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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

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 April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

Reference

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