June 9, 2021

Driving the Lamborghini: Productivity and the Power of Paper

Triathlete and personal performance coach Caroline Livesey gives her insight on the transformative power of putting pen to paper.

By: Caroline Livesey

The world is a distracting place. Modern life for some people could be summed up as a relentless series of panicked reactions to the things around them. Life is not meant to be like that. There is one simple habit you can form which can hugely increase your productivity. In fact, I would go as far as to say that this simple task, done consistently, can change your life. 

Write things down.  No – not your to-do list, don’t ask me what I think about them. 

Write down the thoughts that circle in your mind. The things that keep you awake at night. The half-formed plans. The things that make you sing for joy. Great ideas. Perhaps the things that are making you angry. What you want to change about your life but don’t know how. What you are grateful for. Things that are truly important to you. More important than making sure you buy milk.  

That’s it? Get out a pen and paper? 

What is the difference between writing down this potential diatribe than just thinking internally? 

50 years ago, before the constant stream of data took hold, people had time within their days to just sit quietly and think. They could start thoughts and conversations and follow them through to the end without being side-tracked part way through. Crazy huh? Now for most people it is rare to have ten minutes without being distracted by a buzzing phone, a pinging computer, a bleeping watch, some message on your car computer…the list is endless. These interruptions are preventing people from thinking about what is important to them. 

So perhaps you start with the intention of thinking through a critical problem, but you are distracted by a text that you “have” to answer. Then you try to return to the problem, but the leaping around in your brain saps the energy you have for solving it.  It’s easier to check in to Instagram…

Imagine if you approached training like this: Two minutes of swimming, fifteen of being distracted, another two minutes of swimming. Give up, get out of pool. 

Do you think you would ever make progress? 

The brain is inherently lazy. If there is a short cut, then it will take it. It prefers to do habitual, logical processes that take little effort.  The deep thinking required for tricky issues burns infinitely more energy and takes a lot more will-power to control.  It is why we are always exhausted after exams or job interviews.

Imagine the brain is a long, thin garage for two cars. One is a small automatic run-around that you can drive without even thinking about it. The other is a hugely expensive Lamborghini that is difficult to drive, scary, and costs you a fortune to run. It is also fun, hugely rewarding and gets you there so much faster. But to get it out of the garage you must move the town car out of the way first, so it’s a hassle. Most of the time you convince yourself that it’s easier to just do what you are comfortable with and take the easy option. 

My analogy explains why humans often stay in situations that are uncomfortable, miserable even, rather than work their brains and face the uncertainty of change. Driving the Lamborghini is not always appropriate for day-to-day tasks. But when you need to be fired up, challenging yourself, looking for new direction, or getting the hell out of there as fast as possible – then take the sports car. 

Imagine now that writing down those thoughts is the equivalent of moving the small car out of the way.  Having to focus on the physical action of writing them out in full, maybe even turning off your phone while you do it, will kick the sports car side of your brain into action. Problems or ideas which appear to your lazy brain to be overwhelming suddenly take shape, are formed as wholes and seen for what they are.  No problem is insurmountable. No fabulous idea is too crazy for a plan. And often writing about things you love, or things you want to change, can shift your whole perspective on life.  

So don’t let your lazy brain tell you that you are too busy for the important decisions in your life. Get the Lamborghini out, turn off the distractions, and witness as your ideas take shape on paper. 

Caroline has been competing as a professional triathlete since 2015 with numerous notable results at Ironman and half ironman distance.  In 2019 won the Canadaman XTRI, and was 9th at the Ironman South American Championships (Cozumel). Caroline is also an engineer, and a personal performance & development coach. To learn more about Caroline, visit her website at carolinelivesey.co.uk

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