeling anxiety. The fear of going in the wrong direction, making a bad choice about the project you’re tackling, stops you from moving forward at all.

What to do about it:

Embrace mistakes. They mean you’re making progress.

Take writing as an example. Do you think any novelist or playwright has ever sat down to a blank sheet of paper, began writing, and just kept on going in one shot to a complete final draft? No deletions? No edits? No way!

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Don’t let anxiety win. Accept that you will make mistakes… start anyway.

Bottom line: The reason you’re not as productive as you’d like to be is not that you’re too busy. And it’s not my kid’s fault (oops — I mean it’s not your kid’s fault). We all make a choice in every minute of every day, either to push forward on the projects and goals that matter to us, or not.

So set aside the distractions (even the really fun ones); tell yourself you’ll give the big task just a few minutes at first (you’ll keep going, I promise); and then get out of your own head so you can focus on the work. And don’t waste time worrying about making mistakes. Of course you’ll make them, and then you’ll fix them.

To your productivity!

Featured photo credit: Unproductive man at work/Robbie Hyman via Shutterstock

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robbie hyman

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Last Updated on December 2, 2020

7 Reasons Why Quitting Facebook Now Is Good for Your Future

7 Reasons Why Quitting Facebook Now Is Good for Your Future

For the past 100 years or so, there have been huge improvements in communication. From letters to phone calls to text messages to video calls to social networks. Following all these improvements, one of the biggest inventions of the 21st century was founded in 2004[1], and it started to spread like wildfire, first in the US and then around the world. Now, quitting Facebook has become nearly unheard of.

There are more than 1 billion monthly active Facebook users. Although initially it aimed to bring all people together for the sake of connecting, the effects of Facebook on masses became a huge debate after it gained so much popularity, with some even suggesting you deactivate your account.

The advantages of social media and its ability to connect us to people around the world are well known. Now, it’s time to dive into the ways Facebook affects your productivity and why you should ultimately consider quitting Facebook.

1. Facebook Allows You to Waste Time

While being on Facebook and scrolling through the news feed, many active users are not aware of the time they actually spend on viewing others’ life events or messaging with Facebook messenger. It has become so addictive that many even feel obliged to like or comment on anything that is shared.

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You might think of the time spent on Facebook as your free time, though you are not aware that you can spend the same time taking care of yourself, learning something new, or doing your daily tasks.

2. It Can Decrease Motivation

By seeing someone else’s continuous posts about the parties they went to or friends they see frequently, you might feel insecure about yourself if your own posts are not as impressive as the ones in your news feed.

However, there is rarely such a thing as going out every day or having amazing vacations every year. Unfortunately, though, we internalize the posts we see and create a picture in our minds of how others are living.

One study found that “participants who used Facebook most often had poorer trait self-esteem, and this was mediated by greater exposure to upward social comparisons on social media”[2].

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Basically, when we see posts depicting lives we consider “better” than ours, our self-esteem takes a hit. As many of us are doing this for hours at a time, you can imagine the toll it’s taking on our mental health. Therefore, if you want to raise your self-esteem, quitting Facebook may be a good idea.

3. You Use Energy on People You Don’t Care About

Look at the number of friends you have on Facebook. How many of them are really good friends? How many of the friend requests you get are real people or your actual acquaintances?

You have to admit that you have people on Facebook who are not related to you and some you barely know, but who still comments on their photos or offer a like now and again. Basically, instead of offering your time and energy to the genuinely rewarding relationships in your life, you’re spending it on people you don’t really care about.

4. Facebook Feeds You Useless Information

It is one thing to read newspapers or magazines in order to get information, but it is an entirely different thing to be faced with false news, trends, and celebrity updates through continuous posts. I bet one of the things that you will not miss after quitting Facebook is the bombardment of information that seems to have no effect on your life whatsoever.

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5. It Damages Your Communication Skills

When is the last time you actually hung out in real life with your friends, relatives, or colleagues? Because of the social media that is supposed to help us communicate, we forget about real communication, and therefore, have difficulties communicating effectively in real life. This negatively affects our relationships at home, work, or in our social circles.

6. You Get Manipulated

One of the biggest problems of Facebook is its influence on people’s creativity. Although it is assumed to be a free social media site, which let’s you to share almost anything you want, you have this tendency to want to get more likes[3].

In order to get more likes, you must work very hard on your shared posts, trying to make it funny, creative, or clever, while you could spend the same time doing something that genuinely improves your creativity. After quitting Facebook, you’ll be amazed at all the creative hobbies you have time to develop.

7. It Takes Over Your Life

The marketing strategy of Facebook is quite clear. Its creators want you to spend as much time as possible on the site. While working on their posts and choosing which pictures to share, many people actually try to be someone else. This often means they end up being isolated from the real world and their true selves.

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It is possible to put the same time and energy toward becoming a better version of yourself instead of faking it. Why not try it by quitting Facebook?

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons to try quitting Facebook. By knowing how it may be impacting your productivity and mental health, you can search for motivation to get off social media and back into your real life.

These points will guide you in seeing what your life would be like if you were to delete your account. Leaving Facebook doesn’t sound so bad after all, does it?

More on How to Quit Social Media

Featured photo credit: Brett Jordan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Guardian: A brief history of Facebook
[2] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
[3] Better by Today: Do Facebook ‘Likes’ Mean You’re Liked?

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