There are a few things I can’t be trusted with. One of them is Dark Chocolate – I’ll eat the whole bar if it’s nearby.
That said, when I only buy one bar per week at the grocery store, I tend not to eat more than that, even if it’s all in one sitting.
The other is my work schedule – If I don’t lay it out ahead of time, or take minor breaks to lay it out, I’ll work on tasks in an incoherent fashion.
When I do layout my schedule, however, I tend to get through my tasks faster than I would even expect to.
The topic of habits is often confused with the matter of willpower.
And, like so many productivity tricks, understanding why they work is more important than enforcing any new rules or regiments.
What suits one person, most likely, will not suit you. So if you’re stuck following the prescriptions of the “5-second rule” or “GTD” without success, it’s probably one of two things:
A: Either you’re following it, but you don’t know why (other than feeling like “I’m bad,” and so it’s a shame-based, forced system).
B: You’re mistaking willpower as the critical factor, rather than the structures you set up for yourself.
In A, you’re missing the “know your strengths” aspect.
You’re not selecting a method that works for you, even if it’s different than what works for others.
In B: You’re missing the “Accept your weaknesses” aspect. You’re not recognizing that you can’t trust yourself in certain areas, kind of like admitting you have a problem. And you need a system to work for you, instead of the other way around.
Getting to know your strengths can be more complicated than it sounds, and this is one of the significant challenges we have as artists and creators. We’re so excited by so many things it can be hard to pinpoint which items are where we should spend our time.
This process is one of removal, admittance, and ultimately of acceptance. But it’s easier to accept your positive attributes, letting everything fall away than it is shooting holes in your self-image.
Accepting your weaknesses can feel like a loss of pride. Still, it can be quite enjoyable, because when you accept your weaknesses, you can finally DROP that giant stone you’ve been carrying around, acting like it wasn’t heavy (when you’ve been sweating the entire time).
When we have a goal or a desire for who we want to be, we believe that we should build our way forward through action.
But what gets overlooked are the weights we’re carrying, and the friction we’ve added to our journey through missing out on these two points.
Rather than increasing shame, increasing intensity, what if you instead lubricated the wheels and dropped some excess weight – moving more freely forward?
Rather than trusting yourself in the future to perform in a way you hope to, what if you set up a structure that helped you enforce this outcome without relying on willpower?
Productivity is more like a bow and arrow.
You point yourself in a direction, pull back, and create tension with strength.
And then you let go.
Further references, links, and questions for your self-study.
- Read: Deep Work An overlooked part of this book is the section on what "style" of Deep Work suits you, rather than it being one size fits all. This is a "know your strengths" book.
- Read: Atomic Habits An overlooked part of this book is how willpower is not the solution, rather the environment, and structures are. This is a "know your weaknesses" book.