Whenever I am faced with an insurmountable amount of work that needs to be completed by a strict deadline, I remind myself of the following true story.
In college I had a friend called Alan, who was a very bright straight A student. He did have one small fault, however. While he was diligent about completing assignments and studying for exams, he did not update his calendar regularly. One Monday morning he woke up at 7 am and thought about enjoying a relaxing breakfast before his history class at 9 am. As he packed his books, however, an electric shock went through him. He noticed that his history exam was today, not in a week, as he originally thought. "Okay", he tried to calm himself. "I have until 8:30 to study if I want to get to class by 9 am."
Alan turned on his laser focusing skills and thought about the most likely questions they would ask at his exam. Since he only had 90 minutes, he did not let himself get distracted by anything and kept reading his notes to memorize as much as he could. At 8:30 sharp, he changed into his clothes and ran to class. "It was amazing how much I learned during that hour an a half," he later recalled. His test score was not perfect, but it was an A-. Not bad for an hour and a half of studying!
I frequently think of Alan's story when I have only have a short amount of time to complete a presentation or report. While I would normally schedule several hours for such an endeavor, I sometimes need to make do with just small blocks of time between other commitments. I actually found that I was more productive if I "laser" focused for one hour to a project than if I allotted two hours to it, but did not put my mind completely to it. This strategy is great for beating procrastination too. Next time you want to work on something that you have been putting off for a while (taxes or decluttering, perhaps?) commit just one hour to it. Set your timer, turn off cell phones and all other distractions, and see what happens. My guess is you will be amazed at your accomplishments after just half hour. Even if the project is so large that an hour is just a drop in the bucket, at least you will come away with a plan and increased motivation. To make this even more fun, reward yourself for your efforts. For example, after an hour of working without disruptions, take yourself out to the gym or an ice latte. If you can, take a walk outside - a great way to freshen up for the rest of your day!
Have you had similar experiences? Leave your comments here
Wishing you the best,
Dora Farkas, PhD, Founder, PhDNet