Have you ever tried to deliberately mess something up? It’s hard to make it look convincing isn’t it? It’s impossible to create an genuine mess when you know how not to mess up.
But looking at “how to mess up” isn’t what we are after, we’re always looking for ways not to mess things up obviously. The internet is overloaded with “how-to’s” to take your hand and guide you through all the steps and help you not to mess up. It’s all very nice obviously, but it doesn’t focus on what it is that makes you fail.
Why you fail
Did you ever stop and think about why you fail at something? Why it’s not the best you can do? If something is the best you can do but it’s not good enough, is it still a failure? That’s up to you, but would it be the same kind of failure if you didn’t give it all you have to give and so failed. Knowing full well that if you gave everything you’d succeed.
If you’re just not good enough, you’ll just have to get better. And that’s not what this blogpost is about. This blogpost is about failing where you could (should?) have succeeded just because you didn’t give it your best.
A few questions for the conscience
Look back at your resent failures, yes it’s painful but it’s for the greater good here. Did you fail because of not being good enough or because you were slacking. With those failures you were slacking on, can you recall working on the project? I’m going to make a few guesses here:
- You weren’t focused
- or worse.. you were multitasking *shudders*
- and you weren’t spending enough time on the project
I know, I know, it’s almost as if I was there with you and have seen what you were doing. There are two problems here, the time spent and the focus.
Spending enough time
Taking just 20 minutes to work on a task is certainly a good idea, but by itself it will do nothing for you. You’ll have to do more than just sit there and watch a timer as it counts down. Watching it will actually slow it down! Spending enough time has a lot to do with knowing what you actually want or need to do. As soon as you have a clear images of the goal, make an estimation on how long it will take. The first pit-fall presents itself: your estimation is off, maybe even by as much as 90%. Either you over exaggerate the time it takes (no wonder you’re reluctant to do it) or you thought it was far easier than it actually was (no wonder you got in trouble at the deadline).
If you have read the four hour workweek you know the Pareto principle: 80% of the work gets done in 20% of the time. Great! So now you can cut down your estimation by 80%. Wrong again! The 80-20 principle when applied to work implies that the 20% of the time you spend on work you actually do the best you can. You focus on the task, no distractions whatsoever. No checking facebook, twitter or steeping a pot of tea. Petting your cat or answering the phone, although nice breaks aren’t to productive as well.
Giving it your best: combining focus and time
In the time you actually work on something, do just that and nothing else. You might find it hard to keep that focus but with some training in meditation it’s actually not that hard. Steeping some tea or brewing a cup of coffee will have to wait until you take a short break. For whatever length of time you are working, cut out all distractions and know exactly what it is you are working at. You can do it!
Fail to fail
If you spend enough time and focus on whatever it is you are doing, you-can-not-fail. It is now impossible for you to mess up. And if you do fail, you either, didn’t focus enough, didn’t spend enough time or spent your time focused on the wrong thing.
Now you know how not to fail, what are you waiting for?