The difference between productivity and procrastination is found in the ability to take the first step in the direction you want to go. This sounds obvious enough, but people often get this mixed up when it comes to productivity. It’s like they think there’s some magic key that opens this super productive lifestyle. In reality, it’s something that’s built up over time.
Think of it like a muscle you build up over time by using it. In short, if you want to get more done, do the small things, build up to a place where you work on the bigger ones, as you tackle those you will grow into a person of action, and in doing so you’ll see procrastination show up less and less.
People often ask me for some practical things they can do to be more productive. The best I’ve been able to come up with is to limit the length of time it takes to start. That is, the time it takes to decide you want to do something and how long it actually takes to get started. I’m convinced that the key to being more productive is found in the distance between the want to and the start.
Knowing that is just the beginning of course. The real challenge is how do we use this knowledge to become people of action?
The answer is found in adopting a “do it now” attitude. It sounds rah rah I’ll admit. Easier said than done I can hear you saying. Sure, but anything worthwhile takes some effort. We are talking about undoing habits. Habits, which in many cases took a long time to learn. Don’t expect to unlearn or replace those habits automatically. At the same time, you can put new rituals into play in your life.
Here are some practical things you can do that will help you to become a “do it now” person and finally tame your “procrastination monster” — and in doing so, embrace productivity.
1. Start your day with a win. I try to get one thing accomplished as soon as I wake up. I find that f I can get a quick “win” (i.e. task accomplished) early in my day that I am far more productive. It’s sort of like priming a pump. When you first begin to pull the lever on a pump, water doesn’t come out, but after a bit it builds up pressure and the water begins to flow. Knocking out a task first thing is akin to preparing me to be more productive. Give it a try.
It’s worth noting that you have to know what needs doing in the first place. Therefore, I suggest having a daily to do list planned the night before. Your day is going to go a lot smoother if you can just slide into it versus having to start out trying to decide what needs to be done each day. The difference between being able to review my list for what I need to do for the day, versus deciding what needs doing first thing makes a big difference.
2. When faced with something that needs doing, repeat “do it now” to yourself. This sounds silly, but most things that we procrastinate on get built up in our minds — and become much bigger than they actually are. As we put off doing those things they build up, and build up. In most cases if we would have just done them when we first thought of them they’d have been little more than a blip on the radar.
Not everything is going to be able to be done when we first think of it, but a lot of things are. In cases where you can do a thing and get it out of the way quickly, do that. Repeating the “do it now” motto and acting on it will do wonders for clearing your list of To Do’s and keeping you on task. I believe it was Brian Tracy who I first heard sharing on the importance of repeating “do it now” (and acting on it). It is a simple thing, but it really can make a difference. Putting things off as opposed to just doing them as you think of them helps to keep things from building up, which leads to feeling overwhelmed.
3. Think through the events of your day. At the end of each day look back on how your day went. Review the things you worked on. Think about what worked well, as well as what might not have. Consider how you can adjust for better results if necessary. It’s interesting to me how very few people take the time to go back and really review the steps they take each day.
If you have a plan and are working towards its achievement — a little reflection every day, just to make sure you’re heading in the right direction is essential. There is an old saying that says “practice makes perfect.” While it’s true that if we want to achieve mastery of something we need to practice and learn it — it’s only half true. How so? No amount of practice, done the wrong way is going to help you get the results you want.
For example, instead of benefiting from all that time you put in, you’ll only be reinforcing the wrong way of doing something. So it’s not practice that makes perfect — instead, it’s perfect practice that makes the difference. Many top peak performers have coaches that help ensure they stay on the path to perfect practice. To help make sure you don’t end up taking a wrong path along your productivity journey be sure to take time each day to review what your day looked like and take evaluation of the progress you are making.
4. Keep what you need to do nearby at all times. The things we keep front and center get our attention. Whatever gets our attention gets accomplished, more often than not. This really is as simple as keeping your to do list, and or goals in a place so you see it often. Life gets busy. If you’re not intentional about spending time on the things that need doing in order to move you closer to the destination you’ve set for yourself, then you can bet other things will pop up and occupy your time.
Friend, if you can adopt the ideas above into your daily routine you will see your productivity increase. More of the goals you set will come to fruition. Just like any habit as you act on it, over time it will become part of your regular routine. In time you’ll gain mastery over whatever it is, and at that point it won’t be something you dread or put off, but rather something you may even enjoy. I have found that to be the the case with the writing that I do.
Over the years I’ve found that when I put off writing on a regular schedule it is harder to make the time to do it. At this point in time I like to get up about 5 am, and write. I haven’t always been a morning time writer (aside from my personal journaling), but it works for me now.
I have found that since making this a regular routine, not just something I would like to do, but actually schedule and do, that it’s now at the point where it’s not only easier to get up and get started, but I look forward to it. My ideas seem to find their way from my mind to the computer screen a lot easier too.
I’m not saying you have to go the early riser route. Just find what works for you. Whatever that time is, be intentional about it, and act on the things you know need doing.
Grit, determination and stick-to-it-ness are three traits that will serve you well in life. If you practice them daily I believe you’re going to start seeing more of the plans you set make their way into your life.
It’s Your Life, LIVE BIG!