[2 Minute Read or Listen Below]
Have you ever built up the difficulty of a task in your mind to the point you continually put off doing it? Human nature can lead you to overestimate the challenges of an unfamiliar or perceived unpleasant task. It's a bias that can also cause you to underestimate your capabilities.
I recently worked with a client to declutter paper from her home office and to put systems in place to help her and her family keep on top of their busy lives. The office, more specifically, the office floor, had turned into the family's dumping ground. Before the cleaning person came each week, everyone frantically tossed papers and items from the rest of the house onto the office floor. Much of it never left.
The space evoked such negativity my client didn't like going in there. What started as a minor problem quickly snowballed out of control. Analogous to Malcolm Gladwell's broken window theory in his book The Tipping Point, it becomes easy to let more collect when we allow even a few papers or items to accumulate.
During attempts to quickly 'clean up' the office floor, a mix of papers - old, new, time-sensitive, and future reference - were all unceremoniously scooped up and dumped into boxes. One box, in particular, was quite large.
My client steadily progressed as she learned the fundamentals around deciding what to keep and discard. Eventually, she had dispatched every container except that large box. With the momentum and confidence she gained from handling everything else, she took a deep breath and opened the box. Without hesitation, she started making decisions.
She amazed herself! Because she feared she wouldn't know what to do with its contents, she built up an expectation that the box would be so dreadful to deal with, and it kept her from starting anything. Yet, in the end, she found it the most straightforward box to process of any she had gone through.
Fear has a powerful influence on how you perceive the difficulty of a task. It creates a mental barrier that distorts your perception. You magnify the potential challenges and focus on the negative outcomes and feelings rather than considering the possibilities of success.
We can all relate to this feeling, especially around something new or unfamiliar. And the older we get, the more we may avoid new and unfamiliar situations. Your emotional state also contributes. Stress, anxiety, or low self-confidence can exacerbate an inflated perception of task difficulty.
Additionally, when you don't clearly understand what needs to be done or how to approach a task, you tend to fill in the gaps with assumptions or worst-case scenarios, making the task appear more challenging.
Strive to remember that your perceptions are subjective and influenced by various factors. Developing self-awareness, challenging your negative assumptions, and breaking tasks down into smaller, manageable steps can help minimize your tendency to perceive something as harder than it is and start tackling tasks with less friction.
If you have paper or digital information that’s keeping you from being productive, contact me through my website at www.newpathpro.com.