No shortcuts: Why ‘win at life’ advice often fails

No shortcuts: Why ‘win at life’ advice often fails

The problem with ‘win at life’ advice.


I’ve talked about motivation and doing hard things, and why we find big goals so difficult.


I also talked about why quick tips and hacks, despite being touted as the catch all solution to our motivation and productivity woes, often are not.


The main reason is because hard work is what gets results. There’s no shortcuts.


Motivation and productivity tips will only get you so far.


That doesn’t mean it’s bad advice. If none of it ever worked, life coaches and productivity blogs wouldn’t make any money.


So why does seemingly good advice not live up to its expectations, and what do you need to know to start making it work for you?


Why productivity advice often fails


1. – It’s not me, it’s you


This is what your productivity advice is trying to tell you.


First and foremost, productivity advice fails because you were expecting it to make the task easier.


Admit it. You’re looking for an easy out. You scour the web for ways to make life easier, and to make hard things, easy things.


Well I’ve got bad news for you, it doesn’t work that way.


Breaking your difficult tasks into smaller more manageable steps, doesn’t make them any easier, it just makes them more manageable and organised. The task still physically has to be done and still requires heaps of physical and/or mental energy.


Hard things require hard work.


Stop expecting tips to make something easy, rather than making something manageable.


Learn to embrace the truth that if you want to win, you have to do hard things, and that’s just the way it is.


2. – Mistaking the process  for the outcome


Creating a plan of action can sometimes be such a satisfying endeavour that you feel like you’ve accomplished something just by making a plan. This can lead you into a trap of feeling more accomplished that you actually are.



Often the process of planning can make you feel like you’ve worked hard (and often you have).


Don’t be fooled into thinking that you’ve actually done something hard. It may have helped you; you may feel more elated, and less stressed. But you haven’t done anything yet that produces valuable results.


Making plans and applying strategies to make you more productive is only ever a means to an end, it is not an end in itself.


3. – Easy things you can do to be more productive… are not that easy


This is the great lie of productivity. You’ve all heard it before.


“10 ridiculously simple steps you can do right now to become massively productive”

“5 sure fire tips to beat procrastination”

“6 surprising study hacks that will transform your grades”


Most productivity advice is either easy, and only minimally effective, or it has the potential to be very effective but is not at all easy.


Time management is a really hard skill to master, but it can be very helpful. Not adequately managing your time when you have a busy life, can result in your feeling constantly behind the eightball, like you’re struggling just to keep up with life.


There’s a million and one strategies for improving your time management and it can be a hell of a lot of work just figuring out which ones are any good, let alone which ones work best for you, let alone putting them into practise effectively.


It’s the same with goal setting. Setting achievable, actionable goals is surprisingly difficult. What is achievable? What is actionable?


So be very wary anytime you read a title starting with “7 stupidly easy things you can do to help with X”, or “5 quick steps to do X”.


This advice is motivation sugar.


You read it because it’s moorish, it tastes good and makes you feel better. Don’t fall for it.


There are things you can do to make you more effective and productive, but the vast majority of things that will significantly improve your output, are not easy things to implement. If you’re not prepared for this then one of two things will happen


  1. You’ll spend all your energy on the strategies and preparation, and burn out before the time comes to actually produce valuable work
  2. You’ll only give a half hearted effort into the planning phase and it wont leave any better off.


Don’t fall for it.


If you want to do something hard, then you have to accept the fact that it will be hard, no matter how many tips and hacks you try. There is advice that will help, and some of it is very good advice.


However, never forget that the strategies themselves can be just as hard as the goal you’ve set for yourself, so get your nose to that grind stone, and do what has to be done.


  • Don’t expect to make hard things easy, just by adding a few tricks
  • Don’t assume that you’ve actually accomplished anything by implementing a process
  • Don’t assume that the process is any easier than the goal


Be realistic, be ready, do hard things.


Thanks for reading

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