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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 September 17, 2018

How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

How bad really is multitasking?

It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

So what to do about it?

Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

Now, forget about how to multitask!

Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

1. Get enough rest

When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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2. Plan your day

When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

4. When at your desk, do work

We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

5. Learn to say no

Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

6. Turn off notifications on your computer

For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

The bottom line

Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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