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What should you do?

2012/11/26 - Author: Marco Neves

Sometimes we look around lost without knowing what to do. To do lists sometime help, but not all the time. When we really feel lost long to do lists don’t help – short to do list lists may help, but long linst don’t.

At this moments there is only one thing you really can (and must) do. Stop for a bit and ask yourself: “What is the thing I would really like to be doing?”

Sometime this question may result in dangerous answers (vengeance, hate and obsession are dangerous advisers) but whenever the answer doesn’t result in harming yourself or other, go ahead and do it.

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Types of Tasks

2012/11/22 - Author: Marco Neves

Almost everything you may need or want to do belong to one of the following categories:

  • Practical Issues
  • Enjoying life
  • Small projects
  • Big Projects

The Practical Issues are those things that we all need to do in order to keep our lives going. Paying bills, buying food, cooking, cleaning, replacing damaged cloths (and to some point buying new) are part of this category.

The tasks in this category should be done as soon as possible, so that we can free our time and our minds  for other, more interesting tasks.

Enjoying life is the main reason for everything else – and also the most difficult category to define – what I enjoy is not the same that you enjoy, even if we may enjoy some of the same things.

For me a small group of people who like to discuss the meaning of life, the universe and everything, good food, the internet (the usefulness of it and building it) and books are four of the most enjoyable things.

Some people I know enjoys bars, others football, some computer games, others board games, some like to paint, other love music, some people love cats, others prefer dogs – and most people belong to several groups and enjoy doing several different things.

But enjoyable tasks don’t exist only on your personal live – you can most likely also find things that you would like to do, tasks that you would enjoy in your workplace, in college, in whatever your main occupation may be, you may find tasks that you want to do, something that you feel that need to be improved.

Maybe that task is not in your to do list, most likely it is not in any to do list. But most of the time that doesn’t mean you can’t do it, and better yet, even have fun while doing it.

Small projects and Big projects are two different categories because they mean different levels of commitment, different amounts of time, different levels of faith and generate different levels of expectation that you may need to keep under control.

Projects, however, big or small, are mostly lists of tasks, that need to be completed to complete the projects. Most of the time projects are also the result of an idea that we expect will improve our live, the live of those around us or the society in general in some way.

The problem with projects is that if you are the kind of person who is always getting new ideas, you may end with dozens of projects you are working on, you can get to a point where you are always starting new projects and rarely finishing them – and that is one of the worst things to your faith.

Juggling with a lot of projects without ever finishing any of them means that you can get the small increment in self-confidence (faith in your self) that comes from progression, but you don’t get the amazing boost in your own faith that comes from finishing, from completion.

Also, more projects mean more options to choose from every time you want to start a task, and often more options to choose from result in more doubts about whether the chosen task was the best option or not – I’ll talk about this in a future post.

Also, more projects mean more work in parallel, which means more time to finish each project and that results in less live testing. Less testing mean that we don’t really know if our ideas work in the real world or only in our heads, only in our dreams. Means that we don’t know if it works for others as we expect it to work, or as it work for us.

Sometimes we fall out of love with some of the projects we used to work on. That happens more when we keep starting new projects without finishing the current ones, but it can happen anyway, even if we have just one project we work on. When that happen, instead of keeping that project on the list of things you may work on, kick it out, transfer it to your idea box , if you think you may someday want to get back to it – or that someone may want to pick it up.

The same goes for your new ideas. If you already have more than a couple of projects you are working on, make sure that you can add a new one before starting working on it. And if you think that you don’t have time to work on everything you already have in your hands, don’t add a new project to that list. Adding it to your idea box instead is probably a good idea.

If you really want to start this project before finishing one of the projects you are currently working on, pick one of those open projects and move it to your idea box.

Careful, however. If you keep starting new projects and moving started projects to your idea box, you will never finish any of them, and that get you in the same place as having a lot of open projects you don’t have time to work on.

But, even when you have a limited list of projects you are working on, how do you choose between them, how do you balance the things you do for fun with projects that you expect to help improve your life, projects you are expected to work on – if the time frame you are planing is your work time – with the tasks you want to do?

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2012/11/20 - Author: Marco Neves

Our brain loves them and most of the time we go with it. Labels make it easier for our brain to make the most obnoxious choices without any evidence to support them but the labels and general bias related with those labels.

Categorizing everything is a mostly automatic process for our brain but if on one hand it allow us to decide faster with very little information, it also let us assume with very little evidence.

Everyone have bias, and when labeling others those bias are one of the first things that show up on the labels we use.

There are several problems with labeling people.

The first of those problems is assignment. We assign labels, most of the time, based on our perception of the other people, and perception doesn’t always match with reality. It rarely does, I would even say.

The second problem is that people are not static uni-functional tools/objects. People not only have multiple sides to their personalities, they also change with time as well as with their interactions with other people.

The third problem with labeling people is related with our bias. Our brain takes more attention to anything that confirms what we already believe in than to everything that denies it. And that means that the label we assign to people tend to stick, be very hard to remove or change.

And that also means that we tend to justify a lot more than we should with those labels. “joking around as always”, “do you always have to be so critic”, “stop being a pussy”…

But, the real question, I guess, is: Can we avoid labeling people and accept them with all they are? Can we at least avoid the single label?

Maybe it is too hard to you – as it is for everyone else – to not label everyone, but you can at least keep vigilant and when you understand that you did it, try to find other, more appropriate labels for that person – and with that make it a bit more difficult for your automatic brain to classify everything that person says or does as a consequence of that single label.

Can you do that?

1 Comment - Categories: Life

The Next Step

2012/11/11 - Author: Marco Neves

Any journey starts with a single step, doesn’t matter how long the journey is.

This is the basic principle behind making anything happen. Big projects are made of smaller tasks, big goals are most of the time the sum of several smaller objectives.

It is important to look at the big picture, to know what is the objective, but only to help pick the one thing that we can do now that will take us closer to our goal.

Whenever you are done with a task, stop and look around for a moment.

What is the thing you would like to do next? What is the one thing that is most important for you and for your goals from everything that needs to be done, from everything that can be done?

You, most likely, belong to one of two groups:

  1. the group of people who have too many things to do
  2. the group of people who thinks that all they want to do is blocked by someone else.

If you belong to the second group (people who don’t have anything they can work on now), the next thing you have to do is create a list of things you want to do, things you want changed, and that there is at least one thing you can do about them – NOW!

A list of things that you will be able to do some time in the future can be useful, but not for our current needs.

At this moment your task is to create a list of things you can act on right after you finish your list. The tasks must be as specific as possible, they must be actionable, and they should be as measurable as possible.

“Get a job” is not a task for that list, it is a wish, and wishes are a different thing about which we will talk later.

“Find a job offering I am qualified for and that I would like” is a possible task for the list.

The difference between the two is that you can complete the second without anyone else help, while the first implies that someone else will employ you – you depend on someone else’ actions, it gets out of your control – and that is where anxiety, depression, delusion and desempowerment start.

Now, back to the list – go do it now. I wait, as well as everyone from the group who have too much to do next. Go, go make your list of things you want to do and that you can do now! Take your time, whatever time you need, but do it now, don’t stop and don’t do anything else until you’re done.

Ok. Now that you have your list, I bet you just become part of the first group, you have too many things to do, don’t you?

So, if you are part of the second group, if you have too many things to do, you just have to pick one ans start doing it.

Easy, isn’t it? You choose one task from that list that is the most important thing you can be doing right now and do it. Easy, isn’t it?

Well, if you can’t decide what from your task list is the most important thing to do now, maybe your list needs some trimming.

First, there is anything in your list that you don’t want to do and that if it is not done nothing wrong will happen? – Move them to your not to do list. If you don’t want to do it and it doesn’t need to be done, don’t lose time with it.

Second, is anything in your list that you can do in just a few minutes and be done with it? Why are those in your list in the first place? If something can be done in a short time, just do it as soon as you can and be done with them.

The things that remain in your list now, most likely belong to one of four categories – practical issues, enjoying live, small projects and big projects.

In a later post I will take a deeper look at this categories, the type of tasks in each of them and how to select them in a more methodical way, but I would suggest  that you resolve any practical  issues – those things that have an immediate impact on your daily live as soon as possible, and then try to alternate items from the other three types according with availability of the necessary resources and personal preference.

The important thing is that you get to the next step as soon as you finish the previous one, and that you always know, not only what you are doing next, but also why you are doing it. If there is no need and no wish to do something, you will delay doing it, it’ll take more time to finish and most likely will not be done with the same quality.

If you don’t need and don’t want to do it, just don’t do it – get a different next step.

No Comments - Categories: Produtivity