Thinking in Polaroids

Try something different: stop thinking about the big picture, and start thinking in Polaroids.

What is thinking about the big picture?

The big picture is what we tell ourselves we must do in life: we must graduate from college with a stellar GPA, we must accept a job offer at a stable company with excellent benefits, we must also buy a new car, several years down the road we really must get a promotion, or exchange the car for a more expensive one to match the promotion, or move to a more upscale neighborhood, etc. A big picture is usually vague, abstract, full of grandiose ideas we want to share with others, and can often fill us with anxiety and overwhelm.

What is thinking in Polaroids?

A Polaroid is a step towards a real goal: it is concrete, it has a beginning and an end, it helps us focus because it is finite – and what’s best about it, it is doable. A Polaroid is part of a carefully thought out plan. A Polaroid takes a strategic snapshot of your life so that you are aware at all times of what it is you are doing and why you are doing it.

Why is thinking in Polaroids better?


When we think in Polaroids, it’s much easier to get motivated:

  • We start looking forward to the day ahead.
  • We feel more productive.
  • We feel successful.
  • We enjoy our work more.
  • We feel like what we’re doing has purpose.


Try these 5 tips to start thinking in Polaroids:

  • Keep a productivity planner.
    • It’s not as fancy as it sounds. It’s just a list of items that are top priority for the next day, which you should mark in order of importance, and note down how long you think each activity will take to complete. This technique is useful for several reasons: it trains your mind to focus a few steps ahead, it eliminates the possibility of forgetting something important you need to do, and it sets in motion the act of accomplishing your goals, step by step.
    • When you see an actual plan of what you will be doing in hourly increments, it keeps things simple, and it is less likely you will blow things off because even if you do, you will still have to make up for the time lost.
  • Cultivate a morning routine.
    • It’s a great way to stay on top of your game by accomplishing several things early in the day, which in turn, helps you get motivated to be even more productive throughout the rest of the day. A morning routine gives you structure, it breaks down your early hours of the day into smaller chunks so that you feel productive in several areas of your life: personal, professional, health and fitness, etc.
    • Tip: listen to a podcast called Achieve Your Goals which is hosted by Hal Elrod, and read his book called The Miracle Morning, which is full of creative ideas for mornings.
  • Shut off the noise.
    • Create a distraction-free zone where you can do your deep work. Switch your phone setting to Airplane mode when you need uninterrupted time. Invest in a pair of noise cancelling headphones or soft silicone ear plugs like these. Let others know you will not be reachable in the time when you are working.
    • Don’t be tempted to check emails, your social media feed, your text messages every few minutes. If you need to, physically leave a noisy work or study area; try the local library, where you can find a study room or a quiet corner where you can work without distractions.
  • Create smaller goals for yourself.
    • Instead of saying, I want to learn a foreign language in 3 months, be specific about what you want to accomplish. Three months can go by quickly. What is the level of proficiency you think you will need (elementary, intermediate, advanced)? Where can you go for the best resources? Are there any free classes or tutorials you can learn from (on YouTube, for example)? Is there someone you could ask for advice on how to start?
    • After you get more clear on your goals, create a schedule so that you work towards your goal every day of the week. Come up with a way to measure your success, for example, have a goal to learn 20 new words each day, or have a 5 minute conversation in your target language by the end of the week.
  • Treat yourself well.
    • A great motivational trick is to give yourself things to look forward to. When you achieve a small goal, give yourself a reward to mark the occasion. What you choose to reward yourself with will depend on your personal interests, your passions, as well as your personality.
    • It can be anything from having an evening out with friends for some live music, to enjoying a tasty bar of Swiss chocolate, to going for a long bike ride to get some fresh air and exercise, or to soaking in a 30-minute bubble bath with some relaxing music followed by a dinner with your partner.
    • You want to celebrate every step you take that gets you closer to your goal, and treating yourself well is a great way to do that. It rounds off every Polaroid moment, and lets you feel that you’ve accomplished something worthwhile.



Source: Nela Canovic on Quora


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