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Less Thinking, More Doing: Develop the Action Habit Today

Less Thinking, More Doing: Develop the Action Habit Today

“One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.” – Paulo Coelho

Everybody wants advice but nobody wants to do the work. If you cut the time you spend deliberating in half and spent that time actively pursuing what you want, how much farther ahead do you think you’d be? Answer honestly but don’t agonize over it (because “stressing over all that stuff in that past sure made me feel better!” said nobody anywhere ever). Your challenge, should you accept it: Less thinking, more doing. Are you in? If so, check out these 15 ways to develop the action habit.

1. Begin with the end in mind.

Drop your preconceived notions. Forget about what “society” or your friends or your family expect of you. What do you want out of life? What do you want to be remembered for? Be true to yourself and don’t worry about anybody else. Your life is yours and yours alone. It might be helpful to imagine what you think success would look like in a year or two. Begin with that and work backwards to create action steps that will take you from Point A to Point B.

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2. Slow and steady wins the race.

As much as you might want something to be quick-and-easy, life just doesn’t work that way. If you run into this adventure with guns blazing, odds are you’ll find yourself in an insurmountable state of overwhelm. If you want this, start training your patience muscles because you’ll need them (trust me).

3. Break your Big Goal into baby goals.

You know what’s super discouraging? Goals so incredibly ambitious that success is like a mirage in the desert because no matter how much you move forward, you can’t help feeling like you haven’t made any visible progress. Don’t aim for 50 lbs; just lose the first 5. If you want to write a play that rivals Shakespearean tragedies, how about beginning with full focus on the first act?

4. Celebrate every minor victory.

Baby goals are great for your esteem because they offer a constant stream of positive feedback that will make you feel happy, encouraged, and productive. I don’t know about you, but I think it would be more fun to perform 20 touchdown dances than just 1.

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5. Keep your eye on the prize.

Inspiration is a fleeting thing. The temptation to quit will become overwhelming, but to stay on track, remind yourself of why you want to achieve your goal in the first place. The daily grind has a way of making us lose sight of our priorities.

6. Learn from the best and brightest…

Believe it or not, you’re not alone. I’m willing to wager that people in this world are doing or have done the very thing you want to do. Read their books and blogs to learn what worked for them (and save yourself some trouble). Why reinvent the wheel when a brief remodeling will do?

7. …but stay true to you.

Do look for outside inspiration that will point you in the right direction but do not become a mere clone of another person. The reek of phoniness is so foul that it cannot be hidden (and nobody likes a rip-off).

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8. Be ready to make sacrifices.

What’s more important: success or recreation? This isn’t to say you can’t have both, but action takers strive for a healthy balance between the two. Close your door so you can get work done. Roomies too much to handle? Go to a coffee shop or park bench with your notebook or laptop. Turn down the occasional invitation to a bar or restaurant if you’re in the process of flexing your hustle muscle.

9. Watch out for time bandits.

Time flies when you’re on the internet. Have you ever logged on to Facebook, Pinterest, or Reddit and told yourself you would only spend a “little while” there, but the next time you looked at the clock it was 2 or 3 hours later? Also, put down your phone. Those little 5-minute Facebook excursions can add up in a hurry. For the sake of example: If you check your Facebook 5 times a day for 5 minutes per log-in on 5 days per week, you are burning 2 hours per week.

10. Efficiency is your friend.

Strapped for time? Cook in bulk. Choose the least busy day of the week, gather your groceries, and knock-out 5-7 days of meals in a single shot. My favorite bulk-cook dishes: spaghetti with lean beef, grilled chicken salad and stir fry with white rice, tuna, corn, peas, and carrots (try this with a squeeze of lemon: you won’t be sorry).

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11. Find an accountability team.

The best friends are the ones who don’t belittle you but at the same time don’t allow you to settle for anything less than your best. Make friends with people in your field via networking events like your area Chamber of Commerce or online support groups on LinkedIn.

12. Know when to walk away.

Who says you need to work until you find yourself in a comatose state? Working beyond the brink of exhaustion is counterproductive. Not only will your work past this point be subpar, but you’ll also run the risk of creating an association with your work and misery. The best work comes from a place of love and happiness. If you’re not feeling it, take the dog for a walk, catch up with some friends, take a vacation, or do something (anything!) else.

13. There is always time for fun.

Yes, you do have to make sacrifices if you desire success. No, this doesn’t mean you can’t have fun on occasion. Life isn’t meant to be devoid of fun and play. Your hard work won’t vanish during your escape; on the contrary, you’ll come back with re-charged drive and ambition.

14. Evolve as much as necessary.

Stubbornly clinging to past beliefs that were dead-wrong will sink your odds of success faster than you can say “dummkopf.” Be ready for failure, but don’t stress about it (because it’s just a learning opportunity). Brace yourself for the realization that no, you don’t have it all figured out (a fact that life will rub in your face over and over again). Sound nasty? It really isn’t. The only way to evolve is through trial and error. Keep on improving and your odds of acheiving will get better and better with every failure.

15. Go do something.

What follows is the action habit to end all action habits: All of the self-help articles in the world can’t save you if you never take action. Every time you read a book or article like this, immediately apply something from it (no matter how big or small). How are you going to apply this today?

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Daniel Wallen

Freelance Writer

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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