Start at the End: How Your Outcome Affects Your Productivity

This is the most common variation of wisdom that sages have shared over the centuries.

Always start at the beginning.

There’s nothing really It is wrongThat’s it. There’s some truth to the notion that when you feel overwhelmed, or reluctant to start, thinking of the smallest “first step” you can take will help get you over the hump and on your way.

That’s not bad advice.

But I’m gonna let you in on a little secret:

Start at the beginning if you are looking to improve your self-discipline and motivation. 

Or, in other words: Start with the end.

Credit Where It’s Due:  This is one of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits that Make Highly Effective People Successful.

The End is the Beginning to Increase Productivity

It’s super-easy to implement this strategy right now. Here’s how it works:

  1. Before you get started Any task, pause and ask yourself: “What’s my desired outcome here?”
  2. Find the right answer and write it down.
  3. Begin.

That’s it. It’s as easy as that. It takes less than one minute.

These are just a few of the examples

I have found that this strategy performs best when used in the following situations:

  1. When you’re getting ready to deal or communicate with other people, especially when the conversation might be a bit awkward, heated, or conflict-oriented
  2. When you’re about to start a chunk of creative work on a project or goal
  3. When you’re doing work that you innately resist or feel less-than-motivated to do

These are examples from each category. Understanding the importance of starting with the end can lead to better results.

Interpersonal communications that touch the heart

Let’s say you need to email a response to a client who thinks you should be providing additional work on a project for no extra compensation.

Asking yourself “What do I want to happen here when this email is received and read?” can help you choose and carefully craft the Tone The email. You’d probably use very different language if this is a client you really want to keep versus one who has been making unreasonable demands all along and generally been a nightmare to work with.

This helps to center you emotionally and limit the content of your emails to only those that are important.

That will in turn help prevent “dumping syndrome” – where you and the person you’re squabbling with end up bringing all kinds of past crap into the current debate and things inevitably go completely off the rails. In the business context, dumping all over each other will only waste your time and your client’s as well.

Creative Projects

Thinking about the potential finished product — in whatever form or medium you’re working with – will help you dive in and achieve a Zen-like state of focus: what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called “flow.”

Flow is that ideal state of über-productivity, where you’re completely absorbed in what you’re doing, with zero peripheral thoughts or distractions entering your consciousness or awareness. It’s highly conducive to greater creativity.

You can get to your goal faster by simply writing it down before you even start.

Tasks You’re Resisting

Beginning with the end in mind is particularly helpful when you’re staring down a dreaded task, something you don’t want to do, something that you’re Obligatory to do.

It is difficult to start such tasks. It is extremely difficult to take that first step.

But taking a moment to think “What’s my preferred outcome here? Why am I doing this?” can literally give you a reason to move forward.

What is the most powerful way to do this? Taking it one step further and figuring out what goal you’re furthering with this task – even if the goal is one of those “well, duh” goals that you haven’t even bothered to write down. Things like “raising healthy, confident kids.” Or “keeping my business going.” Or “ensuring my good reputation in my field.”

Sometimes you might need to be creative in your answers. It might not be a direct link from task to goal, but if you can figure out how the two are connected, you’ve got instant motivation to get it done.

And, if it is truly Is no connection? Then you’ve got a different problem, and should spend some time figuring out just how and why you obligated yourself to do it in the first place. Next, resolve not to let such items return on your list.

Final Word: Implementing outcomes-based productivity

Take a minute to pause for a full day before moving on. Any task, and ask “why am I doing this? What’s my preferred outcome?”

Seriously. ANY task. Everything, even brushing your teeth.

You will save thirty seconds each time you do it. No, I’m not recommending you do this Always. It is, however. Is a great way to begin conditioning yourself to think this way, and I’m betting that, by the end of the day, you’ll be experiencing a significantly more positive frame of mind and greater personal efficiency.

Is this a strategy you have used? What’s your experience with it? Leave a comment with your thoughts!

Addicted 2 Success published the post Start at The End: How your Outcome Impacts Your Productivity.

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