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Start a Project You Have Been Putting Off in Just 5 steps

Start a Project You Have Been Putting Off in Just 5 steps

No matter what professional field you are in, chances are that there exists a project you have been putting off for weeks, months or even years. We always have plenty of excuses to keep putting it off and the more time goes by the more creative we get with our excuses. Here are the simple steps to get started:

1. Identify ‘Why’ you are putting this project off?

Are you short on time? Not enough hours in the day? Are you not sure how to start? Is the project too demanding in terms of mental energy and concentration? Are there financial restrictions? Are you simply being a melancholic perfectionist reluctant to start without a complete plan? It takes bravery to admit to yourself why you are not going forward with a project you want to pursue in general. Good news – you are not obliged to share this information with the world, unless sharing it would help you overcome your challenges.

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For example, I find that I often procrastinate writing my thesis when I am overloaded with a large amount of smaller work projects. My brain simply runs out of ‘RAM’ and I am unable to concentrate on my writing.

2. Take a ‘Very Small Step’ towards eliminating that obstacle.

It is completely unrealistic to expect that you would get rid of an obstacle that held you back for months/years overnight. Start out with taking a series of very small steps. The progress will follow immediately. For example, if you have been planning to get fit but sports seem intimidating to you, start off by talking to people who love sports. Find out what they enjoy about being active.

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Intimidation rises from lack of information or from previous negative experiences. Taking a step as simple as discussing your goals with others will put you at ease and encourage you to start making progress.

3. Give it 5 minutes of your ‘Undivided Attention’ every single day.  

You might not make an awful lot of progress, but you will form a HABIT of working on your project every day. Aim for only 5 minutes a day, and with time you will find yourself wanting to extend that time. For example, anyone (whose health conditions allow it) can take a 5 minute walk in the morning or after work. Anyone can spare 5 minutes during the day or before bedtime to immerse into planning or thinking through one specific detail of a project.

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4. Set very specific ‘Super-Short-Term’ goals

It is often very difficult to establish a completely coherent plan of tackling a long term project. Also, meeting long-term goals can take up a lot of time, and waiting for the first ‘fruits’ of your labor might be discouraging. Instead, set as many short term goals as you can, and then break them up into even shorter-term goals! Be as specific as you can. For example, a short term goal might sound like “Find out how to register your own company”. A series of specific shorter-term goals would sound like: “Google search ‘how to register a company’”, “search the CRA website for further information”, “Call CRA to find out the rest of the details”. The more specific your goals are, the easier it will be to complete them fast. When we know what we are doing we tend to be more confident and we are less likely to put things off.

5. Use the mindset of “Eyes fear – Hands do”

“Eyes fear – hands do” – that’s how they say it in many Slavic cultures. In English it simply means ‘Just DO IT!’ Chances are that the project that you have been putting off is not composed of very dangerous tasks, so in fact there is nothing to be afraid of factually. The fear that we often feel before approaching a problem is steaming from our own expectations that we set for ourselves. Instead of beating yourself up that your project might not come out as ‘perfect’, tell yourself that if you will not get started it will not exist at all!

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Featured photo credit: mariyaboyko12.files.wordpress.com via mariyaboyko12.files.wordpress.com

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Mariya Boyko

Mathematics teacher, curriculum developer

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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