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Why “Productivity Hacks” Don’t Work and The Power of Reprogramming Desire

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

Productivity Hacks Are Nothing Without a System to Support Them.

"It's better to be consistently good, than occasionally great." -Nick Bare

Saying this is not to negate the potential of making any positive change to your day. However the fast-fashion, headline-hedonist nature of our society is always searching for things like "productivity hacks"or other short term strategies. Symbolically putting a band-aid over an injury that needs physical therapy. The things people want, our desires are commonly for peace, low stress, low anxiety, a feeling of presence and correctness in the world, meaning and the finer qualities of life. The sad part is that these feelings are often by association with doing, not by docile experience.

The problem is that these feelings/modes of being aren't given (for most) they're earned.

Earned by association with the act of creating, participating or living for something.

There's A Common Theme..

Many major religions hold the idea that desire is the root of suffering. Religious or not, there is something to be observed about the consequences of habits associated with desire. Why do we often feel shame, or bad after we indulge in something. If not the all in quench of our desires, it's a slow refusal of the call. The call to make that video/painting/pottery/t-shirt/company/social change or impact on those around you. This leads into our choices, our choices to:

  • Eat slice of cake you said you wouldn't eat, but did

  • Snooze the alarm when you planned to get up and start your day

  • Step on a coworker, friend or stranger to advance your position

  • Get in that relationship you knew you weren't ready for

Most of Us Are Ruled by Our Desire

Like everyone, I deal with the same work against the self-destructive part of me who chooses willful ignorance. The progress is not in the outcome but the valiance of your attempt to be just a little better. For yourself.

Living by Design, Not Default

The real trick to feeling better daily is in building schedules and systems for your days/weeks. This doesn't have to be anything crazy believe me. If putting the K-Cup in the Keurig the night before helps you when you wake up then do that! What I'm talking about is finding a few things that you've done before when you felt better. Think to a time when you were feeling more organized, productive and focused. What were you doing? Did getting up on a consistent time help you feel less lethargic, or was it that diet or mindset change that had you in your groove. If you can't think of a time like that, take a look at your role models. Who in your life (yes I'm talking fictional characters, movie characters, athletes, artists anybody!) had a life you look up to? Apply this same thinking and start by trying one or two of these things out.

Keep the Score

It's a good idea to use some kind of calendar, daily planner, or app to track your progress and get organized. This will provide the "system" to add the things that work for you to. Ask yourself how you feel at the end of the week, what worked for me? What habits should I improve or change? The answers will help you start trimming your day into core activities. When you master the mundane tasks that get you ahead daily, you'll free up capacity to not be so overwhelmed. You forgot you left the tank on empty? No worries! You got up an hour earlier today before work, you've got time! The effect of time management on your productivity is felt on the back-end of the action. Need to do's are like Sour Patch Kids. At first they're sour, then they're sweet, then they're gone! So keep track of your days and you'll identify gaps to get other responsibilities or goal oriented activities done; this way you'll have more time for yourself.


My favorite tool for getting organized and intertwining my goals with my plans is the N.O.W Daily Planner from Next Moves N.O.W. This daily planner is undated, and contains activity templates to help me stay accountable to who I'm trying to become. There's no gimmicky "hacks" or strategies. It's like the scaffolding that helps me build the life I want by design. One task, one plan, one goal at a time.

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