The Science of Productivity

When researching the science of fear for Riding Fear Free: Help for Fearful Riders and Their Teachers, I learned many surprising facts about how fear works in the brain. As a recovering fearful rider myself, it helped a great deal to learn that fear was the brain’s way of keeping the body safe. One of the most crucial aspects of overcoming fears is learning how to tell if feelings of fear are based on actual circumstances or if you have created a “what if” situation. Is the horse actually about to spook or am I just wondering what would happen if she does spook? Learning to ask good questions about the circumstances that have caused the fear has helped me ride with confidence and have a lot more fun with my horse.

I liked learning how the brain was working, what actual, physical, chemical processes were guiding what was I feeling. So when I began to have trouble motivating myself to write, which is unusual for me, I wondered what was going on in my brain.

I learned some interesting facts from the video embedded below about productivity. Here are the bullet points that helped me:

  1. Willpower might be a limited resource. You can’t always grit your teeth and muscle through a task. You can’t always force yourself to try harder. (You can’t do that with fear either, btw.)
  2. Break down each task into small steps. Riding Fear Free encourages people to start where they feel no fear and take the smallest step possible so that they do not induce fear. By adding up these small steps, you can ride fear free. It’s the same with productivity. Have an overall goal–finish Moral Hazard–but then break it down into small chunks that will not overwhelm your brain–today work on chapter 30.
  3. Get started on a task, and you will be more motivated to finish it. The Zeigarnik Effect shows that starting a task actually makes your brain want to finish it. The brain doesn’t like to leave a task unfinished.
  4. Work more deliberately. Work hard for a certain period of time and then take a break.
  5. Give yourself a deadline and document your progress. Tracking your progress will be a reward in itself because you will be able to see and celebrate each small step, which is often forgotten in the bigger picture,  as it contributes to the larger goal.

Let me know if this video helps you as much as it has me.

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