Burnout is real

Anytime I read a Statement like “Hustle Culture” and “Working till we make it”, I cringe. For every one of those statements you read, there is someone out there experiencing burnout because they have bought into the fiction that successful people are working late hours every day and surviving on four hours of sleep. That fiction has become so pervasive in some cultures that people are literally dropping dead from work-related exhaustion. Japan actually has a word for this phenomenon: Karoshi. While the Japanese work culture may represent an extreme case, many people around the world are experiencing work-related stress.

Karoshi
You know there’s a problem when they have a word for it
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Afraid to start

Procrastination is a problem we all have to deal with every day. It is like the hydra, the multi-headed creature from Greek mythology. Cut off one head and another sprouts in its stead, more ferocious and cunning than the one before it. One form that procrastination takes is fear: the fear to get started on a task. An individual may delay getting started on a task simply so they can think about all the ways it can go wrong. If you have found yourself doing this often, rest assured chances are you are chasing phantoms. Even if you fail, the outcome is rarely as bad as you imagine. How do you defeat that fear?

Emp
That mountain of paperwork isn’t going to take care of itself
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Tie tasks to long-term goals

To-do lists are a very useful tool for completing tasks. You wouldn’t catch me at work without one. However, if they have, one disadvantage, it is that they can encourage short-term thinking where the aim becomes completing as many low-value tasks as possible each day so you can have the satisfaction of crossing many items off your list. In order to be most effective, your to-do lists have to be tied to a larger system: Long-term goals.

to-do list
Wouldn’t be caught without one
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How to stay motivated when you’d rather be elsewhere

Self-motivation is the factor that separates the most successful from the mediocre. More than skill or talent, the ability to start a task and keep at it even when you’d rather not is often the key factor that determines those who reach the top of their field. However, knowing this fact is not enough. No one functions at 100% each day. We are all human and we all have limits on how much of an unpleasant task we can perform before our interest wanes. Unfortunately, important tasks tend to come with some degree of unpleasantness. They either take a long time, require careful application of skill, collaboration with others you’d rather avoid or a combination of all three. This can create conditions where a person would rather not start a task because they feel the effort required is not worth the initial reward.

What do you do when you find yourself showing up at work but not being able to push yourself to complete tasks? As it turns out, quite a lot.

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Work-life balance vs Work-life integration

For the longest time, personal productivity experts have advocated the achievement of work-life balance as the pinnacle of productivity. They argued that work should be treated as a separate space disconnected from personal life. The productive worker, they said, was one who completed their tasks for the day before closing time, clocked out and went home to spend time with their family. Work was not to be touched at home until they returned to the office the next day. This sharp separation of work and personal life was easier to achieve before the advent of the internet when workers were generally unreachable after office hours.

Stacked stones
Are your work and life in balance?
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By whose standards?

Three years ago, I was managing a project to teach young people digital skills. One aspect that we invariably touched upon was healthy use of social media. Social media has evolved to become a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s useful for staying in touch with family and friends, receiving quick information and for advertising products. On the other hand, social networks can be huge time wasters, have contributed to decreasing attention spans and can give people a very warped sense of what life is like. Perhaps the most insidious harm social media can do is to create the illusion that other people are achieving great deeds within short periods of time and everyone else who isn’t is a failure.

Bul
How do you tell fact from fiction?
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One hour each day

If you were to google “Personal productivity” right now, a recurrent topic that would come up would be time management. We all have the same 24 hours a day yet not everyone gets the same returns from their 24 hours. This is because time management is actually a misnomer. You can’t manage time. It’s always there and it’s always flowing even if you aren’t doing anything. What you can manage are tasks and by extension, your priority.

Time never stops
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Know the difference between a fact and a problem

Procrastination takes many forms. Sometimes, it hides in the form of a fact disguised to look like a problem. Think of a lazy Saturday Morning towards the end of a month. You need to withdraw some cash from the ATM. Your bank is about a 30-minute drive away. However, you are still at home lying in bed and staring at the ceiling because you know salaries got paid yesterday and there will likely be a long queue at the machine. It’s also a weekend. Therefore, chances are the machine will run out of cash before it gets to your turn.

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Never underestimate the power of attention

Have you ever had to build a skyscraper or send a man to another planet? Ok. Most people will never do those projects in their lives and that’s fine. However, we all deal with some level of complexity on the projects we work on whether it’s designing a new software or setting up a supply chain halfway across the globe. No matter how complex the project you are trying to do is, it can be broken down into a number of simple tasks. Reducing complex processes to their simplest activities is how skyscrapers are built.

“Most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in ten years.”

Bill Gates.
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Pay now, reap later

We live in an era of fast food, instant meals, same-day delivery, information overload and pressure to always stay connected. As a result, we are slowly losing our ability to be patient. According to research, 5% of mobile internet users will leave a webpage if it does not load within 3 seconds. We have come to expect everything immediately that when we have to wait just a few seconds, we lose interest and move on to something else.

Comin
To those who wait
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