Is there a big task in front of you? You have to prepare for a big exam, want to build a summer body or bring an idea into realisation that you’ve been thinking about for a long time? Are you saying that you’ll definitely start working on it soon, but that “soon” hasn’t been happening for quite some time now?
Big projects can be difficult. We keep procrastinating on them and then when we finally start, we do some work on one day and then three days we do nothing; on some days we feel like none of it makes sense and on some days we feel like we should give up on the whole thing.
More or less, that’s exactly what making my audiobook was like. There were days when I absolutely hated the whole thing. I spent hours alone in my room every day writing it, recording it and editing it. In the last two months of it, I was the most bored and lonely I had ever been in my life. It was a difficult time. But I managed to get it done. And here’s what I learned from it.
- “Kleine Brötchen backen”
We all know that getting started is the most difficult. But don’t expect of yourself to work for five hours on the first day. Here’s the trick: start small. On the first day, decide that you will only work for 30 minutes. Yes, they will be horrible 30 minutes and you will keep looking at the clock, but after they’re over, you’re free! And it doesn’t matter if it’s not that good, because look: congratulations, you’ve started. If you want to continue working, you can – if not, you don’t have to! Whatever the case, tomorrow will already be easier because you will have something to keep building on.
- Consistency & balance: work first, play later
No film, music album or summer body is made in one day. Big projects are done through long periods of consistent work. You’ll be more productive if you work for two hours a day, but do it every day than bust your tail on one day and then feel exhausted for a week. To achieve this kind of consistency and make sure you’re actually putting in those two hours a day, you have to create a balance – you mustn’t forget to play. If it’s Netflix, hanging out with friends or sport, don’t forget to reward yourself and have fun. If you wake up knowing that your entire day will revolve around work, it’ll be hell. But if you know that after work comes play, you will have something to look forward to. Let that motivate you.
- Split it into smaller tasks
Take a piece of paper. Write what your task is. Then split that big task into smaller tasks, the steps towards it. For instance, if your task is to write your thesis, you can split it into the following:
- find literature
- read article X
- find relevant stuff in book Y
- come up with a concept
- write an introduction
Then decide which of these tasks you are going to do today, even if it’s just one. Make sure to put a check mark next to a task when you complete it. This will give you a beautiful feeling of making progress. You can also give yourself a tap on the shoulder and tell yourself “good job.” I do it. It’s super weird, but it helps.
These are just three tips and they can make your work a bit easier. You can also experiment with other ways to do your work more effectively – working in different durations, at different times of day, rewarding yourself with different things, introducing little rituals… However, know that there is no magical tip that will do the work for you. What really matters at the end of the day is that you know why you’re doing it – to help someone, to make your family proud, to be recognized or maybe even to make money – and then roll up your sleeves and get down to it. There is no way around hard work. And yes, it’s going to be difficult, messy, ugly and you may hate every minute of it, but once you get it done, you will be proud of yourself. And that feeling is going to be worth the effort.