One of the problems people have with action is that they think about it too much first. Thinking about doing something actually makes it harder to do the task. Tasks are always harder in your head. Once you actually start doing your task you always find yourself thinking god what was I worried about this isn’t anywhere near as hard as I thought it was going to be.
Our minds have a tendency to make things more complicated unless we train ourselves to ignore these thoughts. The best way to ignore these thoughts is thru action. Too simple it must be harder than that, I hear you say. Well no it isn’t that is all there is to it just action.
Have you ever noticed that when you think about exercising you never actually feel like going for that run or jumping on your bike? But once you are doing it, “in the action” you start to feel really good about it and by the end you are saying to yourself “why don’t I do this more often”. I am going to make a pact to do this everyday. But then the next day it is just as hard to get going again because you are thinking too much again. Over time you break this habit if you stick to the action of doing it and then become a person who exercises everyday. In the beginning though you are talking yourself out of it with excuses “it is just me I am not an exerciser” , “ I have no follow thru”, “ I am not disciplined enough to do this everyday”, “I am too tired I will just skip today”.
We are not born with discipline, even if a lot of people think that you are either disciplined or not. It is not a personality trait you are stuck with it is learned.
I was trying to get my two youngest children 6 and 8 to clean up their room yesterday. I had been hassling them for a couple of hours about it. Then I left it and after dinner I said “ok you two, I just want you to go into your room and do one thing that will make it tidier”. “Oh dad its too messy it’s going to take too long.” I said listen guys “I just want you to go in there and do one thing it might be picking up that piece of dirty clothing and putting it in the dirty wash basket”.
“Oh that is so easy “ they said. They ended up doing three things each. So I said to them see that was easy wasn’t it, what if we just do one more thing that would be easy wouldn’t it. “Yeah that would be so easy” they said.
Before we knew it the room was cleaned up and tidy. They were amazed they had been making this huge deal out if it because they were looking at the whole room and their minds were going “Oh too hard too much mess”.
Everything is always easier then you think it is in your mind. Action is the key to achieving and the more action you do the more you want to do because all of a sudden you are being productive. Suddenly you are achieving everything you want to. Someone said “Start by doing what has to be done, then what is possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Notice they didn’t say, “think about it first. “
I don’t care how many times you repeat to yourself an affirmation like. I am going to achieve more. I am going to achieve more. It isn’t going to make you achieve more in itself. The first step is action and it can be oh so small in fact the smaller the better. Because getting started is always the hardest bit so the smaller the first action is the better it will be easier to start the smaller the task is.
So lets look at an example and then look at the 2 ways we good do it. I have to write an article of 3000 words and my deadline is only 6 days away and I haven’t started. It’s 9am, 6 days before it is due. I could think about:
Why didn’t I start a month ago when I got this job. 3000 words is so much to write. Why do I always do this to myself. Why do I leave things to the last minute? I wish I was more disciplined. There is now way I am going to get this done.
You are going to pick up a pen and write one paragraph about 50-100 words and then put your pen down. Crikey! That doesn’t sound so hard it sounds quite easy actually. I can do that. That is so easy it will probably only take me 5 minutes maybe even 3 minutes. So what do you do you pick up a pen and do it. Then an amazing thing happens you end up going wow that wasn’t anywhere near as hard as I thought it would be and you probably end up writing 500 or more words. But even if you only write 50 words you have started which is the hardest part.
Guess what you write 500 words a day and you have written 3000 words in 6 days and have met your deadline. In reality you will probably do it much quicker just because you have initiated the action and started. Starting is always the hardest bit because it is in your head. Once you do some action it all becomes easier. If you do this you can’t miss your deadline you may beat your deadline but you can’t miss it. Some days you may get on a role and write 1000 words, so then you are ahead.
Whatever it is you need to do break it down to a series of smaller task so it is easier to start. Then once you have started you will finish it much quicker. It could be that you need to tidy up your office so you could start today by just choosing one corner and doing that then stopping. Come back tomorrow and do another corner and within the week your whole office will be tidy and it won’t have been a big deal.
Another way to look at it is to break the next hour down into 10-minute blocks of time. I always think of a movie with Hugh Grant in it About A Boy. Now he has the problem of too much time on his hands so his solution is too break his day down into 30-minute blocks of time. Which is such a good way to look at because when you think about it, that is what procrastination is. It is having to much unfocused time. If you only had 30 minutes to finish writing a proposal for a meeting with your boss who was flying in just to meet with you. Suddenly you would be focused, you would make the best use of those 30 minutes you would just act and get it done. If someone rang you wouldn’t take the call because you are focused for the next 30 minutes you are focused on one thing and one thing only.
Most people only focus and act when an external pressure or crisis forces them too. But in that moment if they really looked within themselves they would see that they have the power to achieve so much. All they need to do is act. The good news is we don’t have to wait for some external event to make this happen we can create this ourselves.
A great way to put this into action is to break down your workday into 10-minute blocks. Say to yourself what can I achieve in the next ten minutes. I could make three phone calls that I have been putting off. I could for the next 10 minutes start that proposal that is due next week. You can always start something as well, knowing you only have 10 minutes makes it that much easier. There is no pressure to finish the task; all you need to do is start. Once you have started then you can come back to it whenever and finish it. Remember the hardest part is always starting. When you start to break down you day into smaller blocks of time something magical happens. Walter Elliot;
“Perseverance is not a long race it is many short races one after another”
Also by focusing on just the next ten minutes you are automatically brought back into the “now” the present moment and your thoughts cannot be way out in the future. There is only the now the past and the future don’t exist in the present moment. The irony is you cannot create the future you want unless you do it now. Just focus on the next 10 minutes and before you know it you will be creating the future you always wanted.
Action is the key to success beyond your wildest dreams. So stop thinking and start doing. Motivational speaker and author Steve Chandler says
“I need to stop all the thinking about thinking. Stop trying to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts. All this thinking is overrated as a motivational force. Doing, on the other hand is underrated. Doing is the most underrated thing there ever was.”
Thinking about anything too much just leads to procrastination. It is so hard to achieve anything, when we are overwhelmed by our thoughts. That’s why people who work in emergencies and crisis situations are much better at their jobs if they can switch off their thoughts and the feelings that then come from those thoughts. This is not to say you can’t have empathy for someone who is hurting but you are much more helpful if you just act in the moment.
For example on the battlefield there is no point feeling sorry for the man who has just had his leg blown off that is not going to help but acting immediately and doing whatever is necessary to stop the bleeding is the only thing that is going to save his life.
In the end the only way to beat procrastination is thru action. You are never going to think your way out of procrastination. Thinking is only going to make it harder. The only way is by “doing“ just start. It really is that simple. The more you spend in action the more procrastination will become a thing of the past.