Eliminate as many choices as possible. We all have a finite store of mental energy for exercising self-control.
The more choices we make during the day, the harder each one is on our brain–and the more we start to look for shortcuts. (Call it the “Oh, screw it,” syndrome.) Then we get impulsive. Then we get reckless. Then we make decisions we know we shouldn’t make, but it’s as if we can’t help ourselves.
In fact, we can’t help ourselves: We’ve run out of the mental energy we need to make smart choices.
That’s why the fewer choices we have to make, the smarter choices we can make when we do need to make a decision.
Say you want to drink more water and less soda. Easy. Keep three water bottles on your desk at all times. Then you won’t need to go to the refrigerator and need to make a choice.
Or say you struggle to keep from constantly checking your email. Easy. Turn off all your alerts. Or shut down your email and open it only once an hour. Or take your mail program off your desktop and keep it on a laptop across the room. Make it hard to check–then you’re more likely not to.
Nobody ever said that productivity advice had to be deep or clever. Unfortunately someone may have said it has to go on at length:
Schedule rest time first. I know that it sounds counterintuitive but if you want to increase your energy, you need to have adequate recovery from the stresses and strains of daily life. This requires rest. Identify the amount of rest that you require and block that time out of your calendar. Nothing short of an emergency should interfere with this time.
When you are well rested, you are more energetic and ready to take on the world. You can give your all to every task because you know that you will have sufficient opportunity to recover from your efforts. Prioritise your rest time.
Oh, it’s not that bad. You’re just too close to it, you can’t see the upside. Give it a day and you’ll see you were right all along. If you’ve heard things like that or if you’ve said things like that, it’s not helping. So says Fast Company writer Stephanie Vozza and she must be right because she’s saying what I think.
True, she’s saying it better than I am, but.
In math, multiplying a negative by a positive gives you a negative answer. Ever notice the same thing happens in life? When a coworker complains and you try to inject something positive, the outcome is usually more negativity.
That’s because listening to negative conversations makes us uncomfortable, and saying something positive in response only serves as a way to make the listener feel better, not the person who is complaining. This reaction doesn’t help the person who is venting because the listener’s comments are perceived as being argumentative.
“You are basically disagreeing with the other person’s feelings,” says Bregman. “You’re saying that they’re wrong; things really aren’t that terrible. This just makes them entrench more deeply in their perspective.”
Drink tea. Eat chocolate and – sorry? No? There are things you can do that will help as well as be deeply satisfying and rewarding?
They’re what are called foundational habits. Each one is doable, demonstrably beneficial and best of all, allows you to build other positive habits around them. If you can check these three boxes off each and every day, you’ll not only be more successful, but you’ll be healthy, happy and wise too. It’s not everything you ought to do, but it’s a good place to start.
Ever wonder what it takes to run Facebook? Mark Zuckerberg credits his success entirely to spending most of his days reading various articles on the internet about the habits of successful people. According to sources in the Facebook office, Zuckerberg can spend up to 70 percent or 80 percent of his workday reading about how successful people live their lives, and even takes several hours at home after work to read more articles about productivity.
I’m intrigued, cautiously intrigued. (I type that and my heads it in a Bond, James Bond voice. Let’s find out whether highly successful people do this.)
Setting goals, both short and long-term, is one of the simplest ways that highly successful people maintain focus and direction in whatever they do. Take the example of Oprah Winfrey, whose success has been defined by setting multiple goals.
In addition to setting their sights high, highly successful people incorporate deadlines and due dates into the structure of their goals. This ensures their short term goals are met regularly, and long term goals are worked towards steadily and methodically.
Is it bollocks. How’s that deadline coming along? Going to make your next mortgage payment, are we? Oh, let’s turn that frown into a smile!
But I wouldn’t point you at some happiness articles just to snipe about them. Not just to snipe. In among the less bearable parts of The Positivity Blogs feature on 7 Small Habits That Will Steal Your Happiness there is a near-gem:
It is usually pretty easy to become a happier person.
It is also quite easy to rob yourself of your own happiness. To make yourself more miserable and add a big bowl of suffering to your day. It is common thing, people do it every day all over the world.
So today I’d like to combine these two things. I’d like to share 7 happiness stealing habits that I have had quite a bit of trouble with in my own daily life (and I know from all the emails I get that many of you do too).
But I’d also like to add what you can do instead if you find yourself being stuck in one of these destructive habits.
You have lunch most days, right? You go to bed pretty much every night? Write for half an hour before you eat lunch. Write for ten minutes before you go to bed.
That’s it. That’s all. That is actually my productivity tip of the week – I do one of those in each of the weekly The Blank Screen email newsletters – and it’s so new to me that it isn’t in The Blank Screen book. I shouldn’t tell you that. But it’s you, I can’t lie to you.
And I can’t try to make this one sound more than it is. Just find a thing you have to do or a thing you like doing and then do some writing before it. Before it every time. Make the two things go together like a double bill. It means you won’t forget to do it, you will make it a habit.
Just be careful of one thing. Whatever you tie this writing to, make sure you do the writing before it. Not after. Telling yourself you’ll write for an hour after you come back from the gym won’t work. Telling yourself you’ll write for ten minutes before you go to the gym, that works.