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Personal Productivity

“Working past impossible tasks,” or how to see things through

The tactics of accumulating unfinished tasks is most typical of children that find it difficult to keep focused on something for a long time. Often, as they lose interest, they tend to switch over to a new task. However, this kind of behavior is also quite often seen in adults as well. So why do some of us never leave things unfinished, seeing each task through, while others keep putting away unfinished tasks throughout the day? Let’s try and understand the reasons behind this kind of behavior to learn ways to see things through.

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Why do unfinished (or unstarted) tasks tend to pile up?

You might not be that much into it

First and foremost make sure you analyze the reasons for lack or total absence of interest in the task at hand. Maybe you weren’t supposed to handle it in the first place, and it was imposed on you under certain circumstances. Quite often, it’s not just children that get infected by the enthusiasm of others, but also adults. If you got under the influence of someone else’s interests and ambitions by accident, see if it’s something you really want to do. If it’s not important to you, then consider letting it go.

If you were genuinely interested but the interest fizzled out, it’s important to understand the reason. Did it lose its relevance? Any task is valuable and important to complete if it’s relevant to you. You can also cultivate that relevance if you need to. For instance, if you were planning on making a birthday gift for your friend but never got around to it, that’s not a reason to give up. If you missed the birthday, there are still other dates and opportunities to give them a gift.

You might be too lazy to start

It’s important to realize that laziness doesn’t appear out of nowhere. As a rule, there are reasons for it: being tired or overworked, having a fear of failure or sometimes even of successfully completing the task! Yes, success can scare no less that failure, because it leads to change in life, and change can be innately uncomfortable.
If you are overworked and exhausted, both physically and psychologically, you need to prioritize. Decide on the most important tasks, and tackle them first. Learn to relax. This is something we talk about on so many occasions – and its importance cannot be stressed enough, excuse the pun. Don’t forget the benefits offered by meditation. Even short meditative sessions help you find balance and stay present in spite of the workload.

If you keep postponing a task just because you have no idea where to start, the best thing to do is stop thinking about it. Just go ahead and do it. Force yourself to get down to the task for at least 5-10 minutes. Appetite comes with eating, it’s a proven fact.

You might have a motivation issue.

That’s more common than you think. But interestingly, this is often a far-fetched issue. Try analyzing the situation, digging deep, and you’ll be sure to find some motivation. It would suffice to realize that the biggest motivating factor is the likelihood of gaining something or losing something. To get yourself interested, picture a favorable outcome. If you achieve something, it gives you the possibility to succeed. Similarly, lack of motivation deprives you of gain.

As a matter of fact, we did discuss motivation before, offering recommendations on how to boost it. It’s not that difficult. The most important thing is for your motivation to be positive rather than negative. Try to rely on the proverbial carrot rather than smack yourself with the stick.

Perfectionism might be the factor to blame

We discussed this one before, too. Perfectionism often hurts not just the follower of unbending principles but also those around them. Sometimes perfectionism crosses to absurdity: inability to achieve perfection makes any effort aimed at the task seem obsolete—at least in the eyes of the perfectionist. There is only one way out – crush the perfectionism within and get down to business.

The task might seem more complicated than it really is

Sometimes we might be scared away by the sheer volume of a certain task. In that case we risk never getting down to it. At this point it’s important not to focus on the amount of work ahead: break up the task into smaller steps. Then you will see a much more distinctive finish line ahead. Completing each step will get you closer to the final result without undermining your strength and resolve.

You might be afraid of making mistakes

Remember we talked about failure and making mistakes? There really is no good reason to dread those, much less expect or forecast them. All you need is to see every mistake made in a positive light. Everyone makes mistakes. Making a mistake is normal. A mistake made is a reason to make adjustments to your approach to handling the task at hand. Sometimes it’s thanks to mistakes made that we achieve the best result possible.

You might be missing the excitement for it

Ever noticed the way truly impassioned people work? Their eyes light up and their hands are never idle. Not only is this highly productive, it also helps avoid stress. It’s impossible to be tired of the work you truly love, since it gives genuine joy. Try getting more excited about your work. You can make a bet with yourself or turn it into a challenge. Give yourself some time to think about that. You’ll see approaching it this way will make things much faster and more efficient, exciting you along the way!

It might all come down to being distracted.

Concentration can be a challenge, while distraction just takes just a second to start. If you find yourself making no headway, minimize any disturbances. Turn off the phone, log out of your mailbox and social network accounts, put in the ear buds (if there is a constant ambient noise) and meditate for a few minutes to pull yourself together. Then work for 20 minutes. Take a break for 5-10 minutes and get back to work.

As you can see, there are many factors that hinder your progress and cause tasks to pile up. We listed just the major ones. Hopefully, pinpointing these will help you get more done. Here are a few recommendations you will be sure to find useful:

Here is what you need to do to see things through:

  • share less of your plans with those around you – doing it first and then sharing is a much better approach;
  • work on a long-term task regularly, dedicating a certain amount of time to it (daily for 20 minutes, weekly for 1 hour, monthly for half a day, etc.);
  • adjust your plans all the time – that way you will cross the finish line having wasted no time on the way;
  • don’t accumulate new tasks in the meantime – try not to start anything new until you’ve finished the current task;
  • hit the ground running – as soon as you’ve got a new task, do your best to handle all aspects of it without delaying, even if those may appear as little things;
  • get inspired all the time – inspiration makes you more active and positive, so look for potential sources in music, a hobby, being around your friends etc.;
  • if you haven’t gotten around to the task in the first three days, you might as well forget about it, since 72 hours weren’t enough to get started;
  • don’t be afraid to dream – remember that thoughts are material, so if at least 50% of your wildest dreams realize, that’s great already.

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