4 Easy Tricks That Will Make You Productive: Proven Secrets From Robert Cialdini


Ever needed to be productive… but you just don’t feel like it? And you literally end up negotiating with yourself in order to get things done?

I end up there all the time. So I wondered: what’s the best way for me to convince me to be more productive? What’s the best way to use the science of persuasion… on myself?

I knew the answer was a bit beyond my pay grade, so I called an expert…

Robert Cialdini is the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of persuasion. He’s a professor of psychology at Arizona State University and author of the #1 book on influence — aptly titled: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

When we want to get others to see things our way we spend the majority of time crafting logical arguments and collecting convincing evidence to present to them… and Bob says that’s dead wrong.

In his new book Pre-Suasion, Bob explains that we need to take a 2500-year-old tip from good ol’ Sun Tzu:

Every battle is won before it is fought.

What we do before we try to persuade is often more critical to whether or not we are successful.

From Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade:

The best persuaders become the best through pre-suasion— the process of arranging for recipients to be receptive to a message before they encounter it.

So if you’re going to persuade yourself to get more done, you need to think about what you do in advance of starting the task.

Talking yourself into doing anything can be tricky because, well, you know what you’re planning. So perhaps we should get started by convincing your unconscious mind to help you out…


When The Going Gets Good, The Good Stop Going

So you’re actually getting some solid work done. You’re pleased with yourself. But you’re also a little afraid that tomorrow you’ll start procrastinating all over again. There’s a good way to make sure that doesn’t happen…

Leverage the “Zeigarnik effect.” (Luckily, you don’t have to be able to pronounce it in order to do that.) The Zeigarnik effect is a psychological principle that says our brains seek closure.

Your unconscious mind wants to feel like you “finished” something — otherwise it will keep thinking about that task long after you’ve left the office.

Well, Bob told me a story about a colleague of his who uses those nagging thoughts to her advantage — to prevent procrastination.

When she’s writing and the end of the workday approaches, she stops mid-sentence. That way her brain is dying to finish that thought. And when she gets to her desk the next day she’s thankful to be able to complete what she started. Here’s Bob:

The next day, she can’t wait to get back to her chair and begin writing again so that she can complete the thought. Now she’s in the flow again of writing, and she winds up being especially productive.

So take a lesson from those cliffhangers at the end of television episodes. They keep you tuned in for a reason. Your brain wants closure. Don’t let it have it.

(To learn the 7-step morning ritual that will keep you happy all day, click here.)

So you know how to turn one productive day into a productive week. But how do you get going in the first place? All it takes is a few magic words…


If, When, Then

Ever wish you could just program yourself like a computer to do the right thing? Well, we can’t upload Kung fu into your brain, Neo, but we’ve got the next best thing…

Before it’s time to accomplish something, create a clear goal statement that includes the place or time something needs to be done and the thing you have to do. Just use the magic words “If/When” and “Then.”

  • When I first sit at my desk in the morning, then I will begin the report I have to write.
  • If my uncle starts another political argument, then I will hide in the bathroom.

Sound too simple to work? Wrong. Here’s Bob:

There’s a study of epilepsy sufferers who were having trouble being regular with their medication regimen. They were given an “if, when, then” statement to make, such as, “If it’s eight o’clock in the morning and I’ve finished brushing my teeth, then I will take my prescribed medication.” That statement increased compliance with the regimen from 55 percent to 79 percent. The key is to be specific about the place and time that serves as a cue for you to take the step that you want to take.

So keep in mind: If Eric writes a blog post, then I will read it to the very end and thank him profusely.”

(To learn how to stop being lazy, click here.)

So you’ve got an if/then and you’re not giving yourself closure. You’re programmed to get to work and your unconscious mind will make sure you pick up where you left off tomorrow. But what if you still just ain’t feelin’ it?

Then you’re going to need the inspiration that can only come from bright yellow squares…


Sticky Notes Make You Gritty

Ever seen a poster like this before?


Of course you have. Ever scoffed at one? Probably. (Ever viciously mocked one then set it on fire? Oooookay, maybe that’s just me then…)

Well, those trite displays of utter tastelessness actually work. When you see “inspirational” pictures like that before you get cranking, you really are more productive. Here’s Bob:

There’s a lovely study that showed that if call center workers were shown a picture of a runner winning a race, they collected 60 percent more donations because the concept of achievement was in their attentional environment. They would see it constantly while they were doing this task.

No, I am not here to ruin your office decor. You can get the same effect by scribbling “ACHIEVE” on a post-it note and putting it where you can see it.

From Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade:

Multiple studies have shown that subtly exposing individuals to words that connote achievement (win, attain, succeed, master) increases their performance on an assigned task and more than doubles their willingness to keep working at it.

(To learn how 5 post-it notes can make you happy, confident and successful, click here.)

So a post-it note can inspire you to get those tough tasks done and help us all win the war against bad art. But what if that isn’t enough? Want inspiration that’s personalized for you and is proven to bring out your best work?

Alright then: let’s talk about Purell…


Remind Yourself Of Your Commitments

Doctors don’t always wash their hands before they see patients. Hospitals tried to get them to be better about it. Signs were put up saying, “Hand hygiene protects you from catching diseases.”

Annnnnnd… that didn’t work at all. What did work?

Reminding them of their duty to help those they care for. A sign that read, “Washing your hands reduces your patient’s chance of infection” produced a 45% boost. Here’s Bob:

A study that was done by Adam Grant and his associates put a little sign under the soap dispensers that said, “Washing your hands reduces your patient’s chance of infection.” That produced a 45 percent increase simply by reminding the doctors of a commitment that they had made long ago when they began their careers.

I know, I know — maybe you haven’t taken the Hippocratic Oath lately. And you don’t live by the Bushido Code either. Doesn’t matter. If you don’t have a commitment to remind yourself of, just make one. But make it something you’ll take seriously.

Need an example? Bob has a personal commitment he used to make sure his book Pre-Suasion was something he’d be proud of. I’ll let Bob tell the story:

I dedicated “Pre-Suasion” to my grandchildren. Then I told their parents, “When each of them is old enough to read this book, show them the dedication and say, ‘Your grandfather wrote this book for you.'” Well, Eric, it had better be a good book. It had better be a book that would hold up 15 years later. And here’s what I did next — and I’m looking at it right now: I put a picture of my grandkids next to my computer. I made it visible while I was writing the book.

Wanting to be a good Grandpa might be the ultimate productivity tool.

(To hear Bob’s 6 groundbreaking secrets for how to persuade others, click here.)

Okay, we’ve learned a lot. Let’s round it up…


Sum Up

Here’s how Robert Cialdini says you can trick yourself into being more productive:

  • Use the “Zeignarik effect”: To make sure you don’t procrastinate tomorrow, don’t give yourself closure today. If you stop mid-sentence you’ll…
  • If, When, Then: Program yourself like a computer. For instance, “If I see an opportunity for a lame joke related to psychology, then I will type it.”
  • Sticky notes make you gritty: You don’t need to punish your walls with bad art. Just write “ACHIEVE” on a post-it note.
  • Remind yourself of your commitments: And if you don’t have one, make one. Wanting to be a great grandpa creates great books.

Avoiding procrastination and being productive isn’t always easy. Sometimes toughing it out with willpower doesn’t work.

But that’s okay. Anything that you know will get you going is fair game. Give some of Bob’s tips a shot. You may need to trick yourself, fool yourself or persuade yourself in order to get those tough tasks finished.

As screenwriter Terry Rossio once said, “My lousy way of getting it done is better than your great way of not doing it.”

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