Archive for the ‘Organisation’ Category

7 Tricks to Success

In Organisation on August 9, 2012 at 9:06 pm

The trickiest hand of them all!

Overcoming inertia and actually getting active can be difficult. But there are lazy ways to get things done – you just need to trick yourself into doing it. When logic won’t work, you need to work beyond reason.

1. Remove choice from your path.

If you’ve burnt all your bridges then there’s nowhere to go but onwards, right? This happens a lot when people leave themselves with the night before to accomplish a task. We’re not going to do this. We’re trying to outwit our lazier instincts; not the other way round. If you’re trying to lose weight, remove temptation from your kitchen. If you’re swamped with files, create a system for dealing with it. Nature takes the path of least resistance.

2. Pretend there’s less.

I’m a big fan of Zen to Done. If you start off with the expectation that you’re only going to complete three tasks, then you’re a success whether you achieve that and nothing more, or if you power through a stack of papers the width of your desk. By pretending there’s less you remove the first hurdle to starting – by chopping the day’s work into pieces.

3. Create false deadlines.

Nothing makes me hurry like a deadline. The usual problem is that the deadline is the night before, and one night isn’t enough time. Try the habit of setting your personal deadlines for a few days before the actual deadline, so that the result isn’t a rushed mess. Realise, though, that you can edit the result before your actual deadline. Otherwise you’ll just end up with the same rushed mess, a few days earlier.

4. Tweak your alarm clock.

Set it a bit earlier, every day. Let the time you wake up creep a little earlier daily, until you’ve started to recover the morning for your own. A salute to those of you with iron wills who wake before six. Think of all the slow breakfasts, energising runs and beautiful sunrises you’re missing out on if you’re asleep.

5. Stay mindful.

I’ve known of people who snap an elastic band around their wrists when they have negative thoughts. It’s just a form of conditioning yourself. Staying mindful counteracts those stupid little things we do unconsciously. I can think of plenty of occasions. When you get home after work and switch on the TV without thinking… When your hand creeps into the bag of chocolate without your noticing… If you trick yourself into realising when you’re doing it you’ll be able to stop without using willpower. In the 4-hour body it’s illustrated how, just by consistently tracking your weight, you can unconsciously make the thousands of little decisions that result in losing weight. It’s when we’re in control of those little decisions that we can control the big changes.

6. Become accountable.

Does anybody want to play down the effect that people’s comments have upon us? Even those we’re just imagining? When we know that people are informed of our plans we become more likely to succeed. The factors depend on the person – for me it’s a mixture of fear and stubbornness – but it’s easy to understand. Even when nobody cares, we think they do, and that drives us.

7. Tell yourself a story.

More particularly, a different story. This approach is just adopted from cognitive behavioural therapy – when your own personal narrative is saying something negative, you slowly correct it. To trick yourself, tell yourself that things are different to how you’re perceiving them. If you’re dreading getting started on your manuscript, imagine you’re going to start it with the same enthusiasm that you’d have watching the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy (with deleted scenes, of course). Enthusiasm is all subjective and, ultimately, controllable.

So, next time you need to do something, try tricking yourself into it. Willpower is overrated.

How to Manage an Impossible Situation

In Organisation on July 29, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Are you a castaway?

So here we are. You’ve been thrown in at the deep end. You’re trussed up in a cooking pot as the cannibals start lighting the fire underneath. You’re in an impossible situation and you’ll never get the exact result that you want.

So accept that and drive for the best possible situation you can salvage from the ruins. Maybe you’re mediating between two parties that won’t move an inch. Maybe you’re part of the cast for Lost’s sequel. Closing your eyes and hoping that the problem will go away isn’t what’s going to make the situation more bearable. Standing on your own two feet and making something happen is the way that you’ll find a solution.

Now that you’ve accepted the situation, accept responsibility for it. Maybe it’s not your fault, maybe it is, but if you always rely on somebody else to solve your problems for you, you’re going to be left high and dry the one time they remove their support. Focusing on whose fault the situation is, or ‘blamestorming’, may feel natural, but it’s an unhealthy use of time. If this situation is impossible, you should try to make progress, and make your situation better, as soon as possible. The twin sister of responsibility is proactivity. Accepting proactivity means taking action without the need for obvious stimulus. If you’re stranded on a desert island, the canny survivor starts building shelter not when night’s about to fall and the wind is rising, but as soon as they’ve gathered their bearings.

Establish the facts. Work out the situation you’ve found yourself in, work out the best possible outcome and start working out how to get to it. Don’t jump to conclusions unless there really is no time. Although you should be proactive, effective planning is the best action if you’re in uncertain waters. Ask lots of questions and pay attention to your conclusions. If there are others, ask them. Research. There’s no sense in reinventing the wheel; if somebody’s already documented your situation then take heed from them.

What, where, who, which, when, how and why? These questions are your friends when it comes to establishing the facts. Notice that I left how and why until the end. Asking how and why something has happened, or how and why to do something, requires use of the other ‘W’ questions. Asking how and why World War Two happened without knowing what it is, where it occurred, who was involved, which countries fought and when it started would be redundant. There are so many social, economic, political and moral reasons involved that asking how and why first makes you sound like an unhelpful toddler. Asking ‘why?’ to everything may be a philosopher’s staple, but without a grounding in facts your answer will be flimsy.

Check your pockets. If you already have skills or items that will help you then take note of them. It’s important to know what you’ve taken with you to this situation and this includes your attitude. You should be proactive and responsible, but also stable and positive. If you’re hysterical and negative then you aren’t going to be able to act constructively.

If you’re in this situation with others, then examine your hierarchy. Different people are bound to have different skills, but they need organising. If you seem to be the only person who’s proactive and responsible, then offer yourself as the leader. Rather than making an overt coup, start guiding people along a constructive path. If they see you as a leader or not, you’re still managing the situation. As I mentioned before, a person in this position should be stable and positive. If you aren’t, then don’t struggle to be the leader. Gracefully accepting that somebody else is in a better position to lead is the best move in this situation. Try to work on your emotions and attitude so that you can be a greater help to the others.

If you’re dealing with people, then your attitude is of paramount importance. Be calm and professional. Even if you’re dealing with somebody who looks like they’re about to explode with anger, don’t slip to their level and risk losing grip of your logic. But having said that, people don’t always respond to logic. The art of human persuasion is complicated. Great orators and politicians realise that people respond to emotion as well as logic. Usually they respond to it better than logic. So make yourself look as human as possible. It’s easier to ignore or treat people badly when you treat them as a thing, not a person. So add personal details. Create a story that forces them to see you as another person. Maybe they still won’t care, but hopefully they will. In your situation, I assume failure is not an option. So be persistent. A calm, polite and persistent person is much more difficult to ignore than a raging idiot.

So solve the problem. Sadly, I don’t know what it is. But if you’ve approached it properly, harnessed the power of the people around you and adopted the right attitude, the solution should come, given time and effort. Maybe the situation wasn’t impossible after all; you just needed to focus and deal with it. Maybe it was impossible and you need to reach a compromise. And maybe it was impossible and there’s no solution. But with your responsible, proactive, attitude, you’ll have the skills to live with it.

So you’ve reached some sort of solution. Don’t let your guard down and become complacent. Impossible tasks take longer to reach completion than you’d think… And having been in this situation once, you may know how to avoid it a second time.


  • Take responsibility for yourself and your future. Be proactive and don’t wait for others or external circumstances to move you to action.
  • Start working out your circumstances. Ask yourself and others questions to determine your situation and how to proceed.
  • Use what you already have, be it objects, skills, knowledge or other people.
  • Organise the people around you, try to make them responsible and proactive too. If you aren’t best suited to be a leader, step down gracefully.
  • Harness the power of emotional language to help others relate to you. Stay calm, polite and professional.
  • Go for it.

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