Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Productivity tips: How to become a ‘task ninja’

Throughout the day many of us get stuck in periods of inaction. Whether you’re procrastinating, completing small tasks to avoid the important ones or too distracted to get started on anything, the fact is, we’ve all been there.

So, what's the best way to get yourself out of a state of inaction?

Well, you can start by training yourself to become a “task ninja.”

I recently came across the idea in a post by Leo Babauta at his blog, Zen Habits. He’s also the author of The Power of Less, an insightful new book on personal productivity.

Instead of focusing on our inaction, Leo suggests that you “get all Ninja on your actions” and start forming an “Action Habit” instead.

Here are Leo's five quick steps to help you get started:

1. Figure out your key actions. Focusing on the right actions is just as important as the doing. Don’t spend a lot of time in this step — just quickly decide your Top 3 actions for today.

2. Pick one key action, and visualize the outcome. How will it look when you’re done? Again, don’t spend a lot of time here — just form a quick picture in your mind.

3. Just start. Tell yourself, “Do it now!” Make it a mantra. Don’t mess around with tools, with distractions, with anything that will get in the way of doing this task. Strip away everything but the task, and get going!

4. Focus on the moment. Just be in this task, don’t worry about the future or what mistakes you might make or might have made before. Just focus on doing this task, as best you can. Immerse yourself in it.

5. Get to done. Complete the task. Feel good about it! Pat yourself on the back!

After you’ve gone through all of the steps, repeat the process with your next habit. Like any habit, it will get easier with practice.

Improve your success rate by eliminating some common barriers to the Action Habit:

  • Perfection isn’t necessary. Just focus on completing the task now. You can go back and improve it later.
  • Don’t worry about the unnecessary. If you’re writing for example, don’t worry about the font or format of your document, just write.
  • Eliminate distractions. Turn off instant messaging, Twitter, and let your phone calls go to voice mail. If you can’t concentrate in the office, get up and move to another location such as a quite conference room or cafe down the street.
  • Break it up. If you’re intimidated by the size of the task, break it up into manageable pieces.

Training yourself to get more done is possible, but only if you know where to start. Zen Habits is a great blog to read if you’re looking for ways to new ways to improve your personal productivity on a daily basis.

You can also check out a few of our past posts on training yourself to be more productive:

How to be productive when business is slow

Productivity: Rules for effective meetings

Productivity: How to get started and avoid pitfalls

Personal productivity training, six simple tips

How to deliver employee training like a ninja

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