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Productivity Tip: How Not to Overspend Your Time On a Task

Productivity Tip: How Not to Overspend Your Time On a Task
Overspending Time

    Have you ever felt that you spend way too much time on something? You started reading a book, but eventually realized that the time you spend on it far exceeds the value you get. Or maybe you worked on a project, but after completing it you realized that the project could actually be finished much sooner.

    Why do such things happen? While there might be external factors that contribute to the situation, I believe that there is one main cause: we waste our time on unnecessary stuff. We spend our time on things which do not contribute to the final results, and that eventually causes us to overspend our time. Obviously, the cure is:

    Do no more than what is necessary

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    It is easier said than done though. Here are some tips to help you do that:

    1. Set a clear expected output

    An important reason why we overspend our time on something is not knowing precisely what the final result we expect is. If we don’t even know what we want, how can we decide whether or not something is necessary? As a result, we do things which will later be found as unnecessary. So the important first step is to set a clear expected output. It should be specific so that you can know for sure whether or not you have achieved it.

    2. Write down the expected output in a prominent place

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    Google Desktop

      Having a clear expected output is good, but it’s often not enough. The problem is we may forget it once we dive into work. So we need to somehow remind ourselves about it.

      One way to do so is by writing the expected output in a prominent place you can easily see. For example, if you are working on computer and use Google Desktop, you can write it in Scratch Pad (see screenshot). Since Scratch Pad is always visible, you can easily reread the expected output of what you are doing.

      3. Realign yourself with the expected output every now and then

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      While you are busy working on something, it’s easy to get off track. So you need to regularly realign yourself with the expected output. To do so, whenever you are about to do a subtask you should ask: “Do I really need to do this to get the job done? Can I just skip it or do it in a different – more efficient – way?” These questions help you evaluate the way you work and get yourself back on track.

      If asking these questions before doing a subtask is difficult, you can alternatively ask them at a regular interval. For example, if you usually do 50 minutes of work followed by 10 minutes of break time, you can then ask these questions whenever you enter the break time.

      4. Set a deadline and work with inverted pyramid structure

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      Setting a deadline is another way to help you do only what is necessary. By setting a deadline, you are forced to prioritize the things you are doing. The best way to work within a deadline is using inverted pyramid structure: do the subtasks from the most important down to the least important. This way, if the time is up you can still deliver the best possible output.

      Working in this way is actually similar to the way newspaper articles are written. By placing the most important facts first and the least important ones later, a newspaper editor can easily trim an article to fit into the available space. Similarly, by using the inverted pyramid structure you can easily trim your work when you hit the deadline.

      5. Stop when you already get the expected output

      It may seem obvious, but when we already get the output and still have some time left, we may be tempted to spend more time to polish it. At the end, it may introduce some unnecessary stuff into your otherwise productive day.

      Donald Latumahina is an avid learner who blogs regularly about personal growth and effectiveness. Read his articles on 26 Tips to Stay Calm When Situation Goes Bad, and How to Develop Your Ideas Exponentially.

      More by this author

      Donald Latumahina

      Donald Latumahina is the founder of Life Optimizer, a self-improvement blog to help people reach their full potential.

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      Last Updated on June 26, 2020

      How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

      How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

      It is hardly a secret that the key to successfully accomplishing one goal after another is staying motivated. There are, of course, tasks which successful people may not like at all, yet they find motivation to complete them because they recognize how each particular task serves a greater goal.

      So how to stay motivated most of the time? Here are 5 simple yet effective ways on how to be motivated and get what you want:

      1. Find Your Good Reasons

      Anything you do, no matter how simple, has a number of good reasons behind it.

      You may not be able to find good reasons to do some tasks at first but, if you take just a few moments to analyze them, you will easily spot something good. We also have many tasks which don’t need any reasoning at all – we’ve been doing them for so long that they feel natural.

      If you’re ever stuck with some tasks you hate and there seems to be no motivation to complete it whatsoever, here’s what you need to do: find your good reasons.

      Even when you set goals, there needs to be reasons behind these goals. They may not be obvious, but stay at it until you see some, as this will bring your motivation back and will help you finish the task.

      Some ideas for what a good reason can be:

      • A material reward – quite often, you will get paid for doing something you normally don’t like doing at all.
      • Personal gain – you will learn something new or will perhaps improve yourself in a certain way.
      • A feeling of accomplishment – at least you’ll be able to walk away feeling great about finding the motivation and courage to complete such a tedious task.
      • A step closer to your bigger goal – even the biggest accomplishments in history have started small and relied on simple and far less pleasant tasks than you might be working on. Every task you complete brings you closer to the ultimate goal, and acknowledging this always feels good.

      Here’re 9 Types of Motivation That Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams.

      2. Make It Fun

      When it comes to motivation, attitude is everything. Different people may have completely opposite feelings towards the same task: some will hate it, others will love it.

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      Why do you think this happens? It’s simple: some of us find ways to make any task interesting and fun to do!

      Take sports for example. Visiting your local gym daily for a half-an-hour workout session sounds rather boring to some. Yet many others love the idea!

      They like exercising not only because they recognize the good reasons behind it, but simply because it’s fun! At certain time of their daily schedule, they find going to gym to be the best thing to do, simply because nothing else will fit their time and lifestyle so perfectly.

      Depending on how you look at it, you can have fun doing just about anything! Just look for ways of having fun, and you’ll find them!

      A simple approach is to start working on any task by asking yourself a few questions:

      • How can I enjoy this task?
      • What can I do to make this task fun for myself and possibly for others?
      • How can I make this work the best part of my day?

      As long as you learn to have the definite expectation of any task being potentially enjoyable, you will start to feel motivated.

      Some of you will probably think of a thing or two which are valid exceptions from this statement, like something you always hate doing no matter how hard you try making it fun. You’re probably right, and that’s why I don’t claim everything to be fun.

      However, most tasks have a great potential of being enjoyable, and so looking for ways to have fun while working is definitely a good habit to acquire.

      3. Change Your Approach And Don’t Give Up

      When something doesn’t feel right, it’s always a good time to take a moment and look for a different approach for the task.

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      You may be doing everything correctly and most efficiently, but such approach isn’t necessarily the most motivating one. Quite often, you can find a number of obvious tweaks to your current approach which will both change your experience and open up new possibilities.

      That’s why saying “one way or another” is so common — if you really want to accomplish your goal, there is always a way; and most likely, there’s more than one way.

      If a certain approach doesn’t work for you, find another one, and keep trying until you find the one which will both keep you motivated and get you the desired results.

      Some people think that trying a different approach means giving up. They take pride in being really stubborn and refusing to try any other options on their way towards the goal.

      My opinion on this is that the power of focus is great, but you should be focusing on your goal, and not limiting your options by focusing on just one way to accomplish it it.

      4. Recognize Your Progress

      Everything you may be working on can be easily split into smaller parts and stages. For most goals, it is quite natural to split the process of accomplishing them into smaller tasks and milestones. There are a few reasons behind doing this, and one of them is tracking your progress.

      We track our progress automatically with most activities. But to stay motivated, you need to recognize your progress, not merely track it.

      Here’s how tracking and recognizing your progress is different:

      Tracking is merely taking a note of having reached a certain stage in your process. Recognizing is taking time to look at a bigger picture and realize where exactly you are, and how much more you have left to do.

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      For example, if you’re going to read a book, always start by going through the contents table. Getting familiar with chapter titles and memorizing their total number will make it easier for you to recognize your progress as you read. Confirming how many pages your book has before starting it is also a good idea.

      You see, reading any book you will be automatically looking at page numbers and chapter titles, but without knowing the total number of pages, this information will have little meaning.

      Somehow, it is human nature to always want things to happen in short term or even at once. Even though we split complex tasks into simpler actions, we don’t quite feel the satisfaction until all is done and the task is fully complete.

      For many scenarios though, the task is so vast that such approach will drain all the motivation out of you long before you have a chance to reach your goal. That’s why it is important to always take small steps and recognize the positive different and progress made. This is how your motivation can sustain in long term.

      5. Reward Yourself

      This is a trick everyone likes: rewarding yourself is always pleasant. This is also one of the easiest and at the same time most powerful ways to stay motivated!

      Feeling down about doing something? Dread the idea of working on some task? Hate the whole idea of working? You’re not alone.

      Right from the beginning, agree on some deliverables which will justify yourself getting rewarded. As soon as you get one of the agreed results, take time to reward yourself in some way.

      For some tasks, just taking a break and relaxing for a few minutes will do.

      For others, you may want to get a fresh cup of coffee and even treat yourself a dessert.

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      For even bigger and more demanding tasks, reward yourself by doing something even more enjoyable, like going to a cinema or taking a trip to some place nice, or even buying yourself something.

      Your progress may not seem to others like anything worth celebrating but, take time and do it anyway! It is your task and your reward, so any ways to stay motivated are good.

      The more you reward yourself for the honestly made progress, the more motivated you will feel about reaching new milestones, thus finally accomplishing your goal.

      Mix and Match for the Best Effect!

      Now that you have these five ways of staying motivated, it is a good moment to give you the key to them all: mix and match!

      Pick one of the techniques and apply it to your situation. If it doesn’t work, or if you simply want to get more motivated, try another technique right away. Mix different approaches and match them to your task for the best results.

      Just think about it: Finding good reasons to work on your task is bound to helping you feel better; and identifying ways to make it fun will help you enjoy the task even more.

      Or, if you plan a few points for easier tracking of your progress and on top of that, agree on rewarding yourself as you go; this will make you feel most motivated about anything you have to work through.

      More Tips to Boost Your Motivation

      Featured photo credit: Lucas Lenzi via unsplash.com

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