Countdown to Success

Coundown timer

If this doesn't get you off your butt, nothing will.

Did you know that the way you count can affect your productivity and morale? I didn’t!

I learned this little tip in a product training session at my new job. The trainer was one of the company’s top sales people, who also happened to be ex-military. More specifically, an explosives expert. Yep, that’s right. Bombs and such.

The first thing he was trained to do was to change the way he counted. Instead of counting up from 1 like normal people, he and his team had to learn to count down to 1. If you had a 15-second fuse, for example, you shouldn’t count 1, 2, 3. You should count 3, 2, 1. You see this all the time in the movies and such, where the timer is ticking down and the heroes are rushing to beat the clock. Counting down was meant to be a way of keeping the technician focused on the urgency of the situation (as if being inches from an explosive device wasn’t enough).

But what did that have to do with productivity?

It all has to do with mindset.

Say for example you have a goal of writing 1000 words. When you count up, you’re looking back at what you already did. This is an invitation for your brain to get lazy and say “you know what, I think we’ve gone far enough today, maybe we can cut this short”. Even more damaging is when you look up at that number, think “that number is way too high. I don’t think I can reach that,” and then give up. When you count down, however, you’re looking forward to how many more you have left to do. And the further you go, the more that number shrinks down, and the more motivated you are to get that number to 0.

I can see this working for a number of things, not just writing. When you exercise, count down the number of reps in a set. When you’re clearing your email inbox, pay attention to that “Unread” number and watch it shrink. When you’re doing cold calls, set a reasonable target and count down to that goal.

I’ve only just started trying this new method out, so I can’t tell you if it actually works for me. But please feel free to try it out for yourselves and let me know how you do!

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7 comments on “Countdown to Success

  1. Wenk says:

    13 articles to go before the weekend!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. It is the ole half empty half full scenario. Good idea. I will try this. It cant be as bad as that damn therapist that wanted me to count backwards from 100 in 3’s!

  3. Patrick says:

    Hey, thanks for stopping by!

    Counting by 3’s is kind of weird, why did they want you to do that?

  4. Nela Leja says:

    Wow, I love this tip! I love those moments when you’re given something that is like the last piece of a puzzle — suddenly, there is a complete picture before you. All the other time management / motivational / do-not-give-up tips that I’ve been amassing, can now take their place behind this one. Thank you (and, ps, I have been having such a delightful time reading your blogs — way to go).

  5. Patrick says:

    Glad it fits in so well with your other productivity tips, Nela. And I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. 🙂

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