Label the Box

Here’s a productivity hack for you:

When you get a new project or assignment or whatever, immediately create all the relevant files. For instance, let’s say you’ve got a school project coming up where you have to write a five-thousand-word essay on the Industrial Revolution, complete with a reference page of at least five cited sources. This project is due in six weeks.

Today, the very instant you get this assignment, do the following: create a file folder labeled “Industrial Revolution Term Paper 2023.” Within that folder, create a doc labeled “IR Paper Rough Draft,” one labeled “IR Paper Notes,” one labeled “IR Paper Finished Copy,” and one labeled “IR Paper Reference Page.”

That’s it. You’re now, in all seriousness, like 25% of the way to the end. You have a place to drop ideas. A physical manifestation of “having more than absolutely nothing done.” You have a folder to drop links and reference files into. You have a little icon on your desktop or in your notes app that reminds you to think about that project. Instead of being a looming obelisk that you have to tackle, it’s now a thing that you’ve already started.

This will do wonders for how you view that project and thus create a sense of psychological safety around thinking about it. It will be easier – even fun! – to engage with. You can do this with any project in the world. Even if the project is “build a new bookshelf,” you can first just label a big box with “Bookshelf Stuff” and put some tools in there. Then when you get some wood, put it in there. But the box gives you a space – both physically and conceptually – to corral the project. To make it both real and controlled.

If you do this the second you get each project, you’ll also maintain a better sense of how many projects you have going on at the same time, and thus have better control over your bandwidth.

Try it. Watch the projects fly.

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