We know that multi-tasking makes us unproductive when we choose to be productive. But why do we sometimes choose not to be productive in the first place?
Intentions are positive and motivation is decent, but when it comes to daily living, we may find ourselves watching Youtube videos, lurking on Facebook, or tweeting our lives away. After pondering over and analyzing my own activities of time-wasting and procrastination, I have discovered the reason that I and so many others do it instead of engaging in productive tasks.
Productivity’s benefits are not fully or even mostly realized in the same day tasks are accomplished. There is often some benefit (such as the sense of satisfaction), but it typically fails to meet the satisfaction gained from “shooting the breeze” on the web or elsewhere. We will always act in our own best interest, and this is a case where we fool ourselves.
The Thinker vs. The Barbarian
If we’re not actively engaged in deep thinking, we will process and decide on daily events in the following barbaric, over-simplified manner.
- Results are often delayed
- They are more work than play
- Results are immediate
- They are more play than work
This over-simplified comparison the brain runs through in a non-active mind is the one reason you are unproductive. Your brain actually believes that watching funny youtube videos for an hour is better for you than brainstorming ideas for writing a book or starting a company. It immediately sees the value in enjoying youtube, facebook, or twitter; but unless your mind is active, it will fail to quantify the value of things like studying for an exam or cleaning one section of a messy house.
It takes mental effort to consider individual parts’ value if their value is attached to a larger whole. For example, in writing this blog post, the real value is that it will be an integral part of my library of content – helping people for years to come. On its own in the present, the value is fairly limited as my blog is young and my audience is relatively small.
Stop Looking At The Big Picture
It seems like a good idea to view the big picture because we can align all of our actions with it, right? No! The big picture is something you glance at in order to make sure you’re doing things correctly. Think of a jigsaw puzzle.
In a jigsaw puzzle, the big picture on the box serves as the point of reference. You cannot stare at the box for a long time and then put the pieces together from memory. You cannot stare at the box while moving the pieces into place blindly. No, most of the time you’re looking at the small pieces and seeing how they fit together, occasionally glancing at the box to see where they fit within the big picture.
Life is no different than this. The big picture is something to be glanced out, but we need to focus on the 1,000 parts that make it up. These tiny pieces are so small and seemingly worthless on their own, but when combined over time they form a beautiful (or not) “big picture” of your life.
Black belts got to that level from thousands of small decisions that formed a chain of cohesive intention to get a black belt. The big picture shows a black belt and the details show daily decisions to work hard and maintain focus towards accomplishing the goal.
Reward Your Productivity
After I finish this article, I’m going to play NBA Showtime on Nintendo 64 as a short break and reward for my productivity. After that, I intend to exercise to continue my productive day (which also includes another guest post submission to Problogger). Being an active thinker, I can see that my actions today are building a very meaningful and exciting tomorrow. I still engage in social media and entertainment, but it is no longer at the expense of important productive tasks.
Don’t make barbaric decisions based on over-simplified information. Think actively and choose the daily activities that will connect together and lead to the picture you want to see on the jigsaw puzzle box of life! If you focus on the box itself, you won’t see how each piece connects and the picture will stay a dream rather than moving forward to becoming a reality.
Change your thinking. Change your life.