3 things Newton said about productivity

4 min read

The laziest of us want to finish what we’ve started. This phenomenon is called the Zeigarnik Effect.

We, basically, continue to remember uncompleted tasks to the point that we are psychologically forced to finish them.

And what does this have to do with Newton and productivity? We are getting there.

In Secondary school physics, we learned Newton’s laws of motion.

There were three of them he’d published in his 1687 book, The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.

1: First Law of Motion: An object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity unless acted upon by an external force.


2: Second Law of Motion: F=ma. The vector sum of the forces on an object is equal to the mass of that object multiplied by the acceleration vector of the object


3: Third Law of Motion: When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.


What our secondary school teachers forgot to mention was that these three laws of motion could be applied to productivity in such a way that it helps us increase our productivity, simplify our work and improve our lives.

Renowned productivity writer, James Clear who writes at jamesclear.com broke these laws down in simple terms and turned them into Newton’s Law of Productivity.

The first law

productivity vconnect blog

Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest

What does this have to do with productivity?

Procrastination is a fundamental law of the universe. It’s Newton’s first law applied to productivity. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest. If you don’t start, you won’t start.

But thankfully, It works the other way. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. When you start, you keep going.

When it comes to being productive, this means one thing: the most important thing is to find a way to get started. Once you get started, it is much easier to stay in motion.

How can you apply this?

Just start. Build momentum and keep going. Usually, the Zeigarnik Effect kicks in, and you don’t want to stop.

James recommends what he calls the 2-Minute Rule as was originally made popular by David Allen’s best-selling book, Getting Things Done.

The 2-minute rule – find a way to start your task in less than two minutes.

Say you want to send a couple of emails. Start by opening up your computer and punching in a few words in your notepad. These small doses of commitment will get you to send your email.

The second law

Force equals mass times acceleration

What does this have to do with productivity?

It’s simple. James explains it best:

“If you want to be productive, it’s not merely about how hard you work (magnitude), it’s also about where that work is applied (direction).”

How can you apply this?

You only have a set amount of time and energy in a day, where you direct them is important in determining how productive you are.

Focus on your most important task in the day and spend your energy on work that will give your most reward.

The third law

third law of motion vconnect blog

Action equals reaction

What does this have to do with productivity?

“There are productive forces in our lives like focus, positivity, and motivation. There are also unproductive forces like stress, lack of sleep, and trying to juggle too many tasks at once,” writes James.

The more unproductive forces you accommodate, the less productive you become. The more productive forces you accommodate, the productive you become.

How can you apply this?

Two ways:

You can add more productive forces to your life – focus, motivation, and positivity. Or you can remove the unproductive forces – stress, lack of sleep and multitasking.

James calls the former; powering through it, and it often leads to burnout. It’s wiser to remove the unproductive forces and attack our work with clear and healthy minds.

Have you thought about how the laws of motion help us be more productive? Tell us how you are using it to improve your productivity.

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Gbenga Onalaja

Gbenga Onalaja was the former Content Strategist at VConnect and blog.vconnect.com. He oversaw the VConnect Blog, an SME blog dedicated to helping entrepreneurs start and run small businesses. He specializes in long-form content, email marketing, SEO, and reporting compelling brand stories. Follow him on Twitter @onalaja_

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