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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.

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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