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How Massive Action Can Cause Epic Failure

How Massive Action Can Cause Epic Failure

    There comes a point where you just become dissatisfied with something in your life.

    Maybe it’s that growing spare tire that hangs over your belt. Maybe it’s that cluttered desk that’s quickly becoming a quagmire of misplaced objects. Or maybe it’s the fact that you’re spending another Friday night at home alone.

    Everyone has their own goals in life.

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    Usually when we start to work toward a goal, we try to make some sort of dramatic and sweeping change.

    We’ll vow to exercise every day and to adhere to an extreme diet. We might spend an entire weekend de-cluttering everything. Or we might decide to go to a social event and make a point to have a conversation with every person there.

    Radical and sweeping changes make us feel like we are making progress toward something. We feel like we’re shaking things up and changing our lives for the better overnight.

    However, they rarely last.

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    Why Massive Action Sets the Stage for Failure

    We all have a certain inertia that helped us originally get to this dissatisfying point in our lives. A collection of habits and beliefs accumulate and result in that extra weight, the messy house, or the lack of friends.

    Doing something big and dramatic might make you feel better — and it might get you a bit of instant gratification. But rarely does this massive action overcome the inertia.

    Slowly the diet becomes filled with “just the occasional” trip to the drive-thru. The organization system becomes sidelined because you “just don’t have enough time” to file those papers right now. Or the bold steps to make more friends become bogged down because you’re “having a bad day” and can’t be bothered to make small talk.

    Before you know it, you’re right back to where you started. And you’re probably kicking yourself as well, thinking that you just don’t have what it takes.

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    So if huge dramatic efforts don’t always help make lasting change, what is an alternative?

    Take the Smallest Action

    This idea is popularly known as Kaizen, a Japanese term that advocates continuous improvement through very small changes.

    Small actions may also be less intimidating than committing to a huge heroic effort that often leaves you less productive. They meet with less internal resistance because they are so easy and painless. Small actions don’t conjure up feelings of dread at the thought of giving up your favorite guilty pleasures or condemning yourself to perpetually doing something makes you uncomfortable.

    So, you might throw out one bite of an unhealthy meal before eating it to lose weight. You might take one misplaced object on your desk each day and put it where it belongs. Or you might make eye contact with one stranger every day.

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    How Smaller Actions Have a Bigger Impact

    These steps may not seem like they would make much of an impact, but they can start to dissolve the habits and beliefs that got you into trouble in the first place. You can start to practice better portion control by not eating on everything on your plate. You can begin to make organization a habit by doing a small amount of cleaning every day. Or you can get used to interacting with people in a small way to overcome the initial resistance.

    And gently changing the beliefs and habits that got you into trouble in the first place is going to have a much bigger impact than trying to push against them and blast through them.

    I’ve used small actions to help me reach goals in the past, and what I’ve discovered is that they can erode initial resistance and help to change habits and beliefs in a way that massive actions sometimes cannot.

    If you’ve failed at reaching your goals by taking large actions, only to find procrastination, fear, or self-sabotage creeping in then maybe you should consider taking small actions instead.

    What’s one small action you could take today?

    (Photo credit: Fun 3D Image via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on October 22, 2019

    How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

    How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

    We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

    With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

    So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

    1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

    Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

    So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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    You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

    If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

    Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

    2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

    Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

    Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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    Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

    Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

    3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

    If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

    This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

    Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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    When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

    If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

    Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

    4. Get up and Move

    We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

    When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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    If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

    Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

    It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

    Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

    The Bottom Line

    It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

    Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

    More Resources About Boosting Focus and Productivity

    Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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