I wrote a little while ago about stress, the Pareto principle, and generally about eliminating stressors in your life, so I thought that it would be appropriate to write a follow-up on that post to highlight a complementing point. This point is hustle.
Hustle is stress; however, when done correctly, it can be good stress (eustress). This is the goal, to harness this good stress in order to get things done. There are a few ways that I have found are effective in harnessing stress, and getting closer to accomplishing your dreams. They are:
- Remove distraction
- Shorten deadlines (or impose deadlines on projects that do not currently have them)
- Plan your next moves
- Do something now
This is the topic of one of my recent posts, which can be found here. Relentlessly attack the things that are pulling you away from your goals. If they don't serve a purpose, are not important, and have no value, why are you doing them? A really cool experiment that I am just beginning is what is known as an "information fast." It's really easy in theory, but rather difficult in practice. The rules are:
- No TV, web browsing (that is not necessary to complete a work-related task), magazines, newspapers, or other media/news outlet or product that is intended for consumption
- Limit yourself to 1 hour of non news-related TV per day for relaxation
- Limit yourself to 1 hour of fiction for relaxation
- Limit yourself to 1 non-fiction, fact based book to read
That's it. Now you get to figure out how to spend all your free time.
It's known as Parkinson's Law, and the premise is that "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." What this means is that if you give yourself two weeks to finish a task, the amount of work that needs to be done to complete the task will be much greater than if you had only given yourself a few days. I learned how this can be very practical while in college, but that may have been more due to procrastination and escalating priorities from other classes. Either way, when you have to turn in a paper in five hours that was assigned at the beginning of the semester, and you have yet to start writing or researching, somehow that paper will find its way to the professor's desk on time. Even though you were given months to complete the task, somehow you are able to complete it in five hours, and snag a reasonable grade too.
Using this same principle, you can take the tasks that you have and drastically shorten the deadlines (or in the case of no deadlines existing, stick an almost unreasonably short deadline on it). This worked for the rough draft of my novel (50,000 words in 30 days, see this post for more on that experience). For example, if you have a task that is due by close of business next Friday, just tell yourself that it is actually close of business this Friday and watch yourself finish.
Plan Your Next Moves
Something that has done wonders for my productivity at work recently has been to, at the end of the day, write down a list of the two or three most important actions that I need to complete the next day. Then, when I arrive in the office the next morning, completely removed from whatever I was doing the previous day, I can simply look at my list and being making progress immediately. There is no slack, no transition time, and I am almost seamlessly moving from one workday to the next.
The other, slightly dangerous, side of this coin is in creating tasks that are not relevant or important. Sure you could have a list of things to do that is a mile long, but how many of those things really need to be done? Make sure that you are capturing the most important tasks, and accomplish those. Ask yourself "if I could only do one thing today, what would it be?" Then, do that one thing.
Do Something Now
What is one small, two minute task that you could do right now to be closer to one of your goals? You have one? Good, now go do that right this second. You do not have an excuse, since it will only take two minutes (I bet that is less time than you spend surfing Facebook at any given time). If you can sit down, define your goals (and please physically write them down on a piece of paper), and list two or three short tasks that will get you closer to accomplishing them, then you will begin to experience the kind of success that leads to realizing those goals. Learn to dream, and dream big. You can do it. The time is now.