Neuroscientists have confirmed it over and over. Our brains are very clever. So clever and trained that they cannot make out the difference between the real thing and what we imagine. Ever woken up from a nightmare sweating? Wasn’t real. Even though your body had a physiological reaction to it and switched on ‘panic mode’. Ever imagined biting into a lemon? You immediately wince and salivate even though there is no actual lemon juice in your mouth.
With this in mind, David Allen’s suggestion to imagine and visualise very clearly what finished looks like for our Projects is totally adapted to our clever brains.
Once we know what finished looks like, our brain kicks into action and gets really smart about moving us there in the most efficient way. Obviously with a little help from a well-defined Next Action step assigned to the appropriate Next Action list.
All athletes would agree with this principle, as a component of their mental preparation before a competition involves visualising themselves on the podium BEFORE even putting on their shoes. They can see themselves well above that bar, before they’ve even started running towards it.
It’s a version of ‘future-pacing’ and not only serves to instill a sense of positivity about what you are about to embark on (be it a big sporting competition or a daunting work project), which could otherwise be perceived with negativity, doubt, or even fear, but it also helps you to identify an ‘endpoint’ that you would be happy with. This puts you one step closer to achieving it, by knowing what you are aiming for – and at the same time – it also helps you to feel satisfied and fulfilled when you have finally completed the project.
How about using this same principle when running your day? Instead of letting your day run you?
If you start your day by reading your emails, browsing your Facebook feed and checking your WhatsApp account, you let all these items run and influence your day.
Just imagine if you got up in the morning and visualised exactly what your finished day would look like? What would you have achieved, done, focused on? If you DID have that clear image, would your brain allow you to waste your time checking Facebook and replying to comments and watching funny cat videos on YouTube? No, didn’t think so!
Let’s take David’s idea to the next level and not only use “desired outcomes” for our earthly projects, but for every single day of our lives. It might just make a huge difference to not only what you achieve, but your overall sense of happiness and fulfillment.
So, what does “finished” look like for you today?