On the other side of increasing productivity is the focus on reducing negative outcomes. Breaking bad habits, making sure not to miss something by preparing checklists, setting yourself reminders and deadlines; while great ideas, there is another option that I believe is more powerful than any of them alone and can be used alongside them with very little additional effort.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while when I’m trying to change something in my life, one of those things at the moment is trying to lose a bit of weight.
I don’t have the patience to keep a food diary, count calories, or manage my sugar intake against the daily recommended allowance. I don’t want to rely on willpower or luck, nor do I want to set up punishments or rewards for sticking to my goals (which are another problem anyway). I just keep things simple with inconvenience. If I want a sugary treat while at home, I have to go out and get one, and just one. If I want more than one, I have to go out and get another one. I don’t keep treats at home, because while multi-packs might save money, it’s not going to be a substantial amount and then not only do you have these additional temptations in your house, they are also within easy reach.
A trend I’ve seen recently in introducing inconvenience into productivity has been focus apps (such as this one). These apps limit the amount of time you can spend on particular websites, or switch off your internet or disable your device entirely for a set amount of time. I haven’t used them much myself, but I can certainly see the appeal and would happily recommend them to someone having trouble disengaging from the things these apps are designed to block you from.
I like the idea of inconvenience at work as well. While reading about Continuous Improvement, I came across the idea of making errors as difficult to make as possible. This can be something from making a hole a certain shape so that you can’t put the wrong thing through it, up to error messages in a program that stop you going further without completing the required preceding steps. When you think about things this way, even though it adds an inconvenience to the work, it also makes it easier to succeed. I don’t want to spend time explaining to someone how to avoid errors if I can put something in place that stops that happening in the first place, because one day you might not be there to warn them!
Another way you can make inconvenience work for you is saving money. If you set up a standing order on your bank account to remove a chunk of your money each month and put it into a savings account at another bank, you can’t always easily get that money back straight away. If you take it a step further and invest the money, you’ve just made it even more inconvenient to get the money back, protecting your savings from yourself even more.
Willpower and motivation are not limitless; when we’re not feeling at our best, it’s tough to continue making good decisions. Inconvenience is only limited by your creativity in applying it, and it always works no matter how you feel, so give it a shot if you want to change something and see how it goes!