Advertising

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

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

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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!

Advertising

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

More by this author

Mariya Boyko

Mathematics teacher, curriculum developer

Quick Ricotta Pumpkin Pie Recipe 4 Steps to Teach Kids about Experiencing and Expressing Their Emotions 5 Things To Do in 5 Spare Minutes 5 Steps to Get Creative Again Start a Project You Have Been Putting Off in Just 5 steps

Trending in Productivity

1 7 Effective Ways To Motivate Employees in 2021 2 How a Project Management Mindset Boosts Your Productivity 3 5 Values of an Effective Leader 4 How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them 5 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
Advertising

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

Advertising

From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

Advertising

The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

Advertising

But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

Advertising

Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

Read Next