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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 December 7, 2018

      10 Steps For Success: Applying The Power Of Your Subconscious Mind

      10 Steps For Success: Applying The Power Of Your Subconscious Mind

      How big is the gap between you and your success?

      What is the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people?

      It is as simple as this: successful people think and talk about what they are creating, and unsuccessful people focus on and talk about what they’re lacking.

      So how do you bridge that gap between wanting success and having your success? Let’s make an important distinction. You see, there is a big difference between “Wanting” and “Having” something.

      Wanting: means lacking or absent. Deficient in some part, thing or aspect.

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      Having: means to possess, to hold, to get, to receive, to experience.

      You can have one OR the other, but not both at the same time with any particular object of your desire. You either have it or you don’t.

      When it comes to your subconscious, if you’re focusing on the “wanting”, i.e. the not having, guess what, you will build stronger neural networks in your brain around the “wanting.” However, through the power of your subconscious mind, you can focus on the “having” as if it has already happened. Research has shown that your brain doesn’t know the difference between what you’re visualizing inside your mind versus what is happening out there in your reality.

      This is a regular practice of elite athletes. They spend as much timing creating the internal mental imagery of their success playing out as they do actually physically practicing. This helps create both the neural pathways in their brain and the muscle memory to consistently deliver on that success.

      Here are 10 “brain hack” steps for success that you can take to create your version of a happy life. Make these steps a regular habit, and you will be astonished at the results.

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      Step 1: Decide exactly what you want to create and have

      This is usually the biggest problem that people have. They don’t know what they want and then they’re surprised when they don’t get it.

      Step 2: Write down your goal clearly in every technicolor detail

      A goal that is not written down is merely a wish. When you write it down in full detail, you signal to your subconscious mind that you really want to accomplish this particular goal.

      Step 3: Write your goal in simple, present tense words

      …that a three year old can understand on a three-by-five index card and carry it with you. Read it each morning after you awake and just before you go to sleep.

      Step 4: Backwards planning

      See your goal achieved and identify all the steps required that it took to bring it to life. Making a list of all these steps intensifies your desire and deepens your belief that the attainment of the goal is already happening.

      Step 5: Resolve to take at least one step every day from one of the items on your list

      Do something every day, even if it is just one baby step, that moves you toward your goal so you can maintain your momentum.

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      Step 6: Visualize your goal repeatedly

      See it in your mind’s eye as though it were already a reality. The more clear and vivid your mental picture of your goal, the faster it will come into your life.

      Step 7: Feel the feeling of success as if your goal were realized at this very moment

      Feel the emotion of happiness, satisfaction, and pleasure that you would have once you have achieved your goal. Visualize and feel this success for at least 20 seconds at a time.

      Step 8: “Fake it till you make it!”

      Confidently behave as if your subconscious mind was already bringing your goal into reality. Accept that you are moving toward your goal and it is moving toward you.

      Step 9: Relax your mind

      Take time to breathe, pray or mediate each day. Disengage the stress response and engage the relaxation response. A quiet state of mind allows your brain to access newly formed neural pathways.

      Step 10: Release your goal to your subconscious mind

      When you turn your goal over to the power of the universe and just get out of the way, you will always know the right actions to take at the right time.

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      Starting today, try tapping into the incredible power of your subconscious mind.Start with just one goal or idea, and practice it continually until you succeed in achieving that goal. Make it a game and have fun with it! The more lightly you hold it, the easier it will be to achieve. By doing so, you will move from the “positive thinking” of the hopeful person to the “positive knowing” of the totally successful person.

      Hit reply and let me know what you’re creating!

      To your success!

      Featured photo credit: use-your-brain-markgraf via mrg.bz

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