I like to play psychological games, especially with myself. In one of my productivity experiments, I came up with this idea, that I am sharing with you today. I created a goal that I wanted to complete in sixty days. I wanted to visually track how much time I have consumed and how much time is still left. So I went out and bought a few hundred beads. Then I took a box that had two compartments, and loaded sixty beads in the left compartment. Each morning when I wake up, I would pick one bead and drop it in the right compartment. Look at the picture and you will see what I mean.
On the face of it, this may not look like anything great. There are probably hundreds of online apps and other digital ways that you can track progress of your goals. Some of them will even give you sophisticated graphs and pie charts to show progress. I myself use these apps, too. However, this bead box experiment has proved to be very powerful to me. Each morning when I think about my goal and pick up a bead physically with two of my fingers, dropping it into the right compartment, I visualize and realize that one day has reduced from the time I had yesterday. The pile of beads in the left compartment is depleting. I am running out of time. This motivates me to be on my toes. It keeps me productive by staying away from wasting time in mindless activities. And when I reach my goal on time, it is a huge accomplishment for me. Cool na!
Now, for those folks who think I’m a productivity maestro and assume that I “always” complete my goals on time, let me tell you the fact – No! I usually set very difficult time-frames, so I don’t always complete my goals on time. But now, I don’t easily get emotional whenever I fail. In fact, I even start feeling happy later on about the “substantial” progress that I make, which would not have been the case had I not set a challenge for myself in the first place.
There should always be a time limit for any goal you set in life. Otherwise, there is no urgency, hence, no motivation to accomplish. “I will stop smoking one day” is a futile goal, you will never stop. If you’re smoking 20 cigarettes a day and decide to reduce to 5 per day within six months, it is a good goal. It’s better than not reducing at all. Even if you manage to reduce to only 10 cigarettes per day, it will positively impact your health. If you want to lose weight, have a target, like “I will lose ten pounds within thirty days”. Even if you lose five, you have LOST SOME WEIGHT! You have made progress!
Always focus on taking action. Make some progress on a daily basis, even if it is small. Don’t break the chain. When you want to progress upwards, it’s like driving a car uphill. Drive slowly if you want, but keep driving. Keep the momentum. If you stop, you’ll slip backwards. Stop only for re-fueling (rejuvenating).
Make yourself a time-bound challenge today. You don’t need a bead-box like mine, to track progress visually. Come up with your own idea. Be creative. It can be coins, pebbles, or wheat grains from the kitchen, for all I care. What is important is, do something where you can track your progress. Don’t set a very difficult time-frame like the way I do, if you’re afraid of failing. Be easy on yourself, initially. You don’t even have to follow the two-compartment box idea like mine, have something that suits your situation. For example, you wish to stop smoking within 30 days. You can buy a monthly pill organizer / medicine box and keep adding beads or something similar each time you smoke, on the first day in the first compartment. Next day, do the same in the second compartment. Continue for 30 days. Your main goal in this case should be to ensure that the bead quantity continues to decrease as you progress towards the end.
Note: This article is part of my upcoming book, where I reveal many more productivity hacks. If you wish to be one of the first to know when I launch my book, you can subscribe to my mailing list. I’ll keep you updated.