What is running on a treadmill? It’s essentially effort that doesn’t get you anywhere. Literally. You’re running, you’re huffing and puffing, but you’re still in the exact same spot! You’ve made no progress.
The Treadmill Mentality is best shown by a college student who devotes an entire day to their homework and studying, but they spend about half of their day mindlessly watching YouTube videos, reading articles completely unrelated to their work, and consuming social media.
This wasted time is rationalized as “taking a break.” But unlike the planned, brief breaks of The Sprinter’s Mentality, these breaks occur on a whim and last for as long as the student wants.
And just like that, the student spends the better part of an entire afternoon working on their homework, project, report, studying, etc. and still making very little to no progress. I can guarantee that students who claim to spend “all day studying” spend about half of the day mindlessly fucking around.
Now, with enough time and not all that much to do, The Treadmill Mentality CAN be a legitimate productivity method. A high school student can spend all afternoon on their 2 hours worth of homework if they have no extra curricular activities. Even so, there’s two main reasons why it’s not worth it.
This is one of the top two biggest issues with The Treadmill Mentality. Watching online videos, reading unrelated articles, and consuming social media still takes some mental effort and energy. To your subconscious mind, you’re not resting. You’re still working.
You’re working your ass off, running yourself ragged, getting burnt the fuck out, and nothing is getting done. Overtime, this will severely cripple your confidence. You lose confidence in your abilities because you seemingly can’t get anything done even with all this tremendous effort and time. You’ll start questioning your competence and intellect, start feeling helpless and ineffectual. You’ll start getting angry at other people and your overall life circumstances. Your parents weren’t as involved in your life as the parents of the other more successful people around you.
From the context of engineering, you don’t come from a family of engineers who exposed you to engineering and helped you complete projects your life. You don’t have familial connections that basically give you internships and jobs on a silver platter.
Doubt will enter your mind, you’ll be second guessing yourself constantly, and you’ll start losing sight of what you want out of life.
The widespread use of The Treadmill Mentality may be the reason why so many kids and young people are aimless and don’t know what they want to do with their lives. They don’t focus enough to really understand what they’re good at and enjoy. EVERYTHING seems too difficult and overwhelming.
I was an unintentional devotee of The Treadmill Mentality since junior year of high school and all the way through college. Dragging out homework for 5+ hours a night. Never really having time for a social life or extracurricular activities. In engineering school, I was getting my ass kicked from the very first day of class up until after my last final in my last semester. Like I said in the “New? Click Here” page, there were a million things I could have done differently. This is definitely one of them.
Even if you avoid these pitfalls, you can’t actually enjoy your breaks. Why? You have uncompleted work gnawing away at the back of your mind. Unless you just don’t give a shit, you won’t be able to really relax knowing that you still have work left to do, or even worse, knowing that there’s more you could’ve done.
It’s one thing to do your best and absolutely everything you can possibly do, but still not quite completing everything on time. It’s another to essentially be half-assing your efforts. You can push yourself just a bit harder, spend just a bit less time fucking around on the internet or otherwise getting distracted, you can focus just a bit more. If this is true, you won’t be able to rest. You won’t be satisfied with your work, your accomplishments, your life in general. You’ll have regret weighing you down constantly.
This should be the biggest takeaway:
How do you know if you’re working hard? Mostly how you feel. You know you’re working hard by feeling it. You’re mentally tired. The hours are ticking by.
You feel like you’re working hard. You’re spending several hours, an entire day even, to getting your work done. Sure, you may not have finished everything on time, but the fact that you worked so hard for so long should matter, right? Maybe it was just too difficult, and there’s nothing you can do about that.
The hard truth is that no one gives a shit how hard you work. All that really matters is what you’re able to do, and what you’ve been able to accomplish. This should be your mindset as well.
You’re basically making it okay to not succeed. You worked hard, and that’s enough. Oh, you weren’t able to get it done even though you worked hard? There’s nothing you could’ve done. It’s obviously too difficult. Oh, the other people who worked their asses off, consistently followed results-oriented processes, and barely managed to get it done on time? They’re obviously superhuman demigods with inhuman intellect, infinite willpower, and a rock-solid support system of friends and family.
With this mindset, you’re gonna go into any endeavor halfheartedly.
In “The Empire Strikes Back,” what did Yoda say to Luke during his Jedi training on Dagobah?
“No. Try Not. Do. Or Do Not. There is no try.”
Don’t give yourself the option of failing. Don’t try to justify failure.
It’s not really on purpose. The Treadmill Mentality is almost always a failed attempt at The Marathon Mentality. The marathoner sits down and tries to work on their shit and keep working until it’s done, but they get distracted.
They violate the commandments of The Marathon Mentality. They take too many breaks. There’s no looming deadline. They listen to a bunch of different and new music that has too much novelty and distracts them.
Let’s be honest. We live in a very fast-paced, internet driven, instant gratification society. There’s countless hours of YouTube videos, social media posts, etc. This unending digital stimuli is killing your attention span. You just CAN’T really focus.
We’ve been taught since childhood to find our passion. That we need to be passionate about what we do. With this mindset, whenever we hit a point of not enjoying what we’re doing, not being passionate, we get disappointed. We think there’s something horribly wrong. We think that we need to stop what we’re doing and start doing something else that we’re passionate about.
Here’s another of my blog posts where I talk about this. Long story short, passion is overrated. Ignore this dumbass advice given to you by your glorified-babysitter teachers, who are part of one of the worst education systems among first-world nations.
Honestly, if you find yourself unfocused and not having high productivity, you’re much better off just stopping and doing something else. Once the deadline starts to get nearer, you’ll get a sense of urgency that will skyrocket your productivity to the moon and all but eliminate distractions. You’re using The Marathon Mentality at this point. Alternatively, you can use The Sprinter’s Mentality.
And that is the end of my Productivity series.
Well, that was a long one! I’ve tried to make this as comprehensive as possible. If I discover any more productivity boosting methods, I’ll definitely make more blog posts.
You’ll notice that this series isn’t just about productivity. It goes over mind training, positive lifestyle changes, and mindset shifts to help live a better, more fulfilling life.
If there’s anything I missed, let me know down in the Comments. If you haven’t already, subscribe to my free newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest content.
All the best,