If you're reading this article, you, like me, have in the past tried your hand at at least one productivity system. David Allen's Getting Things Done, for example. And for a few days, you, like me, probably managed to use that system successfully.
But then something happened.
On day two, or three, or five, or seven, you failed to perform your daily upkeep. The next day, you dropped the ball again. Next, your overall interest in the system declined dramatically and soon, you stopped using the system altogether.
In the face of this failure, you probably grew self-critical. Chastising yourself for not giving it your all. For not taking the system seriously enough.
But what if you were never the problem?
In recent decades, behavioral scientists have uncovered the true cause of our failure. A powerful, psychological force so predictable, so contrary to our self-interest, it's unconscionable that no productivity system ever addresses it.
In this article, I want to share with you a new productivity system that was specially designed to protect you against this psychological force. A productivity system that you'll be able to, once and for all, stick with.
But before we get there, you must understand what the psychological force that I keep referring to is. And in order to explain, I need to tell you a story.
The Real Reason You've Never Been Able to Stick With Productivity Systems
Imagine the driver of a car on his way home from work, cruising down a long and narrow road.
Just a couple days prior, the Driver started using a new productivity system and coming up on his right is the library where he's promised himself he’ll perform day three of his system upkeep.
But just as he’s about to make his right turn, he happens to see in the distance, that the local movie theater is screening the new Star Wars. The Driver, committed to his goal, endeavors to ignore the distraction. He looks away. He bites his hands. But it’s no use; he’s struck by a powerfully irresistible feeling that practically bars his hands from turning the steering wheel right.
The next day the Driver tries again. But this time, as he nears the right turn, out of nowhere, a thought hits him like a bolt of lightning: I don't have time for my productivity system today, I have that urgent client report I need to write! So the Driver speeds past the library, races home, and plunges into his client work instead, only to wake up the next morning wondering, “what the hell was I thinking?”
For the next few days, the Driver continues to try to make that right turn--but fails every single time. That’s where we come in to the story. You and I, dear reader, are his advisors. And our first task is to answer the question: what is the root cause of the Driver’s irrational behavior?
If we look again closely at the picture of the Driver sitting inside his car, we’ll quickly learn his persistent failures are no accident. They’re sabotage.
Sitting beside the Driver, unbeknownst to him, is a passenger. An invisible bloke who, every time the Driver tries to make his right turn to maintain his productivity system, moves heaven and earth to make sure he doesn’t. To the Driver, his inability to make the right turn is a bug. To the Passenger, it’s a feature.
If we want to help the Driver stick with his productivity system, we first have to answer two obvious questions: Who is the Passenger and what in God’s name does he want?
Who Is the Passenger and What Does He Want?
By now you probably realize that the Driver and Passenger are a metaphor for the profoundly conflicted nature of the human mind.
The Driver represents the rational part of our brain. The more recently evolved prefrontal cortex. The system in our brain where we reason, make decisions, and plan for the future.
The Passenger, on the other hand, represents the emotional part of our brain, the more primitive limbic system. The limbic system is tasked with many responsibilities, but one of its most important is responding rapidly to potential threats in our environment.
It's clear from our story that the Passenger sees the Driver’s attempts to execute his productivity system as one of these threats. But why?
There's likely an evolutionary explanation. In an incredibly dangerous primitive world, early man couldn’t afford to spend his precious time and energy on activities that delivered delayed rewards, such as saving food for a rainy day or practicing proper running technique. By the time the payoff for these activities arrived, he might have already been devoured by a giant hyena. And so evolved Passengers to help steer us towards immediately gratifying activities like food or sex.
However, today, we are living in a radically different environment. But because evolution hasn’t quite yet caught up, we are still endowed with Passengers that strongly favor immediate gratification, and conversely, disfavor delayed gratification.
Which explains why the Passenger sabotages our Driver every time he tries to maintain his productivity system, an activity that clearly requires delayed gratification.
But how exactly does the Passenger compel the Driver to procrastinate?
As you’re about to learn, the Passenger uses a remote control to do his dirty work. Because it turns out the Passenger is no ordinary passenger. He’s a professional hacker.
How the Passenger Sabotages the Driver's Attempts to Stick With a Productivity System
As the Driver approaches the right turn, the sights and sounds associated with the library start to become salient. That’s when the Passenger sits up in his seat.
Feeling threatened, he presses the fear response button on his remote control that allows him to deploy one of two kinds of hacks.
Sometimes, the Passenger hacks the Driver's body (aka the Redfli). In this hack, the Passenger causes the Driver to experience a powerfully aversive feeling of tiredness, or exhaustion, or anxiety in his body that makes him want to do anything but use his productivity system. That's why it's called Redfli, short for "really don’t feel like it."
Other times, the Passenger's hacks the Driver's mind (aka the 180). In this hack, the Passenger causes the Driver to have a sudden change of heart, often without him even realizing it. He brainwashes the Driver into believing that his daily productivity system upkeep is just not that important anymore. Everything else -- client work, an "urgent" phone call from a colleague -- seems far more critical. Only much later, after the spell wares off, does the Driver realize he’s been manipulated.
So now that we understand the mechanisms by which the Passenger prevents the Driver from making the right turn and executing his productivity system, what can the Driver do about it?
Can Willpower Help the Driver Overcome the Passenger's Sabotage Attempts?
At this point, your first inclination might be to tell the Driver to fight back against the Passenger's hacks. In other words, to exercise willpower. But not so fast.
Willpower usually doesn’t stand a match for the powerful surge of emotions associated with the Redfli. Granted, willpower will help the Driver win a few of these battles, but over the long haul, trust me, he’ll lose the war.
Moreover, willpower is even less effective against the 180. Remember, when under the spell of the 180, the Driver is brainwashed into thinking his productivity system isn't as important as other priorities. So the Driver doesn't even realize that he should fight back. As a result, willpower goes unexercised.
If we're going to have any hope of defeating the Passenger, we need a different approach.
Instead of trying to fight back against the Passenger's hacks, what if there was a tool that could help us prevent the Passenger from hacking the Driver in the first place?
There is such a tool. They're called Procrastination Penalties.
The One Feature A Productivity System Must Have to Stop The Passenger: Procrastination Penalties
Let's remember the reason the Passenger sabotages our Driver whenever he tries to use his productivity system: The Passenger hates delayed gratification. Which begs the question: can we design a productivity system so that using it reliably delivers immediate gratification?
Trying to make using the productivity system more pleasurable won't work, because we can never make it more fun than the alternative (e.g. watching Property Brothers).
Behavioral science suggests a different route: what if we made procrastinating the productivity system more painful? What if every time the Driver put off his productivity system, he received a mild, but significant penalty?
This modification would make executing his productivity system immediately gratifying, in a sense. Avoiding the penalty would earn him a feeling of cool relief. And as a result, the Passenger would no longer have a good reason to sabotage it.
Procrastination penalties may seem unorthodox, but when you look, you find them everywhere:
Why are people able to perform their taxes on time each and every year? Because if they don't, they know the IRS will fine them.
Why are people able to pay their cable bill each month? Because if they don't, the cable company will cut them off, and they won't be able to watch Property Brothers.
Therefore, if we want a productivity system that reliably protects the Driver from the Passenger's hacks, the system needs to administer a mild, but significant penalty every time he procrastinates it.
Enter Daily Blueprint.
How Daily Blueprint Uses Procrastination Penalties to Stop the Passenger
STEP 1: Every Saturday, tell Daily Blueprint what time you’ll perform your nightly planning throughout the week
Log in to the Daily Blueprint app and indicate what times that week you’ve decided to do your 5-minute daily blueprinting.
STEP 2: During the week, login to the app from your computer (or smartphone) when you said you would and prepare your daily blueprint.
Answer three simple questions:
What are your 1 - 3 most important tasks for tomorrow?
When specifically will you work on those tasks?
How will you deal with the inevitable distractions and obstacles that will arise?
STEP 3: If you’re late, or skip your daily blueprinting session altogether, Daily Blueprint will dish out a small procrastination penalty to prevent you from doing it again.
You get a choice. Either complete a 3-minute, mildly tedious online task called The Sentence or make a $5 donation to charity. Most people choose to perform The Sentence.
STEP 4: At the end of the week, Daily Blueprint will email you a progress report showing how much more productive you've been.
You will be shocked at how a little accountability has transformed your productivity.
Can Daily Blueprint Finally Help the Driver Beat the Passenger?
Per our advisement, the Driver wastes no time signing up for Daily Blueprint. He tells the app that he'll perform his daily blueprinting every weekday at 5pm. Right now, it's 4:55pm.
As the Driver nears the dreaded right turn that will take him to the library, he braces himself, ready to be hacked by the Passenger like he has been so many times before. But this time, because of Daily Blueprint's procrastination penalties, the hacking never occurs.
As a result the Driver finds himself able to make the right turn with ease, arriving at the library, and, at long last, using his productivity system. And as the weeks and months go by, the Driver continues to perform his daily blueprinting religiously.
Soon using this new productivity system has become an unshakable habit, making him more, focused, more in-control, more productive than he ever imagined.
Ready to Try Daily Blueprint for Yourself? Here Are the Results You Can Expect After Just 30 Days.
You’ll get more done in less time
With their daily blueprint in hand each day, clients find themselves achieving a new level of productivity they never thought they were capable of. Projects that used to take them weeks, take them days. Tasks that used to take them days, take hours. The only question is what will you do with all that extra time?
You’ll experience less stress and overwhelm.
After a few weeks, members begin to feel like a weight has been lifted from their shoulders. With a clear understanding of what’s important, they give themselves permission to stop sweating the small stuff. As a result, they feel like their workload has shrunk considerably, and consequently, their stress.
The ability to enjoy time off guilt-free
Daily Blueprint doesn’t just help you identify when you’re working, but also forces you to recognize when you’re not. This time blocking makes you more productive during work, but just as important, makes you more at peace when you’re at home. You’ll finally be able to enjoy your time off guilt-free.
You’ll, for once, have a productivity system that you’re actually using consistently
After just a few short weeks most people are astounded at how effective, the Daily Blueprint punitive system is at keeping them consistent. Even on their busiest days, they do their daily blueprinting on time in order to avoid getting penalized. The result is unwavering consistency.
The First Week of Daily Blueprint is Free. After That, It’s $12.95/month.
If at any time during the week, you wish to cancel, just let us know and we’ll cancel your membership—no questions asked. If you do choose to continue, at the end of your trial, you’ll get auto-subscribed into our month plan.
The Passenger Knows How Dangerous Daily Blueprint Could Be To His Own Health. Beware the Lies He Will Tell You.
LIE 1: You're too busy. Why add one more thing to do your todo list?
Truth: Daily Blueprint's central mission is to make you less busy and to free you from stress and overwhelm. When you use Daily Blueprint, your todo list doesn't get longer, it gets shorter.
LIE 2: Daily Blueprint Won't Work for You.
Truth: Daily Blueprint works for the vast, vast majority of people who try it. But don't take our word for it. We have a 1 week trial so you can see for yourself.
LIE 3: Daily Blueprint Is Too Expensive.
Truth: $12.95 a month for a system that will double your productivity, dissolve your overwhelm, and put you back in control of your workday? Most people spend double each month on coffee.
LIE 4: You'll Sign up for Daily Blueprint Tomorrow.
Truth: Tomorrow, the Passenger will convince you to put off signing up again, and then again, and then again until you inevitably forget. Don't let him win.
When You Sign Up You'll Get a Bonus Onboarding Session with the Founder
To set you up for the success, when you sign up for the Daily Blueprint 1-week trial, you'll receive a private 25-minute onboarding session with Al Pittampalli. Over the phone, Al will teach you how to use the app to maximum effect.
Sign up Below and Your Free 1-Week Trial Will Begin on Saturday.
Sign up using the form below. Once you do, you’ll be asked to schedule a one-on-one onboarding phone call with Al sometime this week. Then your trial will officially begin on Saturday.
Don't Let the Passenger Win.
If you have any questions, concerns, or fears about Daily Blueprint send us an email at email@example.com. We'll get back to you as soon as humanly possible. Let's conquer the Passenger once and for all.
About the Founder
Al Pittampalli is the author of this piece and the founder of Daily Blueprint. He is a productivity coach and writer for Harvard Business Review and Psychology Today. He lives in NYC. Learn more about him here.