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Increase Your Motivation by Framing Tasks

Increase Your Motivation by Framing Tasks

    In Getting Things Done methodology and most other personal productivity systems, dividing projects and large tasks into the smallest tasks divisible is considered a basic, fundamental concept. These systems tell us to divide a task into individual actions until we get close to a point where we can’t break things down into any further actions.

    The point is to focus the brain on something small enough to tackle right away. When we write up our task lists and throw in a fairly large task or project, we’re all prone to procrastinating on the task because they haven’t been defined closely enough and we’re unsure of where to start. This concept takes care of that problem and allows us to rapidly focus and begin working right away, as opposed to beginnning after lengthy, obtuse and inefficient thought processes in an attempt to digest the topic.

    However, it does have an ill side effect. Focusing in on individual actions can increase the mental distance between what we’re doing right now and what the end result is meant to be. When the end result, the goal, is obscured, motivation quickly falls because—subconsciously or not—there doesn’t seem to be a point to acting anymore.

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    Of course, the benefits to breaking tasks down into actions outweigh the disadvantages. Firstly, the motivation drain caused by focusing on small actions is far less detrimental than the motivation drain caused by trying to focus on too large or “impossible” of a task. Don’t get me wrong and assume that it’s best to focus entirely on large tasks, because it’s not—if anything, focusing too small is best. But more importantly, it’s impossible to fix the problems with focusing on too large of an area without breaking it all down—once we’ve broken our projects down, the fixes for the resulting issues are actually pretty easy.

    After all, we started breaking things down to solve the problem with tasks that are too big.

    Where Does the Problem Begin?

    The problem doesn’t begin in the project planning phase. Most often, we’ll format them something like this:

    Important Project Name

    1. Important action one

    2. Important action two

    3. Important action three

    So, as you’re preparing the project itself you’re reminded of the end goal at all times because the name of the project’s right there at the top of the list, and obviously, because the project itself is what you’re thinking of—and specifically, which actions are required to move towards that end goal.

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    The problem begins when you feed projects into your system and take actions from several projects to form a daily task list. The context of the list changes from individual projects and over to the general scope of things that need to be achieved in a day. The end result context is thus lost and here is where we can lose sight of the goal. We lose sight of the motivating factor, which is not just a factor in our own procrastination, but the quality of the end product as well.

    Most task management software with a Next viewpane works pretty well. In Things, the Next tasks for each project are grouped and listed under the project names themselves. You can see this in action here (I am not really organizing a shindig and nor am I writing a book on dung beetles):

      But when you go to create your daily task list, everything changes. You lose the specific framing of each task and they form one amalgamated list.

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      Now, you could use a similar format to the Things Next pane, but then you’d be restricting the order of the tasks and also using up more vertical space on the paper. In past articles on the topic, I’ve mentioned that while I don’t mind filling up horizontal space on my daily task lists, I like keeping a bit of vertical space so the page doesn’t fill up too much and become too confusing to work with. You don’t want to think about your task list much once it has been created; you just want it to guide your day. Having to read it closely line-by-line just because you’ve packed too much in there is thinking about it too much.

      The Solution I’m Trialling

      My solution, which I’ve been trialling for the past week, has been to add another vertical column and indicate the project an action belongs to just next to the task description itself. I try to abbreviate it and ensure that most of the focus of attention on each line remains with the task itself, but it’s important to make those abbreviations meaningful. You don’t want to find yourself going, “What did this code refer to again?” That defeats the whole point.

      It has been a week and I’ve found that I’m looking at each task more as a part of a whole leading to a goal rather than individual tasks that were preset during my weekly review. It feels a lot less like going through the daily motions of getting things done and more like working towards meaningful ends. I’m not actually working on anything more or less meaningful—it’s all in the way you think about these things—but it does seem to be helping with motivation. One can’t quantify this sort of thing, but it’s working for me.

      However, while I’ve found a method of framing tasks within projects that works, I’m not sure I’ve found the best, most efficient way to do this. It has only been through a week’s trial, after all! Do you do anything similar to keep yourself motivated about the end goal when projects start getting a little too action-oriented? I’d love to hear about your techniques and thoughts in the comments.

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      Last Updated on August 15, 2018

      25 Most Useful Excel Shortcuts That Very Few People Know

      25 Most Useful Excel Shortcuts That Very Few People Know

      Imagine if you could use 5 simple shortcuts while working in Excel, and increase your productivity without wasting time for searching information in huge tables, writing long formulas, and sorting the data.

      Or even better:

      What if you would get 25 useful shortcuts… and each of them could simplify your work, so you could do much more every day?

      You’d definitely feel excited to read about them.

      Today is your lucky day because we are going to share with you in this article 25 great Excel shortcuts you can use in your work every day! This is your lucky chance, so go ahead and become a real professional in Excel without wasting your time.

      How important are Excel shortcuts for you?

      The most effective thing to check out if people really need something is to release a survey and look at the results. So, according to the anonymous survey, 99% of people said Excel shortcuts are critical or important for them.

      In general, there are more than 200 shortcuts in Excel. But when we have analyzed the data about how many shortcuts people know, we got the next results:

      • 26% of people know 10 or fewer shortcuts;
      • 61% of people know 10-50 shortcuts;
      • 10% of people know 50-100 shortcuts.

      As you can see, not so many people know a lot of shortcuts. Probably, some of them never think about increasing their productivity in such a simple way.

      Of course, it depends on how deep you use Excel. Some people use this powerful application just for making simple tables or graphs, others use it for everyday work to count something.

      Most of the accountants and businessmen use much more Excel functions for more complex tasks such as creating VBA macros, managing PivotTables, recalculating huge workbooks, outlining data, etc.

      But even those people who work with Excel every day very close may know a few shortcuts. Needless to say, they can do their job without shortcuts, but it usually takes for them much more time. T

      his sounds not funny, especially if you must finish a huge amount of work urgently. There is a great opportunity for you to increase your productivity in Excel and do your job faster with our useful shortcuts.

      5 Main reasons to learn excel shortcuts

      Many people don’t understand why they should use shortcuts if they can work without them. Of course, if you use Excel twice per year to make a simple table or a graph, it is probably not so important for you to know many shortcuts.

      But if you work in Excel every day, sorting huge tables and managing with tons of data, then shortcuts will help you to reach the next five goals:

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      1. Work efficiently and faster in Excel
      2. Manage big amounts of data easily and fast
      3. Stay calm and concentrated even while doing a tedious job
      4. Make your work accurately and properly without errors
      5. Get a better understanding of Microsoft Excel

      Who can use Excel shortcuts?

      There are a lot of people who can simplify their life with Excel shortcuts, and here are the groups that will definitely love using them:

      • People who work in banks, finance organizations, etc.
      • Businessmen who make tons of various reports and presentations in Excel for meetings and briefings.
      • Students who usually are lazy and impatient to make their homework because they don’t want to waste a lot of time working in Excel.
      • Private entrepreneurs who keep various data in Excel tables.

      Whether you are a student who hates Excel because it seems a time-wasting and boring application, or you are an accountant who must recalculate huge worksheets every day without making errors, we recommend reading and learning these Excel shortcuts to make your work simpler and save some time.

      With these simple but useful tricks, it is so easy to finish your job and get more time for yourself.

      25 Excel shortcuts to increase your productivity

      Here are 25 great Excel shortcuts you should learn and use for work or studying to make your job faster and simpler. Try to use them all and you will realize you were totally blind before while working in Excel:

      1. Format whatever object fast with Ctrl+1

      If you select any object in Excel – a cell, a chart, a chart axis, a drawing object – then press Ctrl+1, and you will get the Properties dialog for the certain object. This shortcut offers a very quick and easy way to format whatever object you’re working with.

      2. Use range names with Ctrol+G or F5 key

      If you use range names (which we strongly recommend to do) and you want to choose the range with a specific name references, press either Ctrl+G or the F5 key, which launches the GoTo dialog.

      If the name is simple, you can click on it in a list in that dialog. But if it’s at all unusual, Excel won’t list it; so you will need to type in the name. Then press OK.

      3. Use a range name in a formula with =sum( and F3

      Suppose you want to use a range name in a formula. For example, you want to sum the Sales range. Enter…

      =sum(

      …and then press F3.

      When you do so, Excel launches the Paste Name dialog. Just choose “Sales” from the list, press the OK button in the dialog, then enter the SUM function’s closing “)” to complete the formula.

      4. Launch Function Arguments dialog easily with Ctrl+A

      Suppose you want to check the help topic for a worksheet function. For example, you want to read about the MATCH function. In a cell, type…

      =match(

      …and then press Ctrl+A, or click the Insert Function (“fx“) button to the left of the formula bar.

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      When you do so, Excel displays the Function Arguments dialog, which might offer all the help you need.

      But if you still want to see the complete help topic, click the blue “Help on this function” hyperlink in the lower-left corner of the dialog. This technique works with all documented Excel functions.

      5. Copy stuff down the column without scrolling with Ctrl+D

      If you added a formula in a new column on the right of a huge dataset, and you want to copy that formula down without scrolling, do these steps:

      • go to the right to the column that has data (the column to the left of the new column with the formula);
      • press Ctrl+Down – to get to bottom;
      • move one cell to the right (with arrow key naturally);
      • press Ctrl+Shift+Up to select the new column, at the top of which is the formula you just created;
      • press Ctrl+D to fill down the formula.

      6. Quick access to any function with Alt+

      By customizing the quick access toolbar, you can create simple shortcuts to commands that you would otherwise have to find in the Ribbon tabs, or macros you have created yourself.

      The keyboard shortcut is simply selecting Alt+ (the number of the command you wish to select).

      For example, if you have customized your quick access toolbar to have Calc Sheet, Save, Open. To calculate sheet you would hit Alt+1, for save Alt+2, and for open Alt+3.

      A lot of people are unaware of this useful function, and it’s a great time saver.

      7. Format cells with Ctrl+1

      When you need to format cells, use Ctrl+1. Most people know this as the shortcut for the Format Cells dialog, but you can also use it to format almost anything in Excel, without a care about the state of the ribbon. Try this amazing and simple shortcut!

      8. Choose visible cells with Alt+

      When you need to choose visible cells only – use Alt+. This is the trick to copy only what you see. It is a priceless shortcut when you’re manually hiding rows and columns in the table.

      9. Use filtering

      Filtering – it is a powerful way to slice, dice, and sort through a huge table of information.

      It’s amazingly effective when you’re participating in a meeting to discuss something like a sales forecast, and everyone is looking in real-time at your spreadsheet projected on a screen (or on their monitors).

      To some people, you will be seen as the God of Spreadsheets, and this is not a joke!

      10. Insert or delete column/row easily with the Ctrl key

      Some people waste a lot of time even for simple operations, for example, when they need to insert/delete columns and rows in Excel.

      Use this shortcut to insert: with an entire row or column selected, use Ctrl+Shift ++.

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      To delete: with an entire row or column selected, use Ctrl + –.

      11. See formula results with F9

      If you want to check formula results within multiple formulas, highlight the formula and select F9 to see formula result.

      Don’t forget to undo before exiting the formula.

      12. Use ALT+Enter for more text within a cell

      If you want to add a second line of text within a cell, use ALT+Enter.

      13. Use EDATE to move a date on by a full calendar month:

      Here’s how to use EDATE:

      =EDATE(15/01/16,+1) = 15/02/2016 (15th Feb 2016)

      =EDATE (15/01/2016,-2) = 15/11/2015 (15th Nov 2016)

      14. Use EOMONTH to move a date onto the end of the month:

      Here’s how to use EMONTH:

      =EOMONTH(15/01/2016,0) = 31/01/2016 (31st Jan 2106)

      =EOMONTH (15/01/2016,-2) = 30/11/2015 (30th Nov 2015)

      15. Remove spaces with TRIM

      TRIM is a useful function known by few people. It removes any spaces at the beginning of a value. This is useful if you are pulling in values from somewhere else.

      16. Repeat commands with F4 or Ctrl+Y

      In many cases, you may need to repeat your last action. Use F4 or Ctrl+Y; you can repeat many commands like applying the same borders, format, or insert a worksheet again.

      17. Quick access to cells with the Ctrl key and Shift key

      When you need to go to the first or last cell of a worksheet, no matter where you are, use Ctrl+Home, Ctrl+End combinations.

      And here is a pleasant bonus for you: add the Shift key to select everything on the way!

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      18. Use Ctrl+ to create a timestamp

      If you need a date stamp and/or a timestamp in your document, there is no need to type a date and time! Use shortcuts Ctrl+ ; (date) Ctrl+Shift+ : (time). It works like a magic and helps to save your time and nerves.

      19. Use autosum shortcut for sum function anywhere

      Autosum shortcut – use Alt =. It is a “magic” shortcut of Excel to automatically insert a sum function.

      You can use this shortcut to sum rows, columns, or even an entire table in one step without wasting your time.

      20. Use data validation

      This is an amazing but underutilized tool in Excel, which can be used for a variety of things:

      • Create dependent drop-down lists;
      • Create drop-down lists;
      • Protect/restrict data input of specific cells (without the need for VBA macros).

      21. Use conditional formatting

      It can be used for various purposes such as color format or cell format of cells, rows or columns based on dependent cell values or formats.

      22. Use formula auditing

      This is a great tool to analyze and trace precedent or dependent cells, check errors and evaluate formulas.

      The “Watch Window” is a feature to keep a snapshot of an area of the spreadsheet, and then move to another area of the workbook – particularly valuable if you’re managing large spreadsheets or don’t have a second screen.

      23. Use Scenario Manager to generate summary outputs of a spreadsheet

      Scenario Manager (under “What-if Analysis”) enables users to generate high-level, summary outputs of a spreadsheet – without the need to replicate the entire workbook.

      It will present multiple scenarios of a spreadsheet in a succinct, high-level summary worksheet.

      24. Use INDIRECT to set up large tables

      INDIRECT makes it easy to set up tables which reference larger tables without a lot of referencing work or cutting and pasting; especially for dynamic spreadsheets.

      25. Use OFFSET for complicated calculations or formulas

      OFFSET can be useful for things like calculating YTD numbers or creating formulas that take data in rows and using in columns.

      The bottom line

      As you can see, when you have a boring or tedious job to do, the best way to do it fast is not looking for a way how to avoid it, but searching for the shortest variant to do it!

      That is why we suggest keeping in mind these Excel shortcuts that will help you to save a lot of time and nerves.

      If it seems hard for you to remember all them, you can print out the list of shortcuts and keep it on your worktable. Use it to search for some help when you need it, and over time, you’ll remember all shortcuts easily.

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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