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Make your Real Goals Attainable: Be Productive in the Way You Want to Be

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Leadership & Transparency
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By Laura Morrissey

Often at work we are caught up in projects that, although we want to care about them, given the choice we would be working on something entirely different. For a lot of us, our goal is to produce meaningful work at some point in our lives. However, the plan for meaningful ends up taking the back-seat when there are day-to-day urgencies to deal with first: answering that email, calling a client, meeting a deadline.

This urgent work ends up taking over from the meaningful work -- work that is important for our personal development and getting us where we want to be in life.

Make important tasks urgent


Anybody can do this. Important tasks that contribute toward meaningful work can be given priority alongside your urgent day-to-day jobs.

Our days are structured. Maybe the old-school calendar of the past is nothing more than a decoration on the wall, but we have other technological tools that give structure to our days. The weighting that we put on these organizational mechanisms means we can have as much or as little free time as we want, but most of the time we don't end up doing much more than what is obliged by our to-do lists.

If you want to get the ball rolling on a meaningful personal project, then set it up like an official piece of work. This means a deadline -- one that you tell others about as a reminder/extra pressure. Give yourself a reward for hitting the deadline on time if you think this will motivate you.

If you make your project compulsory within your day, then you will start to notice some advancement. Even if you are scared about the details of your work or unsure what it is exactly that you want to create, just give it a go but go easy on yourself. Life always begins one step outside of your comfort zone.

The demon of distraction


Distraction in the age of technology may be very different from how it once was, but distractions have always been around. In the 19th century, philosopher Friedrich Nietzche wrote in "Unmodern Observations" that "we can seek out distractions in order to stay mentally busy so we can avoid facing up to the big questions" -- like whether or not we are actually living lives that we find genuinely meaningful. We work best when we have time to focus and bring about creative/innovative thinking, and we instinctively find distractions in interruptions and temptations.

While browsing online or speaking to colleagues are no doubt distractions, you don't need to shut yourself in a cave in order to get your work done. External annoyances can distract, but we also have an internal urge to procrastinate in order to not focus on what matters the most, like a subconscious self-sabotage.

Work that feels productive, such as work from your paid job, can be distracting too -- just because it can stop us from thinking about or taking part in what we really want to be doing. It is a modern day myth that we need to feel motivated enough to do important work. Instead force yourself to ignore distractions, this is when you will sit down and work on what matters most to you.

Warm up first


It's not just the athletes and singers of the world who need to warm up before engaging in their craft. A good warm-up routine becomes the best habit you can have in terms of mental preparation.

Whether you're a creative or an innovator, your work will benefit from a warm-up routine. This can simply be a pattern: going for a walk, drinking a coffee, or reading up on some news from within your area of interest to spark your motivation. This can make it easier to get into your work flow, regardless of where you are.

It's fine not to always be optimistic


"It doesn't matter if the water is cold or warm if you're going to have to wade through it anyway," said French geologist and philosopher Teilhard De Chardin in the early 20th century. In other words, whether you feel good or bad about it, you're going to have to do it.

Of course we need a certain degree of optimism and confidence so you can generate and keep up motivation. We are bombarded with self help books and articles and yes all the research suggests that positive thinkers do better in their professional lives. However, intense optimism can backfire. It can be damaging to you if it means you don't think decisions through properly and stifle any opportunities to go the extra mile if you feel that you are going to succeed anyway.

So, if you aren't going to be optimistic all the time, then you're going to be pessimistic? Wrong. The answer is realism. The balance of optimism and pessimism. Be considered. What is going to give you the best chances of success? Then do all that you can to try to achieve this.

Likewise, pessimism can also dampen any chance of success. Don't surround yourself with negativity in the form of people, interests of events. Our brains do have a negativity bias. Negative effects resound more strongly in our mind and are more likely to infiltrate our thinking. There needs to be a balance of positivity and negativity, and not just an even one. This needs to work in factors of five. One negative thought, balanced by five positive ones. Furthermore, this needs to be constant in order to guarantee motivational success. One day of extreme positivity with good news is a hopeful occasion and might tip you into overly optimistic thinking the next day, followed by a week of negativity if expectations are not met. Every day allow yourself some negativity and worry, but try to make positivity your default feeling about what you want to achieve.

What do we do when there seems to be little to feel positive about? Remember that you are you. You don't need to be inspired or deterred by anything that anybody else in the world is doing or has done. Be your own inspiration. Problems can also be reframed, what seems detrimental may not be so bad if you reframe it differently. Tip your own scales towards motivation. Record all that you have achieved already; related to your work or unrelated and revisit this frequently.

Image credit: Pixabay

Laura Morrissey is a writer for Disc Assessment. She shares tips for both employers and employees in working to the best of their ability together. Her specialist areas are motivation and team building.

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