Recently I wrote about OFAT - one focus at a time - as a mindset for helping stay motivated on projects and helping you achieve consistency. And you become a consistent achiever too. I have demonstrated the viability of this strategy over the past few years where I have conducted a lot of 'side projects' - running a business, writing a screenplay, and many programming projects. Not to mention growing my family and building my career.
But there is another productivity tip which goes hand in hand with OFAT. This tip is a MUST-HAVE for anyone busting their arse on a side project - whether you are a writer, painter, entrepreneur, singer, musician, programmer - but is also extremely powerful for anyone who just wants to be more productive. Planning a holiday, building a treehouse, learning to cook, renovating your house, or some other project in your life. All of these can benefit from this second productivity tip.
OTAD: One task a day
Consider One task a day as your MINIMUM MANDATORY EFFORT.
Every day you must complete at least one task a day toward your goal, project, or whatever you are working towards. Just one, every day.
It sounds so simple that even as I write it I am second guessing myself. Surely this is obvious. Surely I am wasting my time writing this post.
But then I remember the dreamers I've met in my life. You know them. The people who are always TALKING about their ideas or some project they say they want to work on over the weekend but only if they don't go partying with their friends. Or after they binge watch a TV series on Netflix. And guess what? They never get anything done.
Hell, I used to be one of these guys. I used to be a dreamer. I revelled in the fact that I was an 'ideas man'. I had so many good ideas about everything and how to make the world a better place. But guess how many of my ideas I turned into something tangible? Zero. Or maybe 0.5 but I don't think you get half points in this space. You either achieve or you don't and I was definitely not achieving.
But I turned it all around with a simple focus on completing one task a day.
Why OTAD Works
It's quite simple. It's all about momentum and forming habits.
When you do one task, just one, every day you build momentum quickly. Suddenly that giant project that seemed too big and too hard becomes a lot easier. Instead of trying to think about the whole thing you just focus on the one little task you can do today. This is how you build momentum and eat the elephant.
The second benefit is the habit forming. When you try to wait until you have enough time to work on big chunks you end just waiting. And waiting. I'm reminded of this wonderful-but-scarily-insightful Dr Seuss excerpt:
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
By waiting, more accurately called procrastinating, you lock that in as your habit. That's right, by putting off your big project you build a habit of putting it off. Every day that putting-off habit becomes ingrained and it becomes harder to get anything done.
But if you switch it around and force yourself into the OTAD philosophy then you form a much better habit - one of constant progress and success. This is quite motivating in itself. Once that habit forms you will find yourself churning through tasks every day and making great progress. No more waiting for you! It's all bright places and boom bands from here. For those who don't have little children that is another Dr Seuss reference.
One extra benefit, or side-effect, of OTAD is the amount of new ideas and background processing that occurs. When you bring your project to the forefront of your mind at least once every day your mind naturally keeps it in focus. This causes your brain to subconsciously process your project even when you're doing other things. You might find a great idea strikes you in the shower or maybe you figure out a solution to that really difficult problem while you are on the way to work. This kind of powerful offline processing is yet another great reason for using OTAD.
Finally, you don't have to limit yourself to just one task. That's just the minimum. It's ok to do more and, as you build up the momentum, you'll probably find you naturally tick off multiple items every day. Double win!
Do you have a project that is in waiting mode? What is one task that you could do today?