Original Post Date | July 28, 2015
This article has been excerpted from IttyBiz by Naomi Watford
Yesterday, we talked about looking at your typical business activities and testing to see if they’re getting you the results you want.
Today, we’re going to talk about getting more stuff done.
One of the reasons we don’t get things done is because we think that tasks will take too long to do.
Think of a few things you do on a fairly regular(ish) basis that you tend to resist, avoid, or put off. Starter ideas could be: blog posts, invoicing, replying to emails, setting up a new “about” page, whatever.
(This could also include clearing all that crap off your desk or washing that misfit load of red delicates. If you find yourself avoiding it, that counts, too.)
Now, ask yourself if you know how long it would take to do that thing, in actual minutes.
- Sometimes you’ll have an idea – if it usually takes you 90 minutes to write and publish a post, you have a benchmark.
- Sometimes you’ll only have a guess – maybe you’re thinking it will take you three or four hours to rewrite your about page. You don’t know. All you can do is guess.
- Sometimes you won’t even have a guess, because you haven’t thought it through. This will generally create an insurmountable roadblock for you, because your brain will simply go GAHHHHHH! every time you think of it. If that’s the case, come up with a guess at a guess. It couldn’t possibly take 100 hours. But what could it conceivably take?
(We’ll talk more on that in another article, so stay tuned for how to make that process easier.)
So! Where were we? Right. We were taking a guess at how long it would take to do that thing you’re (often reasonably) avoiding.
Now, ask yourself how that estimate feels to you.
We’re usually looking at one of two scenarios here.
You come up with a time estimate and feel okay about it, because it’s less time than you imagined it would be. Maybe you think “Ok, the invoicing will only take 20 minutes or so, I can go ahead and do that.”
That’s often the case when we have a level of emotional stress associated with it. We’ll think “I have to do the invoicing but then I have to look up the records for the last phone call and find my notes on how long it took me to do the work and then I’ll have to GAHHHHHH!”
But once you think it through, you might realize that yes, you do have to do all those things, but we’re really looking at about 20 minutes of work, and it’s not a big deal. Emotional crisis averted, thanks to breaking the”GAHHHH!” pattern.
You come up with a time estimate and it does NOT feel pleasant at all. You look at the task and think, “Wow, that’s going to take three hours. That sounds like a big bowl of suck.”
This is what I call the “unpleasantness threshold” – the point at which the thing just becomes too unpleasant to face at the moment. We all have our thresholds, and they’re often variable, based on our level of resiliency at the moment. Some days we’re gung-ho, other days we’re gun shy.
And so getting that thing done? Probably not today. Tomorrow’s not looking so good either.
Scenario 2 is the important one here.
This second scenario is going to represent the bulk of things you don’t end up getting done. So, what can you do about it?
Well, you could try a few things for starters:
- Can you cut the time by getting help? If you could get someone else to take just a piece of this off your plate, would that be worth it to you?
- Is there an alternate way to do the thing? If your blog posts take 90 minutes to make because you write on the longer side (essays or how-tos, for example), could you write a short one every so often instead? Would the world end, or would it be okay? Would it make a difference in your timing?
- Could you break the time up into chunks that fall below the unpleasantness threshold? Remember, ultimately you want “the thing” to be done. But it doesn’t have to be done all at once. If you can get a sense of the overall time required, and you can break it into four or more chunks, it can often take the edge off.
Awareness can be curative for getting these kinds of things done.
The premise here is that your real enemy here is the “GAHHH!” response – the natural human tendency to think something is going to take forever.
If you can practice thinking of how long something is actually likely to take, you’ll get a lot of empowerment back.
And don’t be surprised if it turns out you get a lot more than twice as much done.