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Productivity cheat days

3 min read

You shouldn’t be productive all the time.

You should be able to watch Netflix, and waste time scrolling on Twitter without guilt every now and then. After all, human beings are hardwired as lazy. Our ancient ancestors had to conserve energy to search for food, hunt prey and fight off rivals. Instead of being productive 24/7, listen to your inner monkey. Schedule time off productivity, aka productivity days. A productivity cheat day is a day where you can be unproductive, like how dieters schedule cheat days.

Why should you schedule productivity cheat days?

You shouldn’t work all the time

It’s impossible to work all the time.

You must take breaks from work, not work 24/7. Working longer hours is counterproductive, it’s possible to get the same work done in less time.

When you work long hours, you could be spending your time and attention better. Working longer means you have less time to recharge. This leads to less energy and attention when you work and leads to worse work. According to Cal Newport, work accomplished is a product of time spent and intensity. If you increase the intensity of work done, you can reduce the amount of time taken to complete the work. You get to spend more time on your hobbies, friends and family.

It’s also more efficient to spend less time working on something. Reducing the time spent on work also makes you less likely to procrastinate on it. When I CBA to study. I’ll reduce how long I’ll study in my head until I can’t say no. For example: Can I study for an hour? Nope, don’t feel like it. Thirty minutes? Better, but still plenty. 20 minutes? Why not? It’s quite easy.

It’s about the quality of work, not quantity.

Scheduling productivity cheat days refreshes your willpower.

Willpower is a muscle. It tires the more you use it.

It’s harder for us to do work after a long day. Our willpower muscles are completely fried from working hard during the day. If you work all the time and not take time off, you’ll burn out.

The more you use your willpower, the less willpower you have. This is a phenomenon called ego depletion. The psychologist Roy Beumeister made a study that changed our perceptions on willpower. In the study, two sets of subjects received 2 plates of food, containing cookings and radish. Each subject was only allowed to eat either the cookie or the radish. The group allowed to eat only radishes had to use willpower to resist eating the cookies. The group who had to eat the cookies didn’t have to use willpower to ignore the radish. The researchers then gave both groups an impossible puzzle to solve.

Turns out that the group who ate the radish gave up on the puzzle sooner. Whether you like it or not, there will be times where you will be unproductive. Scheduling unproductive times can be helpful to avoid yourself from beating yourself up.

If we don’t want to burn out our willpower, we should schedule our breaks.

You can make productivity a habit by scheduling cheat days.

If you want to build a habit of being productive, you need to make it rewarding. Enter cheat days.

When you look forward to the end of the week, it encourages productivity throughout the week.

“Behaviors followed by satisfying consequences tend to be repeated and those that produce unpleasant consequences are less likely to be repeated”.

Edward Thorndike

By taking one day off, you build up positive feelings about productivity. If you do this often, you’ll begin to link pleasure to being productive.

“Everything you and I do, we do either out of our need to avoid pain or our desire to gain pleasure”

Tony Robbins

It’s easier to do work when it’s fun and rewarding. It’s harder to do work when it feels endless.

Our brain craves instant gratification, but success requires delayed gratification.

By scheduling a day off, you get to do things deemed unproductive, and yet still be productive. A productivity cheat day is batching your instant gratification needs.

There’s only 1 rule when it comes to cheat days: You can’t do anything you deem as work. On my cheat days, I usually wake up later and stay in bed longer. I don’t do any studying on my cheat days, but I do a workout or play sports since I find it fun. I’ll sometimes binge a series on Netflix, or go on a rabbit hole on YouTube.

Throughout the week, I’ll take note of unproductive things I want to do, and do it during my cheat days instead. This way, I get to do what I like and still get things done.

You get to shape your own cheat days. By scheduling productivity cheat days, you can have your cake and eat it too.



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