Have you ever felt overwhelmed by a task or project? Perhaps you need to write a report that requires a lot of effort to prepare. Or you need to do something you don’t like that seems big and difficult.
In such situations, there are two responses you might take. The first one is procrastinating. Procrastinating is a way to temporarily relieve the pain associated with being overwhelmed. When you procrastinate, you choose to delay doing the task so that you don’t have to deal with it. The second response is doing the task despite being stressed. You still do what you need to do, but you have many things in your mind that drain your mental energy.
To deal with the situation, there is a good tip in The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur by Mike Michalowicz:
I had the good fortune of being trained at Skip Barber’s racing school… What they taught me at Skip Barber was all about focus. In order to navigate the course at top speeds, I was trained to focus exclusively on the next turn while the car was still piloting the current one… Not the current one, nothing beyond the next one, just the next turn.
The paragraph is written in the context of running a company but I believe it’s also applicable to individuals. If you want to be more productive, you should focus exclusively on the next thing to do. Don’t think about what you did or what to do later. Just focus on the one thing that you need to do next. Doing this simplify the situation since you don’t have many things in your mind. Instead of having your energy distracted by the past and the future, you focus your energy on the task that you need to do now.
What if you still feel overwhelmed? Then make it simpler. Break the task to even simpler tasks.
Focus only on the next turn and you will navigate your tasks and projects at top speeds.
Photo by iwona_kellie
What helps me is to set my timer (I use e.ggtimer.com) for 25 minutes, and then just work on the one task in front of me. Then I reward myself with a 5 minute stretch break. After 3 sets of successful 25 minute chunks, I can then take 10 minutes if needed. I focus better, and get more done.
[…] Here, Henrik points out a humbling concept that even feels good to read, because it does well to tell you to put your ego on the sidelines. There are things you can feel smart or important about, but they will continue to be there, so instead focus on the other items that you are able to do good for. There’s no point in continually thinking about the reasons that make you smart or important in one aspect or another. Focus only on the next turn and you will navigate your tasks and projects at top speeds. – Donald Latumahina […]
One of the most obvious signs of procrastination is a messy desk. Keeping the work place neat and tidy as we go makes everything work better.
Problems should be dealt with promptly too as they hold us back til they aren’t problems anymore. I assembled this little routine from here and there.
Get all the facts.
Describe the problem in detail.
List all the possible solutions.
List the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Detail what you will do.
This is an important alternaview to realize because it is often assumed that multitasking means you are at the height of productivity. I know I was guilty of that perception as well. As you pointed out focused concentration on the task at hand is what productivity is all about. Thanks for the post.
I completely agree with this article. I find when I am operating at my most efficient with anything, I am focusing on the one activity to do next. It seems when I go beyond that, I start focusing on planning too much and end up spinning my wheels. When I focus too much on what I’m doing right now, I tend to lose out on productivity in favour of perfection.
Hey Donald, focus and motivation are the most important attitudes that leads to success in my opinion.
[…] Latumahina presents A Simple Tip to Be More Productive posted at Life […]
Slice and dice is the only way to get things done effortlessly.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences, everyone. I learn a lot from your comments. It’s nice to know what work for you to increase your productivity.
Yes, that’s a common practice for Getting Things Done. You just split you planning sessions and your execution session.
So your brain is tricked. You have no problem to start the planning (“ok, I can do that, I don’t have to do anything more, just think a bit on that”), and then execution goes smooth just like you described.
Splitting the planning and execution session is indeed helpful. First you map out the necessary actions to take and then you go through them one by one.
They say procrastination is the thief of time and i cannot agree more. Procrastination is just assassination of another opportunity that could of make you one step closer to your goal or dream of being financially successful. My advice is stay focused on what you can do RIGHT NOW,This Minute and leave the rest to the fishes!
when I’m meeting a deadline and there’s no way I’m going to miss it, I deal with one task at a time so I really agree with focus=productivity. I find it hard to focus when I think of all the other tasks waiting in line for me hence impairing my work and judgment while focusing in one task alone lets me finish the job flawlessly.
In order to be productive , a person must prioritize them sales more. Take more time to do the most important task first and leave everything else for after. Make sure you stay on top of your deadlines and keep focused on completing goals that matter now.
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Great advice! Focus is definitely an essential element to stop procrastinating and getting things done. I personally use brain wave entrainment (isochronic tones) and have it playing to stimulate the right frequencies while working.
After just a few minutes of listening, I find that I’m very focused and in-tune with my work… and I normally produce even better work than I would without it. My wife even made a comment today after I finished writing a large article… she said “I can’t believe you wrote all that so fast!”.
Thanks for the advice, anything that helps with procrastination is definitely a valuable resource 🙂
JOnathan, i agree with you statement.
By definitely working hard and making things happen by action. Success will by synonymous and procrastination will be extinct.
Procrastination will cease to exist and a new habit of taking action will have taken place.
A way to get this done is to be consciously aware of your activities. And ask yourself …Am i progressing while i do this? Is this taking me towards my goals?
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I tried that but it does not work because of:
1. There is no single path with 1-2-3… steps involved. In most projects many things have to play together. There are multiple dependencies.
2. You usually have several projects to manage and a delay in one affects another.
My solution was to do enough analysis and then do good planning – taking into consideration all relevant sub-tasks. Focusing on the one only next step is good if something dangerous suddenly happens.
I’ve been thinking about your situation and trying to find an explanation. The best I’ve found is related to Paul Graham’s concept of maker and manager (please read his article for definitions). The principle in this post applies more to maker’s schedule than manager’s schedule. Your schedule seems to be manager’s. But if you work in maker mode (which allows single-tasking) I think the principle will work for you too.
Thank you for your empathy – and thank you very much for linking that very interesting article. I never got aware of that difference of makers and managers although it seems very logical when reading the article you linked.
I have a problem now: As the company I am working for is not so big (<20 employees) my job profile includes both roles somehow. I have to do programming and writing as well as phone and email support or project management tasks – and somehow even presales. Unfortunately I cannot hide away for two days completing a programming task as nobody is doing the support in the meantime – although it may happen that there are two days without any support call and sometimes there are three a day – but I can’t know that in advance.
I got it managed that many customers know that they should do planning with me and so they tell me about planned changes (that might lead to problems and therefore support calls) in advance so I can know.
I know that this is not very efficient combining such different work together in general but the company will not add another employee just for doing the support or just doing writing stuff or just for management. And last but not least I know many other people who have to do more and more different tasks over time while companies are reducing their staff. Today many people need to do tasks at their work that in former times have been done by two or three different people. Hence I think the problem of being a maker and manager might be quite common these days.
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