In the spirit of the New Year and the resolutions that come with it, our staff recently came together to discuss the distractions that keep us from finishing tasks and meeting goals and how we can combat them. Drawing on the tips shared in the New York Times “Why You Start Things You’ll Never Finish,” we outlined three key strategies:
Identify the Challenges
You can’t fix a problem you haven’t identified! Ask yourself: which specific challenges are keeping you from completing a task? Our staff mentioned a few recurring distractions that tend to derail our concentration: notification culture (the non-stop e-mails, calls, text messages, etc. that we all receive), the lure of technology and social media, and our diverse range of projects and client work that requires us to switch our focus rapidly and often. By identifying the challenges, it becomes easier to avoid them or develop solutions that lessen their impact.
Set Realistic Expectations (for yourself and others)
Excitement about a new project/partnership can cloud your ability to accurately judge how time-consuming the new initiative will truly be. Or maybe, you know that, realistically, completing the report your boss just requested will take hours, but you’re hesitant to admit that.
Whatever the reason, this tendency to incorrectly estimate the time a task will take—also known as planning fallacy—often “leads us to overcommit to opportunities at the expense of actually completing them,” according to the New York Times. When you’re not honest with yourself or others, you’ll fail to set realistic expectations. This, inevitably, leads to unnecessary stress, waning interest and enthusiasm, and the dreaded ‘project creep.’
So, the next time you embark on a new project or partnership, set clear and realistic deadlines for each aspect of the task – for others’ benefit as well as your own.
Find a Technique That Works for You
So you’ve identified the challenges and set realistic expectations, but the deadlines are still piling up – what do you do? Our staff suggested a variety of tools/techniques that help them to stay motived and reach their goals, including:
- Intrinsic Motivation: Intrinsic motivation is the idea that your actions and goals are driven by internal rewards. For instance, you may feel more invested in a project if completing it will provide you with deeper knowledge on the subject, recognition from your superiors, or a greater responsibility in your department/company – these are all examples of intrinsic motivation.
- Pomodoro Technique: Invented in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is a time-management tool that encourages users to dedicate 25 minutes to a task at a time, followed by short break, which can be spent meditating, going for a walk, or doing another relaxing, non-work-related task.
- SMART Goals: SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. By making sure the goals you set meet these criteria, you have a greater chance of seeing them to completion.
- Vitamin R: Vitamin R is a trusty “personal productivity sidekick,” that helps users define their goals and then schedule their time into alternating periods of highly-focused, undisrupted productivity and guilt-free, relaxing breaks.