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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?

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.

More by this author

Timo Kiander

Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

The Crucial Letter Your SMART Goal Is Missing What Is FOMO (And How to Get Over It) How to Create a To-Do List that Super Boosts Your Productivity 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 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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