By Esther Cohen
Tuan86 / Pixabay
Productivity is the defining word of the modern workplace.
It’s nearly impossible to read any business-focused blog and not come across an article on yet another productivity “hack”. Pop into your nearest bookstore and you’ll find rows upon rows of books promising to improve your productivity.
What gives? Are the usual culprits – social media and poor discipline – to blame? Or is there something else at play here?
In this article, I’ll dig beyond the superficial “hacks” into the fundamental reasons for productivity and procrastination.
- The psychology of productivity
- The relationship between willpower and productivity
- Why multitasking is a myth
- How making decisions affects your productivity
- How to use psychological effects and biases to improve productivity
Understanding Your Brain
Poor productivity is seldom the result of laziness, at least not in creative workers and entrepreneurs.
Rather, the underlying causes of poor productivity are often associated with how, where and why we work.
Understanding the psychological basis of productivity, therefore, can help you improve productivity as well.
Below, I’ll share a few critical concepts that determine your work habits and productivity.
Willpower is a Finite Resource
To a society obsessed with quick fixes and hacks, “willpower” sounds like an anachronistic, Victorian-era word. It feels strangely mystical – an undefinable quality that’s hard to find and even harder to acquire.
Yet, nothing affects your productivity more than this “dated” concept.
There has been a resurgence of late in the study of willpower and “ego depletion”, led by psychologist Roy F. Baumeister.
In Baumeister’s most well-known experiment, a group of test subjects was asked to choose between radishes and chocolates before attempting a difficult puzzle.
Subjects who forced themselves to choose radishes – that is, exercised their willpower – quit substantially faster than those who chose chocolates.
Baumeister found similar results across several experiments and test subjects.
In another experiment, test subjects were divided into two rooms and asked to solve a puzzle. The scent of freshly baked cookies was channeled into one of the two rooms.
The experiment found that test participants who had to fight off the temptation of the cookies gave up far earlier on the puzzle than subjects in the other room.
The conclusion from these cookies-and-radishes experiments was the same: willpower is a finite resource.
You start each day with a limited supply. Each decision you make or temptation you resist depletes your willpower (a term Baumeister called “ego depletion”).
This is the reason why you feel indecisive and indolent after 8-10 hours of work. It’s not just that your body is exhausted – your willpower is spent as well.
Luckily, willpower, like other muscles, can be trained. It can also be channeled and managed to help you get the most from your day.
I’ll show you how to tap into this hidden strength later.
The takeaway: Willpower is finite. Conserve it so you can use it for decisions and actions that truly matter.
Making Decisions Exhausts Your Energy
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Source:: Business 2 Community