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The Art of How to Make Progress

The Art of How to Make Progress

Have you noticed how knowing how to make progress is one of those things that only seems massively important when you’re not making progress?

The stinger is that being able to get that feeling of making progress is so essential to motivating ourselves to keep going. Without it, we feel stuck and get frustrated very easily. We lose hope. We give up. We don’t see the point in trying, if we’re not going anywhere.

In fact, being able to make progress is essential to feeling like you’re living a kick-ass, meaningful life.

Without it, you will certainly slip into negative thinking, questioning what it’s all for, and why should you bother. Feeling stuck is just a natural consequence of not triggering that feeling of progress.

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The good news is you don’t have to light up the world to turn it all around (even though this is precisely what most movers and shakers try to do!)

If you’re a go-getter, I KNOW you’ve been there before.

How do I know?

Because this is a common problem experienced by people who have big dreams, and a desire to go out and set the world alight. It’s not something experienced by people without vision or ambition.

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Unraveling the Go-Getters’ ‘Stuckness’

I’ve worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs, and the most common block that talented people come up against is trying to do everything, all at once. Even if they don’t intend to actually do everything in one go, they still try to see that track they’re going to run on.

The way to overcome this is both simple and sophisticated.

Let me explain.

It’s simple in that you have to take the first obvious step forward to be able to make progress. Don’t try and make it complicated or too involved. Imagine you’re hitting a golf ball… you don’t want to be whacking it all around the course. Just put it as close to the hole as you possibly can.

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It’s also simple in that you need to know where you’re going and keep in mind that bigger outcome you’re shooting for. Paint that picture of where you want to get to in your mind’s eye: even if it’s something like finishing the paperwork clogging up your desk, or getting the kitchen cleared up. Visualize the end result – the task finished.

Right, now here’s where it gets sophisticated.

You need to keep your eye on both of these things at the same time: the end goal, and the simple, direct baby steps.

Take your eye off the baby steps, and you get mentally absorbed into a candy-land dream that will never materialist. Take your eye off the big picture, and you get trapped in the long grass of minutia.

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Every Journey Begins With A First Step

With that in mind, here is the step-by-step process to making effective progress quickly:

  1. Get clear on where you want to end up. See the end goal – and sure, plan this end result in lots of detail.
  2. Now chunk back and decide what is the most obvious first thing you need to do.
  3. Take the first obvious step, holding in mind the big picture, i.e. where you want to end up.
  4. When you’ve done that, take the next step.
  5. Only ever plan the next two or three steps down the way.

Between Minutia and Candy Land

The road to real, tangible, jaw-dropping, tummy-turning progress lies slap-bang between those two worlds. You need to walk with one foot in each, and divide your attention between each on a daily basis, to really take the straightest path to where you need to go.

It works beautifully if you have an idea of what you want to create and where you want to end up. Sure, you can imagine and visualize all the detail in that end result… but trying to map in the same detail *how* you’re going to get there is flat out going to mess you up.

Name Your Candy Land

I’m curious to see what you’re shooting for. Leave me a comment, and describe your big vision – that ultimate goal you’re going to work towards.

Movers and shakers make things happen by getting clear on where they’re going, and then using the process described above.

That’s it! Go ahead and leave a comment sharing your ultimate vision for what you want to create.

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind.

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

2. Keep certain days clear.

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work.

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time.

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position.

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

7. Don’t try to do too much.

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan.

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first.

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work.

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour.

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

14. Never stop.

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body.

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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