I’m besotted with the “productivity racket”, as Merlin Mann occasionally calls it.
If we would only focus on developing better habits, we’d all be miles more effective and efficient. That's the message from the productivity glitterati. Think James Clear and the like.
Don't get me wrong, there's an undeniable logic in the argument. Building good habits get us doing the important things automatically. An essential aid to being more productive.
However, if I have a superpower, it’s my ability to take a good tip and turn it into a destructive vice.
Take journaling. I have widely read on the power of a journaling habit. I bought in. Each morning, I was filling a page of my Hobonichi Techo. Then, my Standard Memorandum. Next, I turn to my digital tools, and complete my morning pages on Stoic. Throughout the day, I might jot a note in a pocket notebook, or into Day One on my phone. I would close the day out back in Stoic.
It was all getting so complex, I needed an app to track it. Streaks. You say? Oh yes! Bring me some of that.
Now then - what else can I track? Readwise - who doesn’t love a bit of wisdom in the morning? Meditate. Meditating is good, right? RIGHT? I’ll track it. I’ll make a habit of it. Oh! And the rings on my Apple Watch! How could I forget them?
Believe it or not - the above is abridged. There’s more. A huge part of my day was spoken for by building and tracking my habits. If productivity is achieved by the establishing of habits and the measuring thereof, then I, dear reader, am the most productive person on the planet. Bow in my presence, please.
So, why wasn’t I getting anything done?
The measuring of streaks is a well-established motivator. You can read the findings of BJ Fogg, a behavioural scientist from Stamford, or the writing of Jerry Seinfeld - they both come to the same conclusion in very different ways. “Building a streak”, or “not breaking the chain”, are very effective motivators to maintain a habit.
Wait a second…BJ Fogg, Stamford? Isn’t that where persuasive technology originated? Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin - aren’t these things persuasive tech in blue wrappers? Whoah there!
I’m offended by social media platforms and their desire to capture my attention and data. Yet, here I was, allowing the same underlying psychology to drive my own obsessive behaviour.
It had to stop. So - I broke every single streak that I had going. Took my Apple Watch off. Didn’t complete my brain training. Didn’t meditate. Deleted the journalling apps from my phone. I’ll be honest - my anxiety was through the roof - for all of a couple of hours.
In days, my productivity sky-rocketed. I was less anxious. More relaxed. More focused. There! Abandon all your habits for productivity.
I shall write a book on it immediately. ;-)
There are tried and tested ways of building, maintaining, and measuring habits.
Just remember, not all habits are desirable.
Moderation in all things.
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