Productivity: This is how you can focus on the things that really matter.

In an increasingly distracting world, productivity is increasingly sought after. The invaluable practice has morphed into a lucrative industry, comprised of individuals pledging to help people from all walks of life solve the elusive enigma of productivity. By utilizing these strategies, individuals can avoid investing time and money into unneeded “hacks” and focus on the things that really matter.

Mark Twain once said, “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” It would seem that the renowned nineteenth-century author was on to something. The “Zeigarnik effect” substantiates Twain’s quote. According to this commonly-accepted idea, humans generally have difficulty starting a task, but once they start, they will probably finish it. Otherwise, we will feel guilty and have unrelenting, intrusive thoughts about our laziness.

“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition”

Constructing a consistent, reliable routine has been shown to increase productivity. Every successful individual from Thomas Edison to Stephen King has had a reliable day-to-day routine. Drawing on the theory of “ego depletion” – which states that willpower is an exhaustible resource – beginning your day with the most challenging tasks improves productivity. Additionally, busying ourselves at night, particularly by using our phones (as a joint study concluded), causes a residual depletion that affects our productivity the next day. Disconnecting from devices before you hit the sack can reduce these damaging effects. Former president Obama and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates both jumpstart their day with a bout of exercise before.

The productive person’s kryptonite: multitasking

We all fall prey to the seemingly efficient practice of multitasking. However, an emerging body of scientific research is proving that multitasking can destroy the brain. Whenever we complete a small task, we receive a hit of dopamine. This dopamine reception is heightened while multitasking, as it leads to the pursuance of minor tasks and a consequent avoidance of major tasks. By perpetuating this cycle, we leave significant work till the last minute, when our willpower muscle is effectively drained. Furthermore, it has been established that individuals who multitask have a shorter attention span and are more likely to forget things; two traits that are the antithesis of productivity.

Contemporary’s society fixation on nonstop stimulation has turned productivity into a highly-desired characteristic. Channeling your inner Mark Twain through powering past initiation anxiety, creating a normalized routine, tackling the most intimidating tasks first, and avoiding multitasking can aid in shifting your output level from that of an apathetic teen to a supremely efficient workhorse.

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