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See How Productivity Actually Ruins Your Life

See How Productivity Actually Ruins Your Life

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Contradictory to what you might think, a ruined life can start off as an attempt to build a good habit. You may start off as wanting to be more productive, and you’ll most likely follow the latest trends in productivity, thus bringing structure to your life, and increasing the amount of work you get done. After you get the basics down, you’ll undertake bigger and heavier workloads; always in search of getting more done and faster!  One day, you’ll stumble upon an epiphany, a brilliant idea for some great project—yes my friends, that’s how it begins.

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productivity hurt your life

    Little by little, it will affect your personal life, giving you the illusion you can organize every minute of every hour to focus on your project.  You’ll start skipping meals, cut out your workout, skip reading your kids their bedtime stories, and more.  Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself totally drained with zero motivation to do the things you were so motivated to accomplish a week ago… with the added value of an angry spouse telling you that it’s nice you were able to check off “visit home” from your tasks.

    You may justify to yourself that you just need a bit more time in order to finish your project, right? Wrong! Even David Allen, one of the most productive people you’ll meet and the author of Getting Things Done said that:  “If you’re appropriately engaged with your life, you don’t need more time. If you’re not, more time won’t help”, why?

    Enter the Comfort Zone at Your Own Risk

    Keeping yourself constantly occupied helps you ignore some issues in your personal life.  It supplies you with a rewarding comfort zone that can be sustained for a long period; you get rewards for each task, all the while getting closer to the big reward just beyond the horizon.

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    Yet, be warned this is a bubble, and bubbles are meant to burst. Sacrificing your personal life on the altar of productivity actually pushes you away from the main reasons you sought to be more productive in the first place.  It puts a wall between you and the outer world preventing you from seeing there’s a problem since you are engrossed in being productive, and once the bubble pops, it may be too late.

    Balance Creativity and Be Wary of Obsession

    If you’re working on a new project you’ll need a boatload of creativity, and where do creative juices come from? According to Vincent Walsh, a professor from the Institute of cognitive neuroscience in the university college of London, creativity comes from obsession.  According to him, there are four components to creativity:

    Preparation: preparing everything; researching information, testing, and generally sniffing a bit around before you make your move.

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    Incubation: the period required for you to process what you’ve gathered during the preparation phase.

    Illumination: The Eureka moment!

    Verification: Checking how well your idea bumps against the walls of reality.

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    To follow through successfully with these stages, you’ll need to obsess over your idea, but how much?  That’s the million dollar question, and ultimately, it’s up to you. Extremely creative people changed a few spouses and were tormented emotionally and mentally day and night until they had their break.  Those are the people you’ve heard of, but there are plenty of others who never made it to the illumination phase

    Keep obsession at bay by making sure you keep it balanced.  Obsession is a slippery slope, and most of us aren’t Albert Einstein. We are creatures of emotion and impulse, we refuel with new experiences, support from our community, and rest, and all of the above require time. A high level of productivity and creativity can be sustained only when we feel fulfilled (or as Abraham Maslow called it, the upper reaches of the pyramid). Stay balanced, be productive and don’t lose touch with yourself—until next time.

     

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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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