Be more effective with this simple habit

Do you want to be more effective in your work?

What you need is enthusiastic focus on your chosen priority.

Enthusiasm for your work is a magic charm that will make you more effective than you believe possible.

It’s the opposite of trying to force yourself to work hard through sheer willpower and discipline.

Here’s a deceptively simple, rather silly habit that will create enthusiasm and make you effective and successful.

A silly habit that will make you more effective

Pick a trigger activity – something that you do roughly every hour or half-hour.

I drink enormous quantities of tea, so my trigger activity is making a cup of tea.

It might be visiting the lavatory, or taking a cigarette break, or going to the printer. It must be something you do regularly every day.

Let us assume you have chosen making a cup of tea.

Train yourself, every time you make a cup of tea, to ask yourself this question:

“What am I currently working on, and why?”

Deceptively simple but powerful

A lot of people find they cannot answer the question.

Even more people find that they know WHAT they are working on, but not WHY.

This silly, simple, regular habit does two things remarkably well.

  1. Focuses you back onto the task in hand. By the time you get back to your desk you are already thinking about it.

    It dramatically reduces the likelihood of you indulging in procrastination.
  2. Forces you to check that the task is still important to you.

    It makes you consider whether the task is taking you towards the larger goal, by asking the question “why?”.

You will be amazed how often, after asking yourself that question, you (a) get stuck back into your work with renewed vigour or (b) change activity completely because you realise you’ve been barking up the wrong tree.

Some tips

The key to this is making a regular physical activity a trigger for asking yourself the question at a moment when you have a minute to consider it (which is why making tea or visiting the lavatory are good). Practice and reinforce it until it becomes an ingrained habit.

At first, you might need to leave a note for yourself where you cannot help but see it (for example, on top of the tea bags).

Don’t overcomplicate it. Don’t bother trying to keep notes in your journal. The key is its deceptive simplicity. Just ask, what am I working on, and why?

Force yourself to answer the “why” part.

Don’t be afraid to change task after doing this – that’s the point.

Don’t be surprised if you feel slight panic when you ask the question, as you realise you have been frittering time away as an urgent deadline looms. Congratulate yourself for having successfully nipped procrastination or incorrect focus in the bud.