You know those days!
You sit at your desk, hoping to put in a good shift at work, but for some reason your brain seems to be in shutdown mode, and try as you might you cannot seem to crank it on. You agonize over your plight, you try all kinds of fixes (viz., caffeine, tobacco, food), but nothing seems to work. Your brain simply refuses to switch on.
You finally do complete the task – after hours of agonizing – and by the time that you are done it is way after regular work hours.
But wait; aren’t we living in a technologically advanced age, with gadgets and apps that promised to make us more productive and efficient?
Except, they don’t.
What’s the Matter?
No, it is not because we are not using these technologies as well as we should that we are unproductive and inefficient. Our problem is something altogether different.
And that something has got to do with that grey blob of mass that we house in our skull called our brain.
Let’s take a look at why our brain often fails us when we need it the most at work and what we can do to get our brains to cooperate.
Blunted & Bored
Just like repeated work and the passage of time dulls an otherwise sharp instrument, causing you to expend a greater amount of energy and effort to cut through something, so does our brain dull with the passage of time and the mental and physical energy that we expend at work.
And considering that we are all working longer hours at work, carrying work home with us and spending mind numbing commutes to and from work, it is little wonder then that we often turn up at work, mentally and physically dull. Our brain is like a blunt instrument now, too dull to be effective.
And, add to this the fact that we, owing mostly to our television watching and internet browsing habits, have our brains looking for fast moving and visually appealing images to feel engaged, the black and white of work then feels boring and unengaging. The fallout of this is that we often spend time procrastinating or filling up our time with trivial pursuits, rather than getting on with work.
Our brains are blunted and easily bored. But does that mean that we are doomed to a lifetime of long hours at work, the kind that we had spoken about at the start of this lesson?
Hardly. We humans are capable of churning out great work and even a great amount of work. But that requires you to understand another concept called the Arc of Life.
What is the Arc of Life?
The Arc of Life is a truth that governs your ability to be productive, or otherwise.
You need to see your work life as a pendulum that swings between two extremes of a continuum. On one end of the continuum is peak productivity. This is where your work output is maximum, where you can get work – even the highly complex kind – done without too much ado. However, for you to be able reach this stage, your pendulum needs to have the requisite amount of momentum, which will take it there. And gaining this momentum requires you to ensure that the pendulum swings all the way back to the other end of the continuum.
If it fails to go all the way back then the pendulum fails to swing forward till the other, desirable, extremity: peak productivity. You are now stuck at sub-optimal productivity levels.
Worse still, if you fail to swing back to a minimum desired level, your pendulum oscillates within a narrow arc. You are now stuck in what we call the zombie zone, the zone where you find that your brain just cannot get work done; the state that we had discussed at the start of this lesson.
The key then is to ensure that you swing all the way back to the left extreme. This extremity is what we call ‘optimal recreation’. Re-creation, as the word suggests, is about creating something once again (re).
But, creating what?
Our brain, just like a cutting instrument, needs to be sharpened after a while. Recreation is simply the sharpening of our brain and is what enables the pendulum to swing to the level of peak productivity.
Now, not all recreation is created equal. To be sure, all of us have some form of recreation in our life. However, if you want to be at your absolute best at work, i.e. if you want to achieve the state of peak productivity, then you need to ensure optimal recreation.
How exactly we can ensure optimal recreation is what we will cover in the next lesson.
But, for now, let us recap what we have learned in this lesson.
1. Very often we find ourselves being unproductive
2. We need to see our work life as a pendulum with peak productivity at one end and optimal recreation at the other
3. If we are to achieve the state of peak productivity in our life, the pendulum needs to swing all the way back towards optimal recreation
4. Failure to ensure this leaves us trapped in a sub-optimal productivity zone and often within the Zombie Zone
So, recognise the promise of limitless work output for what it is: a myth. And, barring some quantum leap in human evolution, which will cause our brains to substantially change its form and functioning, the promise of limitless work output, will remain just that: a myth.