Many times, we create additional barriers to achievement that wouldn’t otherwise exist.
We let our to-do lists intimidate us before we can even get ourselves off the ground.
But an intelligent and intentional approach to achievement can shatter those illusory hurdles and let us produce something great with our limited time.
The time period before you start working is an incredibly fertile ground during which you can set yourself up for maximum productivity and effectiveness. There are specific, important things that you can do to make sure that your valuable time and effort isn’t wasted. It starts before you begin.
Using the strategies below is what works for me. You should be able to adapt some or all of these to your personal situation, so here are 10 things you can do before starting a particular task:
1) Think About How To Start – Instead of negotiating with yourself about whether or not you feel up to a particular task, think about the best way to get started. This presupposes the fact that you WILL start, and gets you thinking about “How”, not “Whether”.
2) Break It Down – This is Productivity 101. A task is too big when you don’t know the very next step. So what I do is outline every step involved in completing the task before me, and then I identify the very next step that I need to take. Make each individual step as simple as possible to ensure that you actually follow through.
3) Clear Your Mind – Other tasks and concerns are constantly competing for our attention and limited brainpower. But a clear mind is a disciplined mind, and there are many ways that you can discipline your mind. My favorite is meditation, which is becoming increasingly popular among working professionals. Set aside 5 minutes where you simply focus on your own breathing, and then come back strong. That’s all it has to be. Your breath can be your centering point and by focusing on it, everything else falls away.
4) Visualize The Outcome – When you have a clear picture in your mind of what a completed task will look like, then you will know whether you are making progress or need to try a different approach. But getting clarity on this before you start will save you countless headaches in the future. Make sure you absolutely know what a ‘good job’ will look like, and then set to work making it happen. See it, build it.
5) Attach This Task To A Higher Purpose – What we do during the day often isn’t very glamorous. So it’s easy to think that it’s not important at all, or that the quality of our work doesn’t matter. But I KNOW that there is something you care about which stands behind everything you do as your reason for doing it. So find it, and let it work for you.
6) Look For The Fastest Way – Sometimes, a task just has to be finished rather than perfect. The worst use of time is doing something perfectly which didn’t have to be done at all. So if there is a simpler way, or someone else can do it better or faster, I urge you to look for those solutions.
7) Change Your State – Our emotions and feelings pass. They change. So if you’re not feeling up to a particular task, sometimes just drinking a glass of water can completely change your state. Do whatever you have to do in order to “feel like doing it”.
8) Feel Gratitude – This isn’t “touchy-feely” stuff that doesn’t work in the real world. I can launch myself into productivity just by thinking about how grateful I am to even be in the position to be ABLE to work. To be a conscious creature, on this beautiful planet, doing work that inspires me…this is what I think about when my motivation flags.
9) Get Moving – Our feelings follow our physiology. That means that we can literally “act the way we want to feel”. If we are in motion, or manage to get started, to keep going becomes way easier. This is like the miracle cure for procrastination.
10) Summon Your Focus And Dive In – The sun, spread out over the entire earth, warms us with its rays. But sunlight, concentrated through a magnifying glass, is incendiary. Focus works the same way. Trying to start four different tasks at once means that you’re probably going to do an awful job on all four of them, instead of a spectacular job on one. So summon your focus in any way you can, pick one thing to focus on, and surge towards greater productivity.
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Self-Discipline is what you’ll learn when you keep up with what’s going on here at Godlike Discipline. I read hundreds of books every year, and pass the knowledge on to you, so you can get back to your busy, modern life. I want to be a part of that.
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Do It Now
The essence of self-discipline is to do what needs to be done, regardless of whether or not we feel like doing it.
This power is available to each of us, but I won’t mislead you by saying that it’s easy.
Sometimes it can take every tool in our tool box, and hopefully some of the tools I’ve just given you can tip the scales of productivity power in your favor.
All the best,
Matt Karamazov is a human rights activist, boxer, and writer who reads about 200 books per year and throws precisely 300 punches per minute. His website, Godlike Discipline, is dedicated to raising money for causes like Doctors Without Borders, and Human Rights Watch, among others. It’s also dedicated to helping people tackle their biggest willpower challenges. He also like death metal, and so, consequently doesn’t get many second dates. Here he is on a horse.