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Reaching Your Goals – Dutch Style

Reaching Your Goals – Dutch Style

    The famous ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ are upon us again, and those of us jaded enough to realize all our previous year’s failures may not even bother anymore. This is not a good strategy either, as it promotes fewer goals and dreams. It’s good to know the difference between a reasonable new year’s resolution – which is more like a goal – and one that is just plain silly: if you are 100 pounds overweight, you should probably not decide to run the marathon this year.

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    When you look at history, the Dutch have come quite far. Among them we have world famous painters, artists, explorers, and scientists. Can we learn a little something from the Dutch when it comes to reaching our goals? I think so…

    “Don’t Think, But Do”

    In Dutch there is a saying that goes: “Niet denken maar doen”, it means “Don’t think, but do.” Although it can be hard, it is this simple phrase that can get me through my most unmotivated moments. Whenever I have a long to-do list, and for some reason even the simplest task seems too daunting to tackle, I just try to stop thinking all together and start doing.

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    Easier said than done, you may think? Sure, but just give it a try. Often we are so busy finding reasons why we can’t (or don’t) do something, we spend more energy and time than we would just doing it.

    “He who isn’t fast, has to be smart”

    This is another famous Dutch saying. Because I grew up in Holland, I know all these little no-nonsense tricks in Dutch. This one is originally: “Wie niet snel is moet slim zijn.”

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    I’m sure a similar saying exists in English and most other languages, but few people really realize how true it is. If you know you have a weakness, you have to find a hack to get around it. Compensation, if you will, would be a good way to describe putting this old truth into action. If you know you are poor at organizing, go shopping for the easiest filing tools that will force you to be more organized. People who don’t have time to read books can listen to audiobooks while commuting. There are endless examples for this concept, and all it takes is just a tiny bit of creativity.

    “Procrastination leads to cancellation”

    Although this phrase is very loosely translated from “van uitstel komt afstel” in Dutch, the meaning is entirely preserved. It is one of my favorites, because it also happens to be true. How many times did you delay a task, just to basically fail to finish it altogether? Usually, I procrastinate with tasks that are important. This has come back to bite me more than once, often leading to missing a deadline to sign up for something.

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    The only way to reach your goals is to set reasonable sub-goals and tackle those as soon as you can. This goes back to the first saying. When we allow ourselves too much time to think about an unpleasant task, we are less and less inclined to actually get ourselves into gear and just do it.

    Why learn from the Dutch?

    Aside from the fact I am Dutch, and this is my first post on Lifehack (so you might as well find out a little bit about me), the Dutch are a very no-nonsense and unforgiving society that will always tell you things just the way they are. If a Dutch person thinks you are a bit lazy, you’re more than likely to hear it out loud. Is it a bad thing? Not always… we definitely get the job done.

    Most importantly, and many people can learn from this, the Dutch have a “can-do” attitude and don’t easily make excuses. If you don’t reach a goal, you shouldn’t blame the weather, your job, or your health. Just do it, you are the only one responsible for your success.

    On this note: Happy new year, and good luck reaching all your hopes and dreams for 2009!

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    Last Updated on September 17, 2018

    How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

    How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

    Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

    Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

    All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

    Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

    How bad really is multitasking?

    It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

    Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

    This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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    We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

    So what to do about it?

    Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

    Now, forget about how to multitask!

    Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

    1. Get enough rest

    When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

    This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

    When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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    2. Plan your day

    When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

    When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

    Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

    3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

    I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

    I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

    Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

    4. When at your desk, do work

    We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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    Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

    5. Learn to say no

    Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

    Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

    By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

    6. Turn off notifications on your computer

    For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

    Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

    7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

    Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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    You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

    The bottom line

    Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

    Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

    Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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