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How to Improve Performance and Maintain Productivity at the Same Time

How to Improve Performance and Maintain Productivity at the Same Time


    Fortunately, this article isn’t going to start with an embarrassing confession that I’ve let the car’s tank run dry and found myself stranded at the side of the road… I’ve only ever done that once and I was barely out of nappies! (Honest)

    Instead, I’m going to look at the idea that cars do need filling up.

    Yeah, I know. Obvious…right?

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    The thing is, when we’re planning journeys we all too often do something which is barely more sophisticated than estimating how long the journey is on a map, and (assuming an average cruising speed of 50 MPH) dividing that by 50 to figure out how long the journey will take. Then we get surprised by the fact that it always take longer than that.

    How much longer?

    Well…generally longer than that by the length of time we needed to stop — and that is either for us (food/water/washroom break) or the car we’re driving (filling it with gas). I’m one of those impatient people who regards time spent filling up the car’s tank as wasted time — time not spent actually getting where I’m going.

    It isn’t, of course. Because if we dont fill the tank, we don’t get anywhere at all.

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    So we learn.

    We learn to add time for tasks that don’t actually do something (like get us somewhere) but which subsequently allow us to do something (like filling up the car). These are referred to as “Performance Tasks” and “Maintenance Tasks”, respectively.

    “Without the latter, the former can’t happen. Without the former, there’s no point in the latter.”

    There is, of course, a balance to be struck. Too much Performance Tasks and you end up performing less than your best because you keep having to stop performing and maintain. That’s the equivalent of entering a race, performing brilliantly so that you’re leading during the whole thing and then realising you’ve got to stop for 10 minutes to fill up with gas. On the other hand too many Maintenance Tasks and not enough performance and you don’t achieve anything at all.

    The seduction of this latter option is dangerous though, because it is all too easy to think you’re doing something because, well…you’re doing something. It’s just not something that directly leads to an outcome. You can be desperately busy without getting anywhere. Just ask almost anyone who rushes around saying, “There aren’t enough hours in the day!”

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    So what to do about it?

    This is an experiment worth trying; I’m doing it myself. Break down each project into tasks in the good old-fashioned way and then to decide task by task if it’s a Performance Task or a Maintenance Task. I colour-code blue on the ‘task wall’ if it’s a Maintenance Task and Performance Tasks are colur-coded pink. (Note: There’s no great significance to this choice of colour, it was just the first set of Post-It notes that came to hand!)

    Then, when figuring out what to do next at any point, I simply think about how my energy levels are. Why? Because my experience is that Maintenance Tasks can be done when you’re half asleep. If I’m below par, then I grab a blue task to do; otherwise I grab pink.

    Importantly, I have to decide on my energy levels before I look at the list of tasks to be done – no picking and choosing based on what sound interesting.

    The key thing is that it means I force myself to do the blue coloured tasks. Around my office, for example, we’d all rather get things done than prepare things — pink rather than blue, Performance rather than Maintenance. But your mileage may vary. It might help to spend a week or two looking at what tasks you do by preference and classify them after you’ve done them so that you get a feel for your natural instincts.

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    And then force yourself to do the opposite.

    So far the experiment is proving very useful — coloured Post-It notes and all.

    (Photo credit: Gas Full Meter via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on September 23, 2020

    5 Reasons for Your Facebook Addiction (and How to Break It)

    5 Reasons for Your Facebook Addiction (and How to Break It)

    Facebook is embedded into lives around the world. We use it to connect with friends, share important milestones, and check in with the news. However, what may seem like harmless scrolling can become harmful if it takes up inordinate amounts of time and turns into a Facebook addiction.

    The first step to breaking any bad habit is to understand the symptoms and psychological triggers that made you pick up the habit in the first place. Below you’ll find the common causes, and the good news is that, once you’ve identified them, you can implement specific strategies to get over your Facebook addiction.

    Symptoms of a Facebook Addiction

    Do you find that the first thing you do when you wake up is grab your phone and scroll through Facebook? Is it the last thing you see before falling asleep? You may have a Facebook addiction. Here are some more of the signs and symptoms[1]:

    • You end up spending hours on Facebook, even when you don’t mean to.
    • You use Facebook to escape problems or change your mood.
    • You go to sleep later because you’re glued to your screen.
    • Your relationships are suffering because you spend more time on your phone than you do talking with the people you care about.
    • You automatically pull out your phone when you have free time.

    You can check out this TED Talk by Tristan Harris to understand how Facebook and other social media gain and hold our attention:

    Psychological Reasons for a Facebook Addiction

    A compulsive Facebook addiction doesn’t come out of nowhere. There are often root causes that push you into Facebook, which can ultimately manifest as an addiction once you become dependent on it. Here are some of the common causes.

    Procrastination

    Facebook can cause procrastination, but many times, your tendency to procrastinate can lead you to scrolling through your Facebook feed.

    Facebook capitalizes on your tendency to procrastinate[2] by incorporating a news feed with an infinite scroll. No matter how far down you go, there will always be more memes and status updates to keep you distracted from whatever you should be doing.

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    Thus, it might be helpful to change your perception of Facebook. Instead of looking at it like a place to be social or kill time, frame Facebook as the enemy of your productivity and purpose. Doesn’t sound as tempting now, right?

    Loneliness or Indecision

    Facebook resembles a boring reality TV show that is on full display during every hour of the day. Do you really need to tell everybody what you ate for lunch? I doubt it.

    You don’t share such trivial details to add value to people’s lives. You’re likely doing it because you’re lonely and in need of attention or approval[3].

    Seeking opinions from your friends could be a sign of indecision or low self-confidence. If you get a bad suggestion, then you can conveniently blame somebody else, thus protecting your ego.

    Social Comparisons

    Social comparison is a natural part of being human[4]. We need to know where we stand in order to judge our rank among our peers. And Facebook has made this all too easy.

    When we get into Facebook, our brains are bombarded by hundreds of people to compare ourselves to. We see our cousin’s amazing vacation to Europe, our friend’s adorable baby, our brother’s new puppy, etc. Everything looks better than what we have because, of course, people are only going to post the best parts.

    This extreme form of social comparison with a Facebook addiction can, unfortunately, lead to depression. One study pointed out that “people feel depressed after spending a great deal of time on Facebook because they feel badly when comparing themselves to others”[5].

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    People-Pleasing

    Facebook takes advantage of your desire for instant gratification[6]. Your brain receives a dopamine hit every time you see that red notification light up. Dopamine is a chemical in your brain that causes you to seek pleasure from things.

    Pleasure sounds nice in theory, but dopamine is responsible for self-destructive behavior if overproduced. Thus, becoming a slave to your notifications can destroy your self-control in a hurry.

    If that wasn’t bad enough, the human desire to be liked and accepted is at play, too. Every time you get a “Like,” your brain decides that means somebody likes you. Keep this up and you’ll turn into an addict desperate for another “hit.”

    Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

    Facebook wrecks your focus by preying on your fear of missing out. You check your Facebook feed during a date because you don’t want to miss any interesting updates. You check your messages while you drive because a friend might have something exciting to share.

    One study found that “a high level of fear of missing out and high narcissism are predictors of Facebook intrusion, while a low level of fear of missing out and high narcissism are related to satisfaction with life”[7].

    Therefore, while you may feel temporarily glad that you didn’t miss something, research shows that FOMO will actually reduce your overall life satisfaction.

    How to Break a Facebook Addiction

    Now that you know some of the causes of a Facebook addiction, you may be ready to break it. If so, follow these 5 steps to get over your addiction and improve your mental health.

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    1. Admit the Addiction

    You can’t fix a problem if you deny it exists. Don’t beat yourself up, but do try and be honest enough to admit you’re a Facebook addict. If it makes you feel any better, I’m a recovering addict myself. There is no reason to be ashamed.

    Telling a trusted friend might help you stay accountable, especially if they share your goal.

    2. Be Mindful of Triggers

    In order to discover the triggers that lead you to use Facebook, ask yourself the following questions. It may be helpful to write them down at a journal.

    • What did I do? (scrolling, sharing, notification checking, etc.)
    • When did I do it? (down-time at work, as soon as you woke up, right before bed, on a date, etc.)
    • What happened right before? (a stressful event, boredom, etc.)
    • How did this make me feel? (stressed, anxious, sad, angry, etc.)

    Once you’re aware of what pushes you to use Facebook, you can work on tackling those specific things to get over your Facebook addiction.

    3. Learn to Recognize the Urge

    Every time you feel the urge to update your status or check your feed, recognize that impulse for what it is (a habitual behavior—NOT a conscious decision). This is especially powerful when you complete step 2 because you’ll be able to make a mental note of the specific psychological trigger at play.

    Have a plan for when you feel the desire to use Facebook. For example, if you know you use it when you’re bored, plan to practice a hobby instead. If you use it when you’re stressed, create a relaxation routine instead of jumping on Facebook.

    4. Practice Self-Compassion

    Facebook is an epic time-suck, but that doesn’t mean you should criticize yourself every time you log-on to your feed. Beating yourself up will make you feel bad about yourself, which will ironically cause you to be even more tempted.

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    Self-loathing can only lead to failure. You might end up deciding it’s hopeless because you are “too lazy.”  If you want to break your addiction for good, then you need to be self-compassionate.

    5. Replace the Addiction With a Positive Alternative

    It’s a lot easier to eliminate a bad habit when you decide on a good habit that you would like to replace it with. I applied this idea by choosing to pick up a book every time I was tempted to check my feed.

    The result blew my mind. I read over a hundred pages in the first day! Trust me when I say those “few minutes of down-time” can add up to an obscene amount of waste.

    Having a specific metric to track is important. If you want to stay encouraged, you need to have compelling evidence that your time would be better spent elsewhere.

    For example, download an app to help you determine exactly how much time is spent on Facebook so you know how much of your life you’re losing to it. Then, when you find a healthy alternative, you can feel good about all the time you’re giving to it!

    Final Thoughts

    Facebook addictions aren’t uncommon in today’s technologically dependent world. In the pursuit of human connection, we’ve mistakenly taken our interactions online, thinking it would be an easier alternative. Unfortunately, this is no replacement for genuine, face-to-face interaction in real life.

    If you think you have a problem, there are things you can do to tackle it. Get started today and improve your overall well-being.

    More on How to Use Social Media Less

    Featured photo credit: Tim Bennett via unsplash.com

    Reference

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