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Enhance Productivity and Stop Over-Thinking: 3 Quick Ways to Get out of Your Own Way

Enhance Productivity and Stop Over-Thinking: 3 Quick Ways to Get out of Your Own Way

Concerned about your productivity? If your to-do list stresses you, consider that you might be more productive if you don’t get in your own way. Worrying and over-thinking your task list decreases your effectiveness and wastes time.

Eliminating over-thinking begins with careful planning. Commit to spending ten minutes a day planning your daily tasks, either the evening before, or first thing in the morning.

During your planning session, prioritize your tasks for the day into three groups: Must Do Today, Do If I Have Time, and Do Later.

Aim for just three to six tasks you MUST do today.

Next, experiment with the following processes.

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1. Describe the project, then chunk your tasks down.

Stress and over-thinking develop if you’re not clear on what a project or task entails. When you’re given a new assignment or project brief, describe it in your own words and write down your description.

Then contact the person who assigned the task, and ask them whether you’ve covered everything: “Just to be clear, I need to_____ (describe the project in your own words.)”

Although this tactic is simple, it works. When both you and the project assigner know what you’re doing not only will you eliminate procrastination, you’ll zoom through tasks faster.

Is it a project, or a task? Chunk it down.

If you’ve been procrastinating on a project, think about your reasons.

Do you have all the information you need?

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Have you chunked the project down into tasks, and those tasks into sub-tasks? “Writing a book” for example is a huge project. Chunk down once, and then again, and again.

I like to chunk projects down so that no task takes longer than 20 minutes to half an hour. It’s hugely satisfying to tick off tasks in a big project because you’re assured that you’re making progress. You’re confident, so you’re eager to get to the next task, and the next one after that.

When you get stuck on a project or task, allow your subconscious mind to help.

Albert Einstein said that: “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Let your subconscious mind do the work if you’re stuck. A flash of insight for a solution which allows you to move forward will dawn on you. I get my best inspirations when I’m walking my dog; some people get them in the bath or shower.

2. Give yourself half the time you think you’ll need for a project.

Although this tactic sounds weird, it works. It stops you over-thinking, and getting in your own way.

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When you’re assigned a project, estimate the time you’ll need. Then cut the time in half.

For example, let’s say that you’re asked to create a presentation which you’ll deliver at an upcoming meeting. You need time to research, create the presentation, and rehearse it.

You estimate the project will take you six hours. Give yourself three hours.

Although this is a fake deadline, you’ll be amazed at the results. Clever time-saving ideas will come to you, and you may find that you deliver better results when you work faster.

3. Time everything: time really is money.

Get a timer, and use it. I use Repeat Timer Pro on my iPhone and iPad.

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Repeat Timer Pro

    Use your timer for everything. If you’re dealing with email, and you estimate you’ll need 90 minutes to clear your Inbox for example, give yourself 45 minutes, and set your timer. You’ll hesitate less. You’ll delete with abandon.

    Tip: create boilerplate text for email, and then use a text-expanding app, so you can type an abbreviation which expands into a complete message. I use TextExpander on my Mac. If you’re on Windows, I’ve heard good things about Breevy.

    Try the three tactics: describe your projects and chunk them down. Then give yourself a fake deadline–see if you can get it done in half the time. And finally, time everything.

    You’ll be more productive, and happier too, when you stop over-thinking.

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    Last Updated on May 20, 2019

    How to Prevent Inaction from Leading to Regret

    How to Prevent Inaction from Leading to Regret

    Time.

    When you think of this construct, where do you see your time being spent?

    As William Shakespeare famously wrote “I wasted time, and now doth time waste me…”

    Have you used your time wisely? Are you where you want to be?

    Or do you have unfinished goals to attain… places you want to be, things you still need to do?

    The hard truth is, that time once passed cannot be replaced–which is why it is common to hear people say that one should not squander time doing nothing, or delay certain decisions for later. More often than not, the biggest blocker from reaching our goals is often inaction – which is essentially doing nothing, rather than doing something. 

    There are many reasons why we may not do something. Most often it boils down to adequate time. We may feel we don’t have enough time, or that it’s never quite the right time to pursue our goals.

    Maybe next month, or maybe next year…

    And, before you know it, the time has passed and you’re still no where near achieving those goals you dream about. This inaction often leads to strong regret once we look at the situation through hindsight. So, take some time now to reflect on any goal(s) you may have in mind, or hidden at the back of your mind; and, think about how you can truly start working on them now, and not later.

    So, how do you start?

    Figure Out Your Purpose (Your Main Goal)


    The first important step is to figure out your purpose, or your main goal.

    What is it that you’re after in life? And, are there any barriers preventing you from reaching your goal? These are good questions to ask when it comes to figuring out how (and for what purpose) you are spending your time.

    Your purpose will guide you, and it will ensure your time spent is within the bounds of what you actually want to accomplish.

    A good amount of research has been done on how we as humans develop and embrace long-term and highly meaningful goals in our lives. So much so, that having a purpose has connections to reduced stroke, and heart attack. It turns out, our desire to accomplish goals actually has an evolutionary connection–especially goals with a greater purpose to them. This is because a greater purpose often helps both the individual, and our species as a whole, survive.

    Knowing why it is you’re doing something is important; and, when you do, it will be easier to budget your time and effort into pursuing after those milestones or tasks that will lead to the accomplishment of your main goal.

    Assess Your Current Time Spent

    Next comes the actual time usage. Once you know what your main goal is, you’ll want to make the most of the time you have now. It’s good to know how you’re currently spending your time, so that you can start making improvements and easily assess what can stay and what can go in your day to day routine.

    For just one day, ideally on a day when you’d like to be more productive, I encourage you to record a time journal, down to the quarter hour if you can manage. You may be quite surprised at how little things—such as checking social media, answering emails that could wait, or idling at the water cooler or office pantry —can add up to a lot of wasted time.

    To get you started, I recommend you check out this quick self assessment to assess your current productivity: Want To Know How Much You’re Getting Done In A Day?

    Tricks to Tackle Distractions

    Once you’ve assessed how you’re currently spending your time, I hope you won’t be in for too big of a shock when you see just how big of an impact distractions and time wasters are in your life.

    Every time your mind wanders from your work, it takes an average of 25 minutes and 26 seconds to get into focus again. That’s almost half an hour of precious time every time you entertain a distraction!

    Which is why it’s important to learn how to focus, and tackle distractions effectively. Here’s how to do it:

    1. Set Time Aside for Focusing

    One way to stay focused is to set focused sessions for yourself. During a focused session, you should let people know that you won’t be responding unless it’s a real emergency.

    Set your messaging apps and shared calendars as “busy” to reduce interruptions. Think of these sessions as one on one time with yourself so that you can truly focus on what’s important, without external distractions coming your way.

    2. Beware of Emails

    Emails may sound harmless, but they can come into our inbox continuously throughout the day, and it’s tempting to respond to them as we receive them. Especially if you’re one to check your notifications frequently.

    Instead of checking them every time a new notification sounds, set a specific time to deal with your emails at one go. This will no doubt increase your productivity as you’re dealing with emails one after the other, rather than interrupting your focus on another project each time an email comes in.

    Besides switching off your email notifications so as not to get distracted, you could also install a Chrome extension called Block Site that helps to stop Gmail notifications coming through at specific times, making it easier for you to manage these subtle daily distractions.

    3. Let Technology Help

    As much as we are getting increasingly distracted because of technology, we can’t deny it’s many advantages. So instead of feeling controlled by technology, why not make use of disabling options that the devices offer?

    Turn off email alerts, app notifications, or set your phone to go straight to voicemail and even create auto-responses to incoming text messages. There are also apps like Forrest that help to increase your productivity by rewarding you each time you focus well, which encourages you to ignore your phone.

    4. Schedule Time to Get Distracted

    Just as important as scheduling focus time, is scheduling break times. Balance is always key, so when you start scheduling focused sessions, you should also intentionally pen down some break time slots for your mind to relax.

    This is because the brain isn’t created to sustain long periods of focus and concentration. The average attention span for an adult is between 15 and 40 minutes. After this time, your likelihood of distractions get stronger and you’ll become less motivated.

    So while taking a mental break might seem unproductive, in the long run it makes your brain work more efficiently, and you’ll end up getting more work done overall.

    Time is in Your Hands

    At the end of the day, we all have a certain amount of time to go all out to pursue our heart’s desires. Whatever your goals are, the time you have now, is in your hands to make them come true.

    You simply need to start somewhere, instead of allowing inaction waste your time away, leaving you with regret later on. With a main goal or purpose in mind, you can be on the right track to attaining your desired outcomes.

    Being aware of how you spend your time and learning how to tackle common distractions can help boost you forward in completing what’s necessary to reach your most desired goals.

    So what are you waiting for? 

    Featured photo credit: Aron Visuals via unsplash.com

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