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The 3 Step Plan to Fall Behind in Style

The 3 Step Plan to Fall Behind in Style

    No matter how many self-help and productivity books you read and implement it is inevitable that you will eventually fall behind in your work and life. Falling behind can be a terrible experience; you can lose precious time catching up, stress yourself out, and the worst case being losing your job or money.

    But, you don’t have to be a horrible, unproductive loser when you fall behind in work and life. Follow these three steps to fall behind in style.

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    1. Stick to your system

    First off, falling behind won’t work if you don’t have a productivity system in place. It doesn’t really matter what system you follow, just make sure that you have some sort of framework to fall back on.

    The reason that you need your system when you fall behind is that you need a trusted place to put all of the incoming stuff that you can’t currently handle. Having a place to store this information while you get out of your little (or big) rut is important to keeping yourself somewhat on track. While you work through you projects and tasks backlog, keep all of the incoming information on a someday/maybe list and reevaluate it when you are out of your rut.

    Try very hard not to add more work to your current projects and tasks, unless you absolutely don’t have a choice. If you do have to add more work, then you may need to cut something you are currently working on (more on that in step three).

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    2. Get some backup

    When your work life is falling through the cracks it is almost impossible to get back on track alone. There is nothing better than having someone (or a team of people) to fall back on. I’m not saying that you want to make these people your scapegoats or give them all the work while you sit around and drink your Starbucks. I’m saying that you have to communicate with them and possibly offload work to them.

    Make sure that others that you work with know that you are behind and that you are concentrating on a few things to get back on track. If you are a pretty diligent worker to begin with, your coworkers will understand and most likely will give you a hand, that is, if they aren’t completely backlogged themselves.

    If you have some teammates at work that are really good at something you have to do, maybe you can delegate them some of your work so you can concentrate on the others things that you are better and faster at.

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    3. Revaluate your commitments and cut the fat

    One of the biggest reasons we fall behind in work and life is because we have committed to too many projects and cool ideas. Our minds are filled with glorious plans, ways to make money, killer startups, and projects that “need to be done” or are “no-brainers”.

    The reality of the matter is that we can only commit to so much in our lives. If we overcommit, we not only risk falling behind in our work, we risk completed projects poorly or not at all. This can be more detrimental than the initial stress from falling behind.

    What you can do is fall back on your system (you do have one of those, right?) and look at all of the projects you have committed to. Take the five most important projects and make them the only active ones you have. These will most likely be projects that are overdue or are on the brink of failure. Concentrate on these five projects and only work on them until they are completed. Then you can start to trickle in other “less important” projects.

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    You may find by reevaluating your projects that some of them are not worth your time right now or not worth any time ever. Get rid of them as you see fit. There is no better way to get ahead in work by giving yourself less unimportant work.

    One task at a time

    While getting destroyed by your work projects can be stressful and feel like the world around you is caving in, you don’t have to be a super productivity nerd to get back on track; just someone who is realistic with themselves and can set realistic expectations on their own work. All you have to do is follow these three steps to make falling behind in work and life look easy.

    (Photo credit: Office worker with a sign asking for help via Shutterstock)

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    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

    More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

     

    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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