Your Brain is an Outlaw! Here’s How to Control It and Get More Done

Today I’m talking about why it’s so hard to get all our work done! Why our brain doesn’t do what we want it to do!

Short answer: because our brain’s an outlaw!

If you struggle to stay on task, to consistently move your key projects forward, you are not alone and this is for you!

So many of the coaches I know, and whom I coach on business-building and productivity, feel like they’re in a constant battle with their brain, their energy, willpower, etc.

I often hear things like, “There’s so much work! My brain can’t keep up with it all. Social media, emails, and I’m losing business as a result.”

This is why I’m sharing insights into your outlaw brain that can help you reform it, even if you’re totally scattered and overwhelmed!

Plus, get my free video, “5 Mental Performance Secrets I Wish I Knew as a Struggling Executive,” in the link at the end of this blog.

Your brain wants to do the easy tasks.

Many of us coaches struggle to stay on task, to consistently move our key projects forward – we feel like we’re in a constant battle with our brain, energy, focus, willpower, etc.

Why is this so?

Well, in its natural state, our brain wants to do wrong. Not criminal wrong. But, well, crimes of productivity.

For instance, left to its own devices, our outlaw brain doesn’t prioritize that tough project we’ve been putting off. It instead prioritizes something way more titillating than that, right? Social media, some news headlines, at least some “work” that’s way easier than that tough project.

Unsupervised, our outlaw brain pays no attention to the precious few productive hours remaining in our day. It also does not care what kind of crap we put in our bodies, doesn’t want us to exercise, doesn’t want to shut off the TV, and wind down so we can get to sleep.

At heart, our brain is an outlaw. Especially when it comes to getting work done. Even if you’re a hard-working, law-abiding coach, trust me, your outlaw brain is committing crimes of productivity throughout your day. And you’re the one having to make bail.

How to keep your brain’s attention

When it comes to working, our outlaw brain doesn’t always want to do the right thing. In fact, in the absence of constraints, it wants to do wrong when it comes to working and productivity.

There are many popular ways to reform your brain, some of which you might already be doing, to keep it from defying the laws of productivity. These methods can help rehabilitate your outlaw brain to help you deal with challenging tasks and other uncomfortable things.

And as with almost everything I teach, there’s some science to help us...

Your brain wants to stay in its comfort zone

First of all, our default operating system is our outlaw brain (scientifically known as our reptilian brain). When things get tough or stressful or we’re feeling overwhelmed or fatigued, our outlaw brain takes over from our more evolved frontal cortex, and, when that happens, thoughtful, rational, in-our-best-interest thinking goes out the window.

And the fact is, doing the right things – working on the tougher tasks, sticking to a disciplined process, etc. – involves inherent...discomfort.

But our outlaw brain doesn’t take kindly to discomfort. So we are comfort-seekers and discomfort-avoiders – right down to our DNA. 

The result, to paraphrase author Charlie Gilkey:

Our outlaw brain wants to fill the space available with stuff that doesn’t matter as much as the big, tough stuff. It may want to go off and do some ‘people-pleasing’ – working on other stuff you were asked to do or responding to emails.

Your brain reframes thoughts to trick you

Our outlaw brain is also a liar and a con artist. For instance, our tendency for Temporal Discounting, where our outlaw brain convinces us, “don’t worry, we got plenty of time to write those marketing emails. Trust me.”

A couple other ways our outlaw brain lies to us:

Magical Thinking: “Ya, you can get somebody on Fiverr to re-do our website for a hundred bucks or so.”

Shelf Esteem: The phenomenon where someone fills their bookshelf with trendy novels and literary classics to feel better about themselves. Of course, NEVER actually reading any of those books.

We do something similar when we buy a course, sign up for a webinar, or order a personal development book – we get the hit of “shelf esteem” – and then our outlaw brain won’t bother to finish the course or the book – or take action on the info shared in the webinar!

Being an outlaw, it’s not surprising that our brain is also a junkie: the drug of choice being Dopamine, which our brain gets from snacking on brain-stifling sugar and carbs, staring at our mobile gadgets, blowing off tough tasks for time-wasting busy-work like checking emails...and the constant parade of trivial interruptions.

Jane Porter of Lifehacker sums it up nicely,

“Our workdays often are governed not by priorities or desires but by what’s screaming loudest and closest in our faces. Well-intentioned as you might be about having a productive day, it’s easy for the hours to pass in a flurry of emails, meetings, and demands that eat away at your time like a tapeworm—stealthy, but destructive.”

And all courtesy of our outlaw brain!

So, to quickly recap, our brain – left to its own devices – really doesn’t want to do any hard work. It wants to watch TV and eat bonbons. But, the more we are savvy to its outlaw ways, the better we can protect ourselves from its criminal intent.

There’s a great quote from the late Jim Rohn, who said,

"If you don't design your own life plan, then you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much."

And if you tweak that quote just a bit, you get something powerfully relevant for every day of your life: “If you don't have a plan for your day, chances are you'll fall into your outlaw brain’s plans. And guess what she has planned for you? Not much that is of real value to you.”

It’s certainly not going to include your big, important projects!

The upshot being that one powerful reform for our outlaw brain is just having some morning ritual where we pause, to ask, "What's today gonna be about?"

Want some secrets to manage your brain's energy?
Get my complimentary video, 5 Mental Performance Secrets I Wish I Knew as a Struggling Executive. In it, I share the main secret to managing your brain’s energy; a simple hack for rebooting your brain; and more powerful “brain hacks” that’ll help you get your toughest (i.e., most important) work done.

I'd love to know your thoughts on this topic, so feel free to shoot me an email at [email protected] or DM me on Instagram @alanpbrown.




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