If you ever get stuck on a project or discouraged with where to start improving things at work, try a simple and invigorating exercise. This is guaranteed to give you an infusion of energy and fresh thinking.
It can be hard to get moving sometimes. A big task, a work mess or an overwhelming project presents a lot of inertia for us to overcome just to get started. (For more on the subject of inertia, visit www.BizPhyZ.com.) One technique often cited to help get things moving is to break the task down into small sub-tasks and then attack the bite-sized pieces. That requires additional strategy which I’ve not seen explained. If a task is so daunting, how do you determine where to make the cuts in order to break it down? That can become a task in itself.
Here’s my recommendation. Ask yourself this question, “how do I want this to look when I’m done?” Sit down with a piece of paper and address that question. If you have a big report to write, think about how that report will look, how big it will be and what the reaction will be when you submit it. As you think through these parts, jot them down in very simple terms. The idea is to get your brain inside the task rather than evaluating some seemingly insurmountable obstacle.
I’m proposing something different from visualization. I want you to look at the various parts in detail and think about what you want from each part first, then picture that part. Allow it to develop. With typical visualization, you’re supposed to ‘will’ the outcome. Picture the happy boss. Picture the client handing you the check. I’ve not found value in that.
You cannot will the client to hand you a project. My process involves thinking and picturing. Think realistically about the boss’s reaction and then adjust accordingly.
Let’s do a quick example. Let’s say that you have to submit a big proposal to a prospect. This means you’ve got a lot of writing to do. Yuck. You have only a slight chance of getting the project because the boss will set the price too high. Yuck. Who has energy for that?
Stop and think. What would a winning proposal look like? You’ve wanted to try something different but never have the time to develop it. You’ve wanted to add some pictures from other projects and put the entire proposal into a slick PDF format. As you picture this in your mind, you’ll notice an energy surge to get get started. Resist! Keep thinking.
Now that you picture this bold new format, think about what the boss is going to say. This is where I part company with simple visualization. Visualization would have you picture the delight as the boss sees this new, bold proposal format. Problem being, that probably won’t happen and you know it. Rather than unravel, keep thinking. How will you explain your format to the boss? Perhaps you’ll say that this could enhance the company’s chances of getting the project in spite of the higher cost. Write down how you will deal with these problems. Go back and look again at this proposal in your mind. Should you change anything to address the concerns your boss will raise?
As you mentally play with this process, throw some really wild ideas into the mix. Maybe put the whole proposal on DVD and include a video?
Okay, that might be too wild. The point is that your brain is going to love this playground and want to get started as quickly as possible on the task you were dreading. Don’t disregard those crazy ideas yet. You might be holding a breakthrough innovation your company needs. You might be holding a crazy idea. Decide later after the proposal begins to take shape.
We do not use our brains enough. Work is far too task oriented. By doing this exercise you’ll find new energy you never knew was inside you.
Finally, if you get discouraged step away and look at your notes. Think again about how this will look when done.
Get charged and then charge!
Chris Reich, TeachU