Three Actions to Start Making Things Happen

Originally published on my blog “The Modern Time Crunch” for Psychology Today.                Thinking about a huge task or a series of tasks can be daunting. It’s easy to let the mountain of “to-do’s” intimidate you into abandoning all hope of reaching the summit. But there are common-sense ways to make the heights seem climbable.

1) Break down the mountain of to-do’s into achievable chunks.

A great mountain climber was once asked, “How do you manage to climb a mountain?” His answer: “One step at a time, and I just keep going.” A monumental goal can be broken down into very doable mini-goals.

For example, planning a major career change and desiring to do something very different than you’ve ever done before? The notion can make a hearty person think twice, and stay in an unfulfilling job out of sheer intimidation. But chopping the challenge into smaller, doable tasks, such as re-writing the resume and networking with those in your chosen field can drastically reduce the intimidation factor.

2) The key metric is productivity, not just being busy. Measure your progress.

In our whirlwind world, it’s easy to mistake “busy” for “productive”. Sometimes they are the same but often they are not; busyness is a very clever imposter. The best way to foil this imposter and prevent it from stealing your time and energy is to prioritize your tasks. This takes focus and deliberate planning. It takes some tough decisions; you must be ruthless with your time.

Finally, it requires tracking of your productivity and establishing clear metrics against which to measure your efforts. Are the hours and energy expended yielding significant results that are germane to your goal? In the answer leaves you unsatisfied, the message is clear: A course correction is needed. Revisit your list of tasks and adjust your priorities.

3) Make time for fun and exercise.

It seems counter intuitive that having fun (however you personally define it) can boost your productivity. But study after study has proven that “behavioral activation”, as the researchers call it, can flood the brain with the feel-good chemicals we need. The result is improved focus andoptimism, renewed emotional strength and generally a healthier state of mind. Pair this with the similarly endorphin-releasing activity of exercise (every plain old stretching) and you have brain-refreshing re-set.

Whatever your goal, these three tactics can help you to feel happier and more empowered in your quest. The triple-threat of breaking a project into feasible tasks, creating metrics against which to measure your efforts, and taking ownership of your emotional, spiritual and physical well-being can put you on course for conquering the summit, no matter how daunting the elevation. Channel your inner mountain climber and get moving.

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