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3 Psychology-Backed Ways to Become a More Productive Person

Executive Summary

Most of us look back fondly on the carefree days of our youth. As we grew older, the responsibilities kept mounting, and now, we often feel as if others hold the reins on our time and life.

  • Time management is a psychology that centers on the Law of Control, a principle that explains how people feel better if they feel in control of their lives.
  • Your beliefs about yourself determine whether or not you will succeed at managing your time.
  • To become a more productive person, management consultant, Brian Tracy, says you must dismantle the circuit board in your mind and “fake it until you make it.”

The psychology of time management is based on a simple principle called the Law of Control. This law says that you feel good about yourself to the degree to which you feel you are in control of your own life. This law also says that you feel negative about yourself to the degree to which you feel that you are not in control of your own life or work. Psychologists refer to the difference between an internal locus of control, where you feel that you are the master of your own destiny, and an external locus of control, where you feel that you are controlled by circumstances outside yourself.

When you have an external locus of control, you feel that you are controlled by your boss and your bills, and by the pressure of your work and responsibilities. You feel that you have too much to do in too little time, and that you are not really in charge of your time and your life. Most of what you are doing, hour after hour, is reacting and responding to external events. There is a big difference between action that is self-determined and goal-directed and reaction, which is an immediate response to external pressure. It’s the difference between feeling positive and in control of your life and feeling negative, stressed, and pressured. To perform at your best, you must have a strong feeling of control in the important areas of your business and personal life.

Your Thoughts and Feelings 

In psychological terms, each person has a self-concept, an internal master program that regulates his behavior in every important area of life. People with a high self-concept regarding time management see themselves and think about themselves as being well organized and productive. They are very much in charge of their lives and their work. Your self-concept is made up of all of your ideas, pictures, images, and especially your beliefs about yourself, especially regarding the way you manage your time. Some people believe themselves to be extremely well organized and efficient. Others feel continuously overwhelmed by demands of other people and circumstances.

Make a Decision

How do you develop new, positive beliefs about yourself and your level of personal productivity? Fortunately, it is not difficult. You simply use the four Ds: desire, decisiveness, determination, and discipline. Most important, make a decision to develop a specific time management habit, like being early for every meeting for the foreseeable future. Every change in your life comes about when you make a clear, unequivocal decision to do something differently. Making the decision to become an excellent time manager is the first major step. Once you have made the decision to become a highly productive person, there are a series of personal programming techniques that you can practice.

  1. Program Your Mind: …Change your inner dialogue. Ninety-five percent of your emotions, and your eventual actions, are determined by the way that you talk to yourself most of the time. Repeat to yourself, “I am well organized and highly productive.”Whenever you feel overwhelmed with too much work, take a time-out and say to yourself, “I am well organized and highly productive.” Affirm over and over to yourself that “I am an excellent time manager.” If people ask you about your time usage, tell them “I am an excellent time manager.” Whenever you say that “I am well organized,” your subconscious accepts these words as a command and begins to motivate and drive you toward actually becoming well organized in your behaviors.
  2. Visualize Yourself as You Want to Be: The second way to transform your behaviors is to visualize yourself as an excellent time manager. See yourself as organized, efficient, and in control of your life. Remember, the person you “see” on the inside is the person you will “be” on the outside. If you are already a well-organized and highly productive person, how would you behave differently? What would be different from the way you behave today? Create a picture of yourself as calm, confident, highly efficient, more relaxed, and able to complete large amounts of work in a short period of time. Imagine what a highly productive person would look like. Would the person’s desk be clear and tidy? Would the person appear unhurried and unstressed? Create a clear mental picture of yourself as a person who is in control of his time and life.
  3. Act “As If”: The third way to program yourself is to act “as if” you were already a good time manager. Think of yourself as being well organized in everything you do. If you were already excellent in time management, how would you behave? What would you be doing differently? With regard to your time and personal productivity, what would be different from the way you do things now? Interestingly enough, even if you do not think that you are a good time manager today, but nonetheless you pretend that you already are, these actions will generate a feeling of personal efficiency. You can actually change your actions, habits, and behavior when you “fake it until you make it.”

Beliefs Become Realities

What are your beliefs about yourself and your ability to manage your own time? You can take all of the courses on time management, read all the books, and practice the various systems, but if you perceive yourself as being a poor time manager, nothing will help. If you have developed the habit of being late for meetings and appointments, or you believe that you are a disorganized person, those habits become your automatic behavior. If you do not change your beliefs about your personal levels of effectiveness and efficiency, your ability to manage your time will not change, either.

Adapted with permission from Time Management by Brian Tracy, copyright Brian Tracy.

Bring It Home

Sitting outside a Panera Bread adjacent to an airport, planes set off in calculable succession while my mind wandered without restraint. I had just left a conference room in a building about a mile away where I had interviewed for an enterprise company. Coming from a string of small marketing agencies, the elevators and siloed wings of offices made me queasy. Now that the interview was over, however, I realized how badly I wanted the job. But, doubt crept in.

“You will get the job,” I repeated to myself internally and externally under my breath. There were people around, but I didn’t care. The situation was out of my control. My response to it was not. Three weeks later, I received a phone call from HR. I got the job, and I attribute it to shifting my mindset and moving forward when I could have put my life on hold. Have you ever wasted time worrying about events with which you had no decided influence? How do you escape the downward spiral of negative thoughts to continue operating as a productive person? Comment below with your unique story about turning beliefs into realities. - HarperCollins Leadership Essentials

Brian Tracy author of the book Time Management

Brian Tracy

Brian Tracy is Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined.

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