The willpower of a puppet

We have now talked about how to apply the lean workflow to a specific task or project. And in theory, if you know what you want to be productive at and why, you should be productive by just starting, and everything else will fall into place.

But that's not realistic. As human beings, our flow can get interrupted by so many different things. Either by internal factors, like boredom, curving food, stress, etc. Or external factors, like family, partner, pet, or smartphone.

These factors could make it very challenging to even start, which could be the hardest thing to do. Just to start.

Before initiating any work, even the one we care about, the friction is highest. Once you start moving and gaining momentum, things start moving faster and smoother. The next hardest thing after you start is to maintain speed and not have a full stop. 

So we can say that there are two pieces to the puzzle, first how to start and reduce friction, and second how to build a continuous workflow to become in-distractable.  

What NOT to do?

Before we start, let's take a moment to talk about the wrong way to solve this puzzle. 

When I was younger, I was kind of addicted to motivational speeches. Whenever I felt down, doubted myself, or wanted to get something done, I went to youtube to find a motivation video and get a dose of adrenaline and energy. I believed that will power was the silver bullet to all my problems. And that's, in fact, the issue with motivational speeches. They mostly focus on one thing and one thing only, willpower.

I relied on willpower to get things done, avoid distraction and stay focused. It doesn't really work. Maybe it does for isolated instances or for the first couple of days, but it's just a matter of time before you fall back to old habits.

Now, looking back, I can see that pattern clearly.

Energy levels

The puppeteer

"Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior."

- Atomic habits.

As much as I hate to admit it, but I was just a puppet, and my environment was the invisible puppeteer. And finally, I realized that counting only on willpower is just stupid.

Not only willpower is a limited resource, but most, if not all, of the situations where we find ourselves counting on willpower are indeed avoidable.

Motivation speeches are based on the false assumption that we are rational beings and can reason with ourselves to do the right things. However, if you learn the basic principles of marketing or sales, you will find the opposite. We are easily manipulated, not only by others but ironically by our own self.

The bright side

If our environment controls us and we can, to a certain degree, control that environment, then we should be able to take control back and be the puppeteer, not just the puppet.

Escaping our procrastination maze starts with changing and controlling our environment. By cleaning the scene, the path to meaningful productivity becomes more tangible.

As I mentioned, there are two pieces to solve, how to start and how to be in-distractable. Next post, we'll focus on the first piece