Scenario A: You wake up after a good night’s rest. You eat a healthy breakfast. When work starts, everything seems to fall in place. You are in the zone. All your A-tasks for the day get completed and you make progress towards your goals.
Scenario B: You wake up grumpy. The electricity goes out while you are trying to boil water for tea. When you get to your car, you discover you have a flat tyre and the spare tyre has no pressure in it. By the time you get to work, you are ready to take your anger out on anyone unfortunate enough to get in your way. You can’t seem to focus. You give up on getting any meaningful work done before lunch and just want the day to end so you can go back to sleep.
I’m sure you have a goal. You wouldn’t be reading a personal productivity blog if you didn’t (Thanks for reading my blog by the way). The greatest power of a goal is that it allows you to put down on paper (or cloud) something you would like to accomplish and chart out how you plan to get it done. You can track the skills you would need to acquire to achieve your goal, how long it would take, how much money you need to invest etc.
Nigerians are a very busy people. If you go to a Government Office and need something signed, the person holding the stamp is bound to tell you to wait a few hours because they are busy. Never mind, they don’t seem to be doing anything. We are in a hurry to beat traffic lights and complain when KAROTA stops us and demand that we pay a fine. We should be forgiven. We are busy people who just happen to be in a hurry and the light should have stayed green just a few seconds longer. We try to cut queues because we are busy. Should I go on?
A few weeks ago, a friend complained about her to-do list no longer being a source of motivation for her. Rather than serving as a personal productivity tool, it was only causing her stress. Concerned I reached out to her and told her I’d be willing to help. I guessed that most likely, the problem was with how she set up tasks on her to-do list. It turned out I was right (I enjoyed my Sherlock moment).
My friend has to manage many different processes. There are points in some of those processes where she has to wait for input from other people before she can continue. It was this waiting that was causing her anxiety. She was capturing “waiting” as a to-do list task. Big mistake.
Do you ever wonder why smokers find it difficult to quit? Everyone knows the dangers of smoking and quite a few smokers have tried quitting at some point only to relapse after a few days. Sheer willpower is often not enough to give up the habit once it has formed. To understand this, I need to quickly point out a few things about the habit loop (Special thanks to James Clear whose writings helped me understand this). A habit has three parts: a cue, a craving, a response and a reward. The cue can be anything that triggers you into taking action. For a smoker, the sight of a lighter is often enough to make them feel like reaching for a cigarette. The response is often to oblige so they can get a nicotine hit which makes them feel good. The longer they do this, the more automatic the loop becomes and the harder to break such that as soon as they see an ashtray, they reach for a cigarette without thinking about it.
There are broadly two ways to get any project done:
You could dedicate a lot of time and effort to get it done in a single burst.
You could do it in small bits that you can manage for short periods of time.
The first method might work for short duration tasks such as rearranging a book shelf, washing your clothes, or ironing your outfits for the upcoming week. It won’t be feasible for longer term projects such as writing a novel, reaching a sales target or saving enough to buy a house. It is not likely you would be able to sit down and produce 60,000 words of a first draft in a single day no matter how committed you are. You are also not likely to be able to reach all your potential customers in a single day. That’s why you come up with a longer term sales strategy.
Many Nigerians want to be rich. Wanting to be rich is not a bad thing. In a Country like Nigeria where infrastructure can be quite poor, having money is the only way to ensure you can cushion yourself against poor power supply, healthcare and expensive food. One could argue that wanting to escape the poverty trap is a very good motivator. A focus on being just rich, however, risks missing the point of personal development. Being rich is an event. What you need to focus on is a process.