Perfectionism kills productivity

Being a perfectionist can be a good thing – it makes you always get better at what you’re doing. However it can also be the complete opposite – it can prevent you from getting things done or even getting started in the first place. Because of this, a healthy dose of imperfectionism can be crucial for your productivity.

Whether you’re a writer, video producer, musician or web designer, when you start to work on something, you usually have some idea of what the final product should look like. But because of different reasons, the actual thing rarely looks exactly like your vision. You’ll feel like you didn’t express yourself clearly enough, that you left out something important, that you should spend more time editing… And yes, it’s true: Without even seeing it, I can tell you – your work could be better. But that’s not the point.

Here’s the problem: there will always be something to improve. But if we keep striving for absolute perfection, we never get the thing done and end up having a bunch of projects we started, but never finished. Instead, at some point, you have to accept your work as it is and publish it. You are imperfect too – and people still hang out with you! It is more important that people actually get to read that story, see that website or hear that song. You will have something to show, something that will make you proud and which will then serve as a motivation for your further work. And your next creation will be a little better. And the next one even better. It’s a  process of constant improvement, but you have to start somewhere.

Don’t worry that your audience is going to judge you because it isn’t perfect – they’re just as imperfect as you and me.

 

A perfect world would be boring anyway.

The forgotten value of play

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When we are children, we play intuitively. You don’t have to tell a child to play – whatever they see or take, they’ll instantly start playing with it. Whether it’s a game with fixed rules or simply having a toy in the hand and imagining worlds around it, playing is necessary for our early development and well-being.

When we play doctor, we explore what it is like to be a doctor. A girl playing with Barbie dolls and imagining that the doll is a mother explores the other side of her relationship with her own mother. When we play with Legos, we constantly overcome challenges – what do you do if you don’t have the piece that you need? It is through play that we learn how to live.

As we grow up, we gradually stop using toys. And that is okay, because otherwise we wouldn’t keep developing. Our toys get replaced by phones, laptops, cameras, sports equipment, clothes – and all of these tools enable us to realize our potential in different ways. However that doesn’t mean we should stop playing. That instinct was once such a big part of who we were and it is still somewhere deep inside each one of us. That’s why we like movies, virtual reality, escape rooms, amusement parks, interactive content and such. We still want to explore and learn about the world through play.

Now, I don’t say everyone should go ahead and get themselves a collection of Pokemon (although I will support you if you do), but I believe we should find ways to play in our everyday life. Race on the street with your friend for no reason, pull a prank on someone, draw a birthday card with your own hand, jump from a swing, make sure to avoid the lava floor or simply dance alone in your apartment.  

 

It’s not about being a child or being an adult. It’s about enjoying your life.

 

3 secrets to getting things done

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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.  

 

  1. “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.

 

  1. 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.  

 

  1. 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
  • etc.

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.

Karlo Krznarić: How I found what I want to do in life

 

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Holidays are over, January is on its way and the everyday reality has kicked in again. We’re still riding the wave of the New year’s enthusiasm, but we all know that at some point we’ll stop referring to 2018 as “New year” and most likely so will we stop thinking about those New year’s resolutions. If we even made any in the first place.

For me, 2017 was the best year of my life so far. I felt that my life has been becoming what I had wanted it to be. Just a year earlier I moved abroad from my home country. In Zagreb, where I had lived for three years, I had friends, colleagues, my university, did summer jobs, all kinds of activities and my family was a two- hour ride away. But now I was here, in Vienna. It took great sacrifices, both on my side and my family’s side to make this possible. And although I didn’t come here out of necessity, but out of curiosity and ambition, organising my life again was by no means easy. I had to find a job in a foreign country, new friends, figure out university stuff, learn how to cook (oh how I miss Croatian cheap student restaurants) and find ways to spend my free time. And I did all of that. A year afterwards I built my life from scratch again. And in the process I also found what I want to do with this life of mine, at least for now.

It’s a tricky situation, not knowing what you want to do. We will spend such a huge part of our life working and right now we are still in position to choose what that will be. It is understandable that we’re afraid we might spend 40 years doing something we don’t want. But how can we make a good decision if we don’t know what it is that we want?

I discovered that for me, this thing is public speaking. I want to speak in front of large audiences, I want to teach people how to speak well, I want to organise workshops where people will play and laugh and feel safe to let the best in them come onto the surface. I heard people talking about ‘passion’ and I had used this word before, but only now have I discovered what passion is. It feels like being in love. When I wake up I think about methods for teaching people how to use their voice well. When I’m in class, I’m writing, but I’m writing down things I could use in a new video. When I go to bed, I can’t sleep because I’m getting ideas for games that I might use in a workshop. And when I’m there, when I’m coaching or running a workshop, I’m thinking nothing. It all goes quiet in my head, I let myself go and existence seems so easy. And if I can get paid to do this, what a beautiful life this is going to be.

Now truth be told, I haven’t been doing extraordinarily well. I haven’t been making serious money with this. People seem to have a lot of interest in what I’ve been doing, but not that many people actually show up on workshops. Not many people actually read what I write and if they do, they’re mostly my friends that I know from before. If you’re reading this (and made it this far), we probably know each other personally. But you got to start somewhere. And exactly thanks to people like you, I feel that all of my efforts, all the energy I invest and all the stress I go through, is worth it. People have been getting in touch with me, telling me that something I taught them really helped them or that my video made their day. I’m starting to feel that I’m making a change, that I have a meaning in this world. It’s not big yet, but it’s taking shape. It’s a beautiful feeling and you I want you to experience this feeling as well. Every person should.

Everyone has a unique situation. Maybe you study something that doesn’t really make you happy. Maybe you ended up there because you didn’t know any better, or because your parents made you do it. Maybe you do like what you study, but have no clue how you’ll make a living with it. Or maybe you already work, but don’t really feel that this is it.

But what is it that would make you happy? And more importantly, how are you going to find it? Well for a start, you’re not going to find it in your living room. You have to go out there and do things. Do not limit yourself to what your friends are doing, what you usually do or even necessarily to what you explicitly like. Go and do all kinds of things. Join a student organisation, a choir, a martial arts club, paint, shoot movies, play music, learn about business, volunteer in an animal shelter – whatever it is that interests you at least slightly, go and give it a try. Realise that you are lost, you don’t know where to go, but this is the beauty of it – you are not lost, you are free to go wherever you want. This is the time in your life when you should do exactly that. Don’t miss out on it, use this freedom. Learn and experience what it feels like to be a designer, an entertainer, a programmer or a photographer. And don’t be afraid of failing! If it goes wrong or it turns out you’re not good at it, so what! You’re not doing it professionally yet, so you can afford yourself to fail. At least you’ll know that this is not what you want to do. So you can just switch to the next thing. You may not instantly find what your calling is, but you will learn about yourself – you will learn what you’re good at and what you like. You may not like being a babysitter, but maybe there will be some aspect of it that you will like and then you can keep looking for professions that have this aspect in it as well.

Talk to people. Don’t hesitate to ask big questions – you won’t be weird. Ask them what they love doing. Ask what they love about it and why they’re passionate about it. This will open your eyes to new perspectives and spark your interest for new things. It will give you ideas that might develop through time and lead you to something big. Plus, you will start understanding people in ways you couldn’t before. Have role models. Don’t follow anyone blindly and don’t strive to be someone else, but think about the characteristics people have that you would like to develop. Each of us is unique, but that doesn’t mean we can’t share things with others. Each one of us is also a mix of people around us and people we look up to, so try to take the best from everyone and see how you can learn from them. You can’t be a leader if you don’t know what it’s like being a follower. One day someone will look up to you in the same way.

It is a long process and it requires patience, but it will not be time wasted. It will be a valuable time in which you will learn about yourself and the world around you. It will bring you more than you can imagine. And trust me, don’t be afraid to fail. Or be afraid, but do it nonetheless. Personally, I’m always afraid. I’m afraid of dozens of things. Clowns, the dark, failure, loneliness, suffering, death… and don’t even get me started on spiders. But there’s something my friend Mislav told me when I was moving to Vienna: Being fearless doesn’t mean not having fears, but not letting your fears stop you from doing what you want. We are afraid of failure because we think that we won’t be happy if we fail. But trust yourself that even if you fail, you will find a way to be happy again. If you don’t, contact me and we’ll figure it out together.

Thank you, my friend and good luck to both of us. Happy New year.

Karlo

 

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