Why Practical Tips For Productivity Don’t Work

Have you ever tried to follow the exact steps that someone suggested to get more productive? I did that so many times, and one of it was when I read Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I took notes while reading it, I worked hard on defining my personal mission and the roles I play in my life. I did the quadrant. But soon, I got tired of the “homework” I had to do each time I picked up the book. My notes got tossed aside, never visited again. The book is awesome, but I was using it the wrong way.

And even though each time I’d fail to see through the tips I get from self-help books and articles, I’d read something else and try it again. It’s a move of desperation from the world’s best power procrastinator.

The behavior can’t change because the mind hasn’t changed. You can easily alter your actions for a short period of time, but to form a long term habit, your mentality has to change. This is why instead of handing out practical tips, I’d usually focus on the “why” of things to first reason it out with the mind. Change is a by-product of a mind shift — what goes on inside will eventually find its way out.

A mind shift is not easy to achieve though. You can’t convince yourself something you don’t believe deep in your heart. So I used an extremely brutal but effective way that not only got me to believe in working on myself, it became a truth for me to never stop learning and growing.

Tapping on FOMO

The Fear of Missing Out is nothing new. In fact, it comes from our primal instincts for survival. Clinical Psychologist Anita Sanz explained how FOMO came about:

“Our survival as an individual within a tribe, and thus our survival as a species, once hinged on our being aware of threats both to ourselves and to the larger group. To be ‘in the know’ when we roamed around in small groups was critical to survival. To not be aware of a new food source, for example, meant you literally missed out on something that could mean the difference between life and death.”

Today, the Fear of Missing Out is a powerful force that makes us spend too much time on social media. Since we already have that in our instincts, why not channel it to something more useful than cat videos and gossip news? Perhaps this wouldn’t go too well with depressive and anxiety disorders, but it’s great for getting that big push you know you need.

Surround yourself with people better than you

Not to learn from them, but to realize how far behind you are from them. No matter how good you are at something, there’s always someone better than you. And to improve, find out what others are doing that you’re not. Read about the success stories of others, talk to people who are better than you.

Ignite the angst of being left out.

That’s when the urgency gets real.

Four things you would experience

We all need a little discomfort to get us moving. Although negative emotions would creep up on you, when used constructively, they can become the push that drives you out of comfort zone.

1) Shame

Oh the horror of finding out how tiny our achievements actually are. Something that you take pride in turns out to be just a foundational step for someone else. But instead of dwelling in the “I’m not good enough” thoughts, waste no time and start doing something about it now.

2) Anxiety

Realizing that we’re not doing enough can be distressing. Whenever you feel that nervousness, recognize that you’re at the edge of growth. The only way to get rid of the uneasiness is to turn it into action to tip yourself over that invisible barrier.

3) Fear

Then comes the good old fear of failure knocking at the door. Break down your fears into bite sizes and examine each part. Ask yourself “is this true?”. If it isn’t, dismiss the fear. If it is, focus on the present and solve the problem at hand.

4) Change

Incrementally, you would see your effort paying off. It doesn’t happen overnight, so be patient and stay consistent. Celebrate each milestone you achieved to spur yourself on and encourage others to come on this journey with you. Then keep calm and carry on building on it.

Making sense of practical tips

Everyone has to go through this process before something great happens. Practical tips for productivity are almost useless if you don’t get that mind shift first. If you’ve said “yes” to making a change, the process of mind shift has already started; you just have to reinforce it with a stronger dissatisfaction. Only then, practical tips make sense and become much easier to see through.


Before you go

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