The secret to my multi-tasking success, and higher than average productivity, is a disciplined approach to the weekend. I have found that most people waste anywhere between 12-24 hours on the weekend with waiting, wishing, wanting, wailing, and wallowing. You know the word for this wastefulness: Procrastination. For good reason or without good reason, procrastination is the source of a grand weekend waste.I know the secret. I often boast that I have 8 days a week because I know this secret. But, that does not mean that I am immune to procrastination’s twin brother, Overwhelm. My problem was not that I needed 20 minutes to MOTIVATE. I needed 40 minutes to LIMIT.
PROBLEM. Overwhelm can be hard to diagnose in your productivity schedule because it sometimes has the symptoms of “overwork.” You begin to tell yourself that you just need to take a day off or take some time for yourself. But, you find yourself being less and less productive, turning up your nose at the ToDo List that you have created in favor of nothing in particular. In contrast to procrastination, you do not avoid the list altogether. You just are not able to focus and produce your best work. Creativity is more difficult. Even the mundane requires more thought than you can muster. You find it harder and harder to sit down and put in productive work.
When you think of the project you would like to work on, you see all the small tasks that make up the project. This should be the first positive step toward productivity. Take the first small task and complete it. But, before you can focus on that task, you think of all the other small tasks from the mountain of other projects that you want to finish. So much of what I do is facilitate motivation in others. I give myself pep talks and strategies to motivate my activity.
I feel the POWER of “I have today. I can do this!” But, I feel the mountain talk back, “Yeah, but I’m huge!”
For me, this feeling of overwhelm meant that I worked on one project per weekend like it was a grueling marathon. I ran a few hundred yards, stopped for a drink, smelled some flowers, ran a few hundred yards, mowed a lawn, got another drink, and ran more. At the end of the weekend, I was unhappy with my productivity. Consider that Friday night, Saturday day and night, and Sunday day and night is much too much time to only have one project “worked on” and often not completed.
SIDEBAR. Allow me to have a sidebar here. If you are not completely consonant with the paragraph above, this blog post is not for you. Your challenge is not overwhelm. You are most likely found stating, “I lack motivation!” I write another blog post for you. Suffice to say, if you lack motivation, you need to focus on 20 minutes to DO, not 40 minutes to LIMIT. This blog post is for those who are highly motivated. They realize that they can tackle mountains, one boulder at a time. They are not intimidated by the mountain in front of them, but they are overwhelmed by the mountain RANGE their vision necessitates.
ANOTHER TECHNIQUE. It was a conversation with my wife that helped me formulate a new technique to handle my overwhelm. My diagnosis: I was afraid that if I engaged in any project with the effort and focus that it would take to get it done, I would get so involved that I would neglect other projects and other more daily tasks. The number of deadlines coming due within a two-week span conspired to encroach upon bill paying, remembering birthdays, and making appointments. I needed a way to ensure that I could engage with effort and focus without losing myself completely in the project.
The solution: use the timer on my phone to limit my project work to 40 minutes at a time. For my problem this made all the difference. I already had my ToDo List for the day. I was ready to note my Done List.
I have task clarity, goals, process, outcomes, timeline, and tools. But, I needed to assure myself that if I worked on anything that was not the highest priority, I could still return to the priority project.
I prioritized my list of 14 activities to complete between Sunday morning and Sunday night. I set my timer to 40 minutes, and began working. It should be noted that I included things on my list, just as I had for successive weeks prior, that were important to me, but not critical because no one was waiting on me to complete them. I am ecstatic to report that I completed 5 of the 14 items on the list including two writing projects that I have been putting off for months. My Done List revealed another 5 tasks completed. The 40 minute cure yielded 10 tasks completed in one day! I believe I have found the cure. Indeed, I am writing this on my late night after teaching a night class. Usually, I am “too exhausted” to write at this hour. But, the 40 minute cure! and I am done with another task for the Done List.
[Michael A. Wright is mentor, life coach, entrepreneur, curriculum specialist, and Owner/President of MAWMedia Group. His interests span behavioral health, family systems, and wealth creation. Follow @MAWMedia ]