As a business owner, I try to keep up with the entrepreneur community online as much as possible. I keep tabs every now and then on the most influential bloggers. I browse Hacker News and scan some other relevant sites. There are some great lessons for life and business within these communities, but I have always sensed a common theme among most entrepreneurs. Almost all of them claim that they are working 18 – 20 hour days, they eat Ramen noodles, never leave the apartment, and focus on nothing but becoming a success. While I do not doubt the validity of any of their claims, I do question the logic.
Anyone who has read Tim Feriss’ “The 4 Hour Work Week,” sees the argument that there is a huge disconnect between the hard work and productivity. Culture rewards hard work and personal sacrifice, but does not reward personal productivity.
An entrepreneur or a student could easily turn 18 – 20 hours a day of work / studying into 8 hours. Yet, being more productive is not necessarily a matter of willpower. To become more productive in everything that you do, you need a well roundedness that cannot be maintained by focusing on one aspect of life while neglecting the others.
The Long Road Ahead
Unfortunately, the path to greater productivity through well roundedness is not as easy as they would like. My strict diet, fitness routine, sleep schedule, and enthusiasm for learning / reading new things all make me far more productive in the time that I am working. However, this didn’t happen overnight.
You cannot expect to be able to flip a switch in your brain and allow your body to get back into balance. The example entrepreneur above would not benefit from a couple days of a well-rounded diet and a brisk jog. At the end of the day, they would still be relatively unproductive and needing to work 18 – 20 hours in order to get their project done.
If you want to walk down the path of improving your productivity so you can spend more time doing the things that you want to do, it is not going to be easy. When you make the decision to change, things are going to rapidly go downhill. I’m not going to sugar coat it. If you try to get off a bad diet, it’s going to be hard to eat healthy foods. Your body wants the dopamine rush from sugary foods. But if you can maintain the willpower with compelling reasons to increase your productivity, the end of the tunnel will be very bright.
Addiction Will Fight Productivity
Whether you know it or not, many of the habits stymieing you from being more productive are actually addictions that are in disguise. The unhealthy food you eat, the television you watch, or even the pornography you view are all addictions that have a very real impact on the brain. This is exactly why it will get worse before you can start to get better and actually see the difference with your own productivity.
In any of the things you may be addicted to, a binge mechanism with an evolutionary purpose tells your brain to “get it while the getting is good.” This basic instinct told our ancestors to kill meat and save it (as fat in the body or as food), it tells animals to mate as much as possible during mating season etc. From a scientific perspective, the addiction causes surges of dopamine, which increases Delta FosB in the brain. Once the Delta FosB accumulates, you crave more, which creates a cycle of consumption.
This is not psychology, but instead a physical change of the brain. For most humans that live in a wealth of material, overcoming addiction is a very difficult task. This is exactly why the road to a more productive lifestyle is paved with pain. It is going to get worse before it gets better.
But at the end, it will be worth it. The entrepreneur will be able to take 18 – 20 hour days and do the same work in 8 hours. The students will do the same and so can you. That isn’t to say the ultimate goal is to become capitalist robots marching around as efficient and productive as possible. Far from it. Instead, the increase in productivity will give you far more time to focus on your ultimate goal, which is happiness and a sense of fulfillment.