When X Marks The Spot

It’s a general rule of thumb to break down big goals into smaller blocks.

  • Psychologically speaking, smaller blocks are easier for us to wrap our minds around, and make for easier mental digestion and responsive planning.
  • With this helpful breakdown, we can see the steps much more easily, and we’re able to adjust and improve our actions in carrying them out. This helps a lot in allocating time and labor accurately.
  • However small we make these blocks, each step we finish helps build momentum for the process, and we get to energize ourselves with the knowledge that we’re closing in on the target.

 

Positive brain hack:
Keeping a visible record of your micro-accomplishments — for example, a trailing word-count, a tally of calls made, a checklist of actions taken — keeps your brain engaged with frequent feel-good endorphin boosts at every small ‘win’ you make.

 

In working towards a goal you make incremental gains until the goal is met.
If the goal is time-bound and the time is scattered across days (or more) a good way to get it done at a sustainable rate is being methodical and, ahem, ‘metronomical.’

You make ready, and then make steady. Block out a time, and in that block pay attention to nothing else but that open action that needs closure. Between the required focused blocks, you can rest, attend to other matters and still get stuff done while paying steady action to this particular ‘string’ of finished blocks you’re building.

If the time-line to accomplish the goal is compacted, then doing the work without interruptions or spillage in the time you’ve got is necessary. When something important comes up our vision has a way of filtering out the less important issues until the main one gets solved.

It’s not the issue of bringing your A-game as it simply bringing yourself fully to the table. You choose to ignore worries and mental static from unrelated issues other than the one you tasked yourself to handle in this particular time block. You plant your tush in the chair, and you work on what’s in front of you. Even if it’s a B-minus game you’re doing, when you get the work done, then it’s A+.

Did you ever thing of ‘bonus’ work, though?

There are hundreds of life-hacks you can glean from the internet, but they can be boiled down to a clear set of principles that have been around since humans started being particular about getting stuff done. Here’s one now: The X percent.

The X percent is the margin you build with your actions.
It’s the layaway for a rainy day, the care package prepared for when a sudden flu hits you hard.
It’s the envelope you started when you bought something rather expensive, and used to store the receipts, product inserts and warranties.

The X percent is the amount of forethought, execution and insight you put in over and above your normal daily work load to help overlap and cover the next day’s work — so you won’t be caught hanging in case something comes up.

  • It is the extra amount you save each week by cutting out two coffees, maybe, or foregoing two days of fast food or ordering out.
  • It’s the extra hours you invest in refining a skill, or doing specific research before committing to a big project or an important decision.

 

The X percent is the work you put in to effectively make your goals a reality just that little bit faster and steadier.

 

What do you need to set in place to start the ball rolling for an X percent system?
Self-awareness. Patience. Clarity.

Take care of yourself so you can have extra reserves in times of need.
Maybe it’s a sad thing to get used to, but then think about the watercooler discussion you happen to witness when people talk about money. A scary percentage of the population live pay-check to pay-check. They have no buffers to help them float if something happens and the money stops coming in, whether it’s a job loss or an accident, or an appliance breaking down, or when someone in the family falls ill.

X percent on a daily basis buys time and pays things forward.

The extra work you do today can make tomorrow a little easier.
The extra bit of research you do in comparing courses of action can save you regrets and missed choices down the road.
The extra bit of time you put in thinking about where you want your life to go can open up even more freedom for you, and more options to choose from.
The money you set aside today, over time, can cover the day where you suddenly need money to help you through a rough period. And so on.

 

So, is it actually extra work you’re doing?
Not necessarily.

When people say they work, how much time do you think they actually do productive, result-creating work?

Think of self-reported versus actual productivity. Interruptions, emails, meetings and conferences, those great business time-guzzlers — those are things that take up time, and for the most part, when ill-used, lead to nowhere but more busy work.

In a very real sense, X percent is just the percent of actual work you put back into the hours that you work.
Doing actual work when you are at work. An amazing new concept, hey, but do you get it now?
It’s putting the work back into work, instead os squeezing it in around busy-ness.

And it’s productive work, making something without letting random outside influences contaminate the time or the results. No ads, no interruptions, no sudden “Hey, can I ask you something’s”, no nagging reminders, pings, vibrations and alerts. It’s you, filling time with thoughtful creation.

Try it out. Analyze where you need to put in the extra bits of work to make your work flow easier. Set yourself two weeks to test the small improvements and prep-work, and see what happens.

The worst that could happen is nothing improves — and your life is as stable as it was before. The least that could happen is that you surprise yourself with how a little extra sumptin’ sumptin’ done ahead of time saves you a noticeable amount of stress and follow-up after.

The best thing that can happen is that you find yourself enjoying a whole new perspective that can open your life up to choices you weren’t able to see before, and being able to maximize the ones you want.

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