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13 Mar

Give yourself a daily dose of ambiguous

Datum: 2017-03-13 14:34

Done, done, done — don’t you just love the feel­ing of get­ting some­thing done, when it is over, when we can cross it off our list, and when we have got­ten one step fur­ther? I sure do. But some­how, some things nev­er seem to get done. It is not nec­es­sar­i­ly that we keep post­pon­ing them, but rather that the tasks in them­selves are ongo­ing and at least part­ly con­sist of sim­i­lar tasks done repeat­ed­ly over long peri­ods of time. For months on end, per­haps years, or what at least feels like an eternity.

They just go on, and on, and on
These tasks could for instance be read­ing some­thing, research­ing, doing long-term plan­ning, work­ing with mar­ket- or com­pet­i­tive intel­li­gence, or per­haps you are respon­si­ble for con­tin­u­ous­ly post­ing things in the company’s social media chan­nels. These tasks have a few things in com­mon; they are often done over long peri­ods of time, they tend to be a bit ambigu­ous, and they can be hard to just check off” from our to-do-list. So, when can we call it a day? When can we con­sid­er our­selves done? How much do we have to work on these tasks before we can feel sat­is­fied? At the end of time itself, or at the end of every day?

I keep refer­ring to the val­ue of feel­ing that you accom­plished some­thing every day, since both I myself and the clients I work with notice what a pos­i­tive influ­ence being able to check items off our list has on our gen­er­al well-being (or, if it sounds bet­ter to you, you could say that it is a kick-ass moti­va­tion­al break­through boost!” instead).

There has been a lot of research done on the impor­tance of the small accom­plish­ments and vic­to­ries”, such as get­ting to check some­thing off our list when we have done one unit of effort, and one of the researchers who has con­tributed to sup­port­ing the idea is Tere­sa Ami­able who has stud­ied what she calls the progress prin­ci­ple”.

A more pleas­ant assignment
You should there­fore give your­self clear assign­ments in the form of small por­tions of those ambigu­ous tasks so that they become at least par­tial­ly done” after every ses­sion of work­ing on them. Make an esti­ma­tion of what you con­sid­er to be a rea­son­able por­tion to do on these tasks every day, once every week, or at some oth­er inter­val that suits you and the task in ques­tion bet­ter. If it makes sense to think in terms of por­tions of time, such as one hour of work, three half-hours, the bus ride home, or by all means, per­haps along the lines of Arne Tam­mer (who was a famous Swedish sports-enthu­si­ast and with his mot­to Give me fif­teen min­utes a day… and I will give you a healthy body!” encour­aged a healthy lifestyle in the 1940s) and his fif­teen min­utes a day.

Now, as I am cur­rent­ly writ­ing my next book, I make sure to write an hour every day. I con­sid­er an hour to be good enough, so when that hour is up, I stop. Rather than think­ing that I should be writ­ing more, and then always have the writ­ing process hang­ing over me, I feel con­tent hav­ing done what I intend­ed to. And once I have writ­ten for an hour, I am free to do what I please, with­out feel­ing the least guilty about it.

Do this
If you have work to do that is some­how ambigu­ous and hence dif­fi­cult to feel as you are pro­gress­ing with, then try this:

  1. Select one of these ongo­ing tasks.

  2. Choose for how long you will work on it and how often. Is it an hour a day, half a day every week, half an hour on Tues­days, two whole days every month, or some oth­er inter­val? Per­haps two pomodor­os” of 25 min­utes every morn­ing, as sug­gest­ed in the Pomodoro method? You do not have to deter­mine the per­fect work­ing ses­sion in terms of length and fre­quen­cy right now, just esti­mate some­thing to start with and try it for a while. If it should turn out that you keep get­ting behind and need more time at more fre­quent inter­vals to fin­ish what you need to do, then sim­ply adjust your method and try again.

  3. If you want to deter­mine at what time you will work on the task the next time, sched­ule it in your cal­en­dar as a recur­ring meet­ing with your­self. But beware so that you do not fill your cal­en­dar with tasks such as these though, since this will make your dai­ly sched­ule far more rigid than what is nec­es­sary, and you will even­tu­al­ly step away from what you sched­uled in your cal­en­dar entire­ly as more impor­tant and urgent tasks are added through­out your day. If the task does not require a spe­cif­ic time dur­ing the day to get done, then sim­ply add it to the to-do-list as a recur­ring task so that you get to check it off every time you do it, but will not risk los­ing sight of hav­ing to do it again.

One clear step at a time
If you give your­self a dose or por­tion of that ambigu­ous task reg­u­lar­ly, you will get to check it off your list reg­u­lar­ly as well, and thus feel that sense of accom­plish­ment that is so good for your moti­va­tion. You split the seem­ing­ly infi­nite task into small­er pieces which you com­plete one by one, and hence make tan­gi­ble progress. And by doing so, you also get the large, and prob­a­bly impor­tant, task or project done with greater fore­sight and fin­ish it well before dead­line, which you might not have if you would have just left it in its orig­i­nal, inde­ter­minable state and done it in a haste last minute. You get to feel con­tent with accom­plish­ing some­thing often, even if you are not reach­ing the final goal-post every sin­gle day.

What is your trick?
How do you make it clear to your­self that you are actu­al­ly pro­gress­ing on tasks that are exten­sive and spread out over long peri­ods of time? Feel free to leave a com­ment below and share your thoughts.