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Do You Do This Common Mistake When You Start Working on Your Tasks?

Do You Do This Common Mistake When You Start Working on Your Tasks?
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It’s 6 AM and you are ready to do some work related to your online business: writing the next free report for your e-mail list. You have an hour to do your work until the rest of the family wakes up.

You fire up your computer and open the word editing software of your choice. However, as soon as the blank page opens in front of you, you feel kind of helpless. After pondering for around ten minutes, you don’t have anything concrete written on the screen and you start to feel frustrated.

It’s now 06.20 AM and you barely have anything useful written on that document. Then, at 06.27 AM, you get an idea and you start writing an initial outline of the report. At 06.46 AM you have at least something on the screen as you start writing the first words.

Needless to say, you keep adding and deleting sentences, as you are not happy with what you see on the document. Then it’s 07.04 AM and your family wakes up. You have pretty much wasted the whole hour for planning your work when instead you should have couple of pages written already.

Yes, you are pissed, and that’s not a good way to start your day. So the question is: Are you going to repeat all this again and again?

The simple habit that is missing

This example was related to online business, but the same can happen in any profession or in anything you set out to do.

All this frustration and being pissed comes from one simple reason that you fail to acknowledge: You are not preparing for your work enough. In fact, when failing to do the preparation you are eating into the valuable minutes of your actual working time and that’s why you aren’t seeing any results.

Had you done some planning and preparation in advance, you’d have probably finished your task (or at least had a great start on it) and you would feel much better about your situation.

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Actually, what is happening here is way too common, but there is a simple way to fix it. But first, do you know what your excuse for not doing the obvious (the preparation) is?

What is your excuse?

It’s very easy to just jump into your work without doing any preliminary actions, like planning or preparing for your tasks. That’s why it’s also very easy to get disappointed if you are not careful.

First, you might just have something better to do than planning and preparing. This could be anything, from watching TV to even doing otherwise mundane tasks – like cleaning your home or washing the dishes.

Then, you may not just give enough value to this whole preparation phase. You may find it useless and want to spend the time instead on doing something nice (like watching your favorite TV show).

Finally, you think that all this planning and preparation is just a waste of time, since plans never work and the preparation is just some extra thing that you have to do on top of your actual work.

All these reasons are unfortunately very common and there is a price to pay: Missing deadlines, frustration, and longer-than needed workdays.

Get those lost minutes back – right now!

It’s no secret what I’m going to tell you here: To fix the situation, you need to change your attitude towards preparation and standardize the whole process.

What this means is that you grow a habit out of preparation. In order to create this beneficial habit, take these steps:

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1. Remember your priorities. Understand that in order to maximize your time, you need to prepare your work. If you fail to do this, you’ll pay the price.

Let’s say that you waste 10 minutes every day (from Monday to Friday) of your actual working time on pondering. As such, you are already losing 50 minutes from your precious time on a weekly basis.

In that time you could:

  • Write a guest post for another blog
  • Write exclusive content for your e-mail list
  • Record a video for your e-mail subscribers
  • + other valuable things that take takes your online business further

Even though that 10 minutes may not seem that much, it’s the cumulative nature of the time that makes the difference. It all adds up and you may not even notice it.

Especially if you work part-time on your online business, you have even less time to waste. That’s why every minute counts, and when you understand your priorities, you can cut down the time wasted considerably.

2. Register into an online task management software. If you are not using a task management software of any kind, it’s time to do so now.

I’m using a software called Nozbe, but you can choose from any of the applications that are available for various operating systems, smartphones, or as a cloud-based service.

It’s easier to manage all your tasks in an application than keeping them in your head.

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3. Take 15-30 minutes of your time every evening for preparation. Dedicate a small time block every evening, where you go through your tasks for the next day. If this time is too little, spend as much as necessary to do the required preparation.

For instance, I make sure that I have written all the blog post outlines ready the evening before, so that I can get into work mode as soon as I start my computer the next morning.

Just think about your task and try to figure out the steps that would complete the work faster if the preparation was properly done.

4. Remember the task wording. Tasks on your list should be self-explanatory.

For instance:

  • Write a blog post: <your topic>
  • Send a reply to Sophie about <topic>
  • Read through the document and send it for <person’s name here> proofreading

As you can see, the tasks are easy to understand, and after you have completed the task it’s done and you can cross it off of your list.

5. Make sure that your equipment is ready for you. Before you start working, make sure that all the necessary equipment is ready before you start working. That way you are ready to get started right away and without any unnecessary delays.

Especially if you are building your online business part-time, this is yet another of those moments where you could lose some valuable minutes if you didn’t prepare enough.

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6. Understand your location. In some cases you can’t do all the work in the same location. This may happen if you work when the rest of the family is sleeping or if the environment is not suitable for a certain type of work.

For instance, I used to do some work related to my blog before going to my day job. However, since I was working early in the morning, things like recording a video or a podcast was out of the question (I didn’t want to wake everyone else up).

Try to remember this in the preparation phase and adjust your schedules and tasks accordingly.

7. Tweak your process further. This whole process is just a start and there is always room for improvement.

For instance, you could realize that a certain type of document that you write every time from scratch could be built as a template. That way you wouldn’t be repeating the same steps over and over again and wasting those precious minutes of your working day.

Conclusion

Hopefully I was able to sell you the benefits of preparation. Just make sure you know your game plan before you start working. This way you actually get work done and you don’t waste your time wondering what to do.

As Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the phone said: “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Those are the words of a wise man that shouldn’t be forgotten.

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More by this author

Timo Kiander

Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

How to Create a To-Do List That Super Boosts Your Productivity The Crucial Letter Your SMART Goal Is Missing What Is FOMO (And How to Get Over It and Move on) Do You Do This Common Mistake When You Start Working on Your Tasks? 9 Valuable Lessons Learned After Writing My First Book

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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