Why Most Productivity Advice Does Not Stick?

Asmita Karanje

They all tell you ‘What’ and ‘How,’ they fail to tell you ‘Why’


No one can tell you “why” other than yourself. But knowing “why” is the most important aspect of any productivity game. It can help you sustain your habits over the long-term.

I recently took a productivity masterclass on SkillShare that reinforces the basics of productivity — organize better, declutter, stop multi-tasking, calendarize activities, use a to-do list, and so on and so forth.

This is all expert advice. But it doesn’t stick.

We read them repeatedly, but none of them stick. We eventually revert to our old habits pretty soon.

You’d ask, “Why?”

Most advice is based on a ‘One-Size Fits All’ mindset

Most times, the change is triggered by a reward that lures us into developing the habit. But when we don’t see the reward, we slip and revert to our existing habits.

For example, most productivity gurus might recommend waking up early. But there’s research that suggests that each person’s prime operating time is different.

I am not a morning person. I realized that if I woke up early, I would either crash mid-day or be less motivated to accomplish the task. But that’s not the case when I wake up without an alarm — I am refreshed, energized, and don’t feel the need for a nap.

What works wonders for some may not work for others. Everyone has a different bodily rhythm, motivations, and life goals.

The focus is on habits, not on goals

In my previous example, let’s assume I am an early morning person, and I wake up early each day.

If I didn’t have any intrinsic goals, I’d wake up early without really being productive — just scroll through social media feeds.

Goals are created because there is an innate desire to achieve something — fame, money, a sense of satisfaction, or peace. These rewards don’t come instantly.

In this instant gratification world, when we don’t see an instant reward, our mind loses interest in pursuing that habit.

The goal is still there, but the habit slowly recedes.

When you have a goal, you are intrinsically motivated to work towards an outcome. It won’t matter whether you make a to-do list or calendarize your activities — you’ll still achieve the same result.

I strongly believe in focused work rather than a well-planned day.
There are days when I have crossed out most tasks on my list. But I have been the least productive in my writing.

Tasks break the flow of the mind.

You can become an efficient taskmaster, but you’re still miles away from accomplishing your dreams. You become a servant to time.

Instead, do this:

  • Focus on goals — learn the art of achieving the right outcomes.
  • Visualize success — imagine where you want to be
  • Enjoy the process — the journey is more fulfilling than the destination itself.

Not doing anything is art too

While most productivity advice is about doing things, seldom do they tell us not to. That’s right — we are all hard-wired into continually doing something.

A study in the UK, shows one of four people spend more than 10 hours in front of the screen. We fixate our minds on knowing more, doing more.

We all want to achieve more from our day. Unfortunately, the more we think, the less productive we become.

We need peace of mind or, rather, peace from the mind. We can’t stop thinking, but at least we can be aware of what we’re thinking.


What are your reasons for being productive? Have you figured this out yet? If yes, what is stopping you from being productive? What can you do to change that?

These are just a few questions to help you adopt the productivity advice that suits you. Don’t do something because someone said so. Do it because it suits your goals. When you find an amazing trick or advice, try it for a few days, customize it to suit you, and stick to it until it becomes sustainable. Don’t sell yourself short.

“Productivity is less about what you do with your time. And more about how you run your mind,” — Robin Sharma.

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Thinker, self-experimenter, and a newbie writer. I write about personal growth, socio-political issues, and career advice.

Dallas, TX

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