From Zero To Hero — The Pitfalls Of Productivity

Photo by kris on Unsplash

So today I received an email from Medium that I’m a Top Writer in Productivity. And I got very excited and happy because I have been writing here for… a month. This is a huge success for me and it is so important because two years ago I was at zero. I was unhappy, overweight, depressed, and completely unproductive. I tried to get better but I just kept digging myself into a hole. Yes, I “had it all” in writing and was doing good in my job, but I hated it. I was unhappy with my life in its entirety. And when you reach that point you just want to pack your things and run away from the world. You don’t even know why anymore, but you are just tired of everything. And exactly two years ago, on Nov 19, I decided I need to change my life for the better. This was the first day of my new life.

The True Story

I didn’t have any goals. Nothing to look forward to. Every day was exactly the same — work, chores, scrolling, feeling bad about myself, bad sleep, eating junk food. I couldn’t remember the last time in my life when I felt good about myself. I was just going through the motions, I felt “zombie-like”.

I didn’t have any problems, I kept telling myself. I had a roof over my head, a family, a steady job. The sooner I could just stop complaining about my life, the better. But the more I kept telling myself this, the more hollow these words started sounding to me. My life was like a hamster wheel: work over here, make money over there, buy groceries, pay bills. Nothing exciting, nothing new. It was a chore, simply going through the motions of being alive.

I had a good job. No, I had a great job! It’s just that it wasn’t making me happy anymore after some time. Something was missing and I couldn’t put my finger on what it might be.

I thought I was a fairly smart gal so it didn’t take long for me to realize that the problem lies in my ability to self-sabotage.

At first, this idea sounded so stupid but at the same time, obvious. Like when you finally figure out how some magic trick works or why your team keeps losing even if your team members are the best at their position.

I mean, I was very good in my job and there were people that depended on me to do well. I had a reputation to protect. Besides, what else could I do? I couldn’t just quit my job! That would be stupid, right?

I was just doing things out of habit — get up, go to work, come home, sleep, get up, go to work… repeat. There was no passion or excitement in what I was doing and that was obvious from the way I did it.

I didn’t realize that this was actually a huge problem. A lot of people go after their entire lives repeating what they were taught as children, just because this is what everybody does and society expects you to do.

Here I need to make a disclaimer — things didn’t just start to get interesting and exciting out of nowhere. No, things got really bad before they started to get good.

I won’t go into details but long story short — I had reached rock bottom. It was my lowest point in life and it all felt extremely wrong. You know all of these motivational quotes flying around — “would you live your life like this if you knew you’d die in X months”, “if this was your last day, is this what you’d be doing”, etc. Well, I was misdiagnosed and received this question, eye to eye.

The diagnosis wasn’t supposed to be that bad and the prognosis was not as bad as they said it would be either. It just so happened that my doctor mixed up some tests and it created havoc.

It was my wake-up call. I had a choice — stay where I was and keep living the same life over and over again until I die or jump headfirst into everything I didn’t have for so long.

This way of thinking helped me change my perception about everything in my life, including work. Instead of just going through the motions every day, I started to approach everything like it was my last chance to do it.

The Twilight Comfort Zone

The comfort zone is the biggest trap of them all. Comfort is the place where you settle for everything and anything — especially when there’s no fire in your belly.

When I started to get comfortable, I stopped caring about doing things right and started doing them just for the sake of doing them. I also stopped caring about my appearance and it showed — I was overweight, had baggy clothes, tired eyes, stopped wearing makeup, basically doing everything possible to go unnoticed.

All of this is very easy to fix but I didn’t give a damn about it. And you know what — no one else did either. It was like I had fallen into some weird modern-day nihilism and everyone else around me fell in the same pit with me.

Yes, my close ones were there for me all the way but they too ended up like this after some time. We had become a sad, depressing bunch of people that lacked motivation and will to do anything about it.

This is what happens when you stop caring about everything around you — no one cares back. Life goes on but you’re not invited because life doesn’t revolve around you.

You can’t have a good life unless you have a good mindset about life itself. You need to start thinking about how your actions impact others and act accordingly because no one cares for your life and experiences like yourself.

That’s when I decided to get my shit together, make some changes, and actually live like I was supposed to.

The comfort zone is the place where you stop growing. You already have everything in life that you need to succeed but you become satisfied with what you have and start taking it for granted, instead of appreciating all of its value.

The comfort zone is also a very dangerous trap because once you’re stuck in there, it’s incredibly hard to get out without some serious help. You need to see yourself from the outside and then figure out where you went wrong.

Breaking free of that is like trying to break free of a landmine — once you’re stuck in there, it’s not easy at all to get out. Once I realized what was going on in my head and how it affected my behavior, I started to make some changes in my life.

The pitfalls of the modern world and social media

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not blaming technology for everything that’s wrong with us these days. I am a huge fan and I believe this is the future. But it definitely has played its part in our slow descent into apathy, lack of will, and self-destruction.

Everybody wants to be liked and admired. Social media feeds this desire with likes, comments, and approval.

This is very dangerous because not only is it superficial praise but if you use this as your main source of inspiration, you’ll find yourself lacking the motivation to do anything of your own accord. It’s all about the “I want”, not about the “I can”.

While social media does bring us together and show us things we can’t see in our day-to-day lives, it also creates a false sense of reality. The world looks perfect in photos but when you live in a city like San Francisco, for example, you know that the photos don’t reflect the real state of things — poverty, homelessness, and the like.

On social media, we are all living our perfect li(v)es. But in reality, a lot of us are going through the motions. We follow our routines and do stuff for the sake of doing it.

We have become slaves to social media — this is not a conspiracy theory, I’m just stating facts. In the older days, people had TV to show them perfect lives. But it was on TV. We knew it was unreachable, unrealistic, “like a movie”. But social media has given us the same tools to create a story about our lives — not the one that is, rather than the one we want to be told. And now all of your friends and neighbors are suddenly living the dream, while you’re stuck in your bed alone on Sunday night.

Social media can be a very insidious thing. It has the power to instill self-doubt and fear into us by giving us such easy access to other people’s perfect lives.

You can’t be who you are on social media because that person doesn’t exist. None of us are perfect but we want the world to believe that we are, so for this reason, we all try to portray our best selves online.

And while I am an absolute fan of social media and all the positive things it can do for you — please, use it in moderation and with caution.

We’re being conditioned to think that life isn’t complete unless it’s perfect. And in order to achieve this ideal, we need to shape our lives around the trends of the day.

But no one tells you that when you spend hours trying to look good for social media when you try so hard to be liked by everyone — you lose your personality and identity in the process.

The first step to being able to find yourself again is shutting your phone off and going out there — all by yourself, without a friend or a “guide” or anything. You need to really explore the world around you and learn how things work.

In my case, it took me almost two years from that moment I made up my mind that I wanted to change. That’s a long time but it’s not unusual at all — people spend years and even decades trying to fix their lives, to no avail.

The problem is that we take one step forward and two steps back. This self-sabotaging behavior stems from our lack of confidence and the need for approval from others.

I remember this happening to me — being in an amazing place, taking my phone to take a photo, that photo being, well, blah… And me getting demotivated and start doubting myself and asking, “What’s the point?”

Don’t be like that. You need to build your confidence and learn about different strategies and techniques out there. It might take you months or even years before you find something that works for you, but once you do — everything becomes easy.

Just don’t be like that. You don’t need to be perfect, you just need to be you. You don’t need to take amazing photos, and you don’t need to look like a supermodel.

I’m not saying that everyone should stop taking photos, but if your life revolves around social media (and it’s all you do), then you might want to look in the mirror and ask yourself for what reason you are doing this.

The most important thing you have to remember is this: you are your own hero. You should go out there and do the things that make you happy, not because someone else tells you or shows it to you on social media, but because those are the things that truly matter in your life.

In order to achieve this goal — for me at least — I also needed to quit my job. I was able to do this because of the amazing support of my family, but if you can’t — look for another way. There are plenty of options out there. If you don’t like your job, it doesn’t matter how much they pay you or how “secure” it is — that isn’t a life worth living.

I am not saying that everyone should quit their job and travel the world — what I am saying is that you need to be true to yourself and find your purpose, something deep down inside of you, some kind of a calling.

Maybe it’s traveling, perhaps it’s painting, or maybe it’s playing music. Don’t let anything — not even fear — stop you from finding that one thing you were always destined for.

If it’s some kind of passion, then find the time for that passion during the day. Cut out all the TV, turn off your phone and give yourself an hour or two to do something you really love. You’ll see how much easier everything gets.

The most important thing is to stop making excuses for yourself and trying to please everyone else because that’s how you lose yourself.

The Self-Help And Productivity Hell Hole

Yes, I’ve been there, too.

You might have heard about these self-help gurus, those people who’ve been able to transform their lives from being losers into winners. The catch is that they’re selling you the idea of how great it would be if you followed whatever recipe they give you, but in order for them to do that — pick your favorite guru here — they need to make a living.

People who write self-help books and speak at seminars are not more competent than you, they’re just more successful in selling themselves as competent.

There is a ton of information out there on the Internet, but most of it is useless or — even worse — harmful for your psyche. You can’t just go on Facebook and ask “What are some good self-help books?”

You need to find the stuff that works for you, for your lifestyle.

Once you find it — give yourself a chance to practice this every day until it becomes second nature. Sit down with a pen and paper, or open up Google Keep, or your blog — and make a shortlist with the things you want to do today.

This is your plan for today:

1. Work on self-improvement (or development)

2. Walk

3. One small thing that will bring you joy

Not more, not less — just three simple things that will help you learn how to break the procrastination loop, one day at a time.

We spend a lot of time reading self-help books and articles on how to live our lives better but none of that really matters if you don’t have the willpower to do something about your life. And this is where most people get stuck because they’re afraid of change, afraid of taking risks. They might end up learning something new but nothing will change.

A lot of people listen to motivational and inspirational content because it makes them feel good. But this only goes so far — you need to put those words into action and take some steps towards your goal.

You can read as many books as you want, watch hundreds of Ted Talks, and listen to every single motivational podcast out there, but it won’t get you anywhere if you can’t do something with all that information.

Don’t give up — even if you’re tempted to try the easy way out and skip your daily plan of action. Stick to your guns; be stubborn; don’t let this voice of doubt take over because that’s when you fail.

At the same time, don’t be too hard on yourself if something doesn’t work out per your plan.

There is no way around it — planning is just an estimate and most of the time it will go wrong, but that’s alright because there are still 24 hours in a day and you can always change things around.

What matters is sticking to the plan and not letting yourself off the hook too easily.

Don’t be somebody else; you don’t need to copy someone’s entire routine — just take a lesson from it and make it your own, adjusted to your specific situation and needs

Reading about someone’s amazing change of life is not enough to copy it exactly, because you don’t have the same life, hence you’ll need to make your own adjustments.

People are unique individuals and what works for them might not work for you. So just try something out — if it works for you, keep doing it; if it doesn’t, then stop. It’s really that simple.

And don’t forget — all of these amazing super-efficient people are popular because they’re one in a million. Not everybody can juggle 600 things at the same time or make 6 figures. And they don’t need to. It’s perfectly possible to live a fulfilling life and be content with what you already have.

The first step towards development is realizing that we don’t need to become like someone else in order to make our lives better. We can start slow and take things one day at a time; we don’t need to go overboard and change everything about ourselves overnight.

To stop procrastinating, just start with the obvious — that means getting up at 6 am instead of sleeping in until 11 am on weekends, or working out for half an hour per day. And once you’re able to do that consistently for 3–4 weeks, try adding another activity into your life — read more books, volunteer somewhere, plan out your goals for the next 10 years.

And of course, don’t forget to use all these great new ideas you get inspired with by reading blogs like this one. Use it as fuel to discover yourself and what makes you tick.

It might take a while to discover your purpose but the journey is fascinating and fulfilling — just be patient, don’t force yourself to change overnight, because that’s when you’ll go back to old habits.

So take small steps every day — that’s how everybody changes their lives for the better. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from, what matters is that you have the desire to change and the willpower to show up every day.

The most important thing is not how much time it will take — what matters is your mindset towards your goals and how persistent you are in your approach.

Don’t be discouraged if something doesn’t go as planned — it’s not a failure yet. Just keep trying and eventually, you will reach your destination.

New habits take time to form, but they’ve been done before so there is no reason why you can’t do them too. If something doesn’t work out the first time, try one last time, and if it fails again, try again later.

But don’t keep pushing your deadline further and further into the future — this just kills your motivation and you’ll never be able to get it done. So do yourself a favor and just plan things properly, so you’re actually making progress instead of staying stagnant.

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Marketing executive — Bookworm — Adrenaline junkie — Remote-first evangelist — Blockchain enthusiast

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Joana Leventieva

Joana Leventieva

Marketing executive — Bookworm — Adrenaline junkie — Remote-first evangelist — Blockchain enthusiast

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