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Working Smart I: Initiative Builder

No time to get it done? Projects gathering cobwebs? Unfinished projects piling up on your desk, in your house, on your conscience? Use the Initiative Builder when you have difficulty getting started on a lengthy, complex or daunting project.

Setting a time by which to complete your task makes good sense. However, especially for long-term projects, starting with a built-in motivator works even better. Here’s how:

1. Decide WHY you are doing this task.

Not your boss’s goal, yours. How does this project fit with your overall goals? Maybe it’s a direct step (“I am calling these realtors because selling this house is a step toward my goal of __________.”) or an indirect step (“I am doing this task at work because it’ll build my resume for the job I really want, which will help me move toward my goal of ____________.” “I am doing this task because it helps me develop my willpower, which I will need to meet the challenge of ___________.” or even “I am doing this to earn a paycheck which will allow me to __________.”) Whatever the immediate benefit, tie it in with your goal.

2. Write your "why" or overall goal down, and post it.

When you’re clear on how accomplishing this task moves you toward your goal, on a sticky note write “I am making these 15 calls / writing this report / building this website / (whatever the task is) because it will help me move toward my goal of ______________.” Or: “… because it helps me develop (quality), which will help me attain my goal of ________.” Re-read that note frequently.

3. Divide the job into workable segments.

List steps or phases that can be completed in a day or less.

4. Determine a reasonable amount of time for completion of each phase.

5. Now, DOUBLE THAT TIME as you set your target completion dates for each phase.

Sound strangely self-indulgent? Giving yourself time to relax, take breaks and interweave other tasks with this one is a key to effective work. Working under time duress leads to fear-driven mistakes and inattention. An added benefit of the time-doubling strategy is that you will almost certainly beat your deadline!

NOTE: If you’re not the one setting the deadlines and your boss consistently gives you too little time, perhaps your target date setting needs to be “I will be out of this job, with a wonderful new job where I can exercise initiative, by (date) _______!”

For work strategies addressing Pacing and Focus, read the two blog entries below this one.

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