The best time to act was yesterday.
The next best time to start is now!
Whatever you are planning, if you are serious about it, take the first step immediately.
Many people have plans like:
- getting fit,
- write a blog post,
- start a business,
- learn Chinese, etc.
These are end results that you think you want to achieve. The final result seems distant and huge, and your brain tells you:
“No, no. I’ll deal with this unimportant matter first, then after everything is out of the way I will victoriously tackle the GOAL”.
We all procrastinate.
We’re all looking for ways to beat procrastination. I know, I have procrastinated on some projects for years. As a result, I feel so stupid, it’s so embarrassing.
Here’s an image of hours worked on a project that could have been completed in about 300 hours.
This graph spans almost two-and-a-half years. In that time, I spent over 6 thousand hours working. However, I still managed to procrastinate on that 300-hour project.
Next, I will give you the steps, that help me be more productive and get things done.
1. Why act now?
First, understand the reason “why” you have to do the task at all:
- Write a blog post to get more visibility,
- get fit to have more energy,
- start a business to achieve financial freedom,
- learn Chinese to do business in the most populous market in the world.
- or whatever else you want to accomplish.
List the actual benefits of completing the task.
This is the motivation why you want to do it. Thinking about the task and effort you need to put in just frightens you and makes you procrastinate. Moreover, set SMART goals to motivate you.
Intrinsic motivation: Find motivation and “why” inside yourself. Don’t do it for external reasons. For example, when I have to do chores I don’t like, I think about them as willpower exercises. I still don’t like them, but I know I get something out of it.
Well done is better than well said. ~ Benjamin Franklin
2. First step or next step
Now describe the first step. What is the first thing you have to do to get moving?
Even before creating a whole plan for your activities, figure out the first step and do it.
You have plenty of time to get the details right later, but now go. In the book Losing My Virginity Richard Branson writes that when he had an idea to start an airline, he called Boeing to find out how much would it cost to lease a plane.
Your ambition may not be to start an airline but act now.
Or maybe you have already taken the first step, but you got distracted and didn’t follow through.
Forgive yourself and take the next step towards your goals.
Make the first step you take so small you just can’t avoid to take it. Make the step as small as you need it to be to ensure you will do it.
Third, take the first step. The step you take can be something really simple.
Spend at least 10 minutes on your first step. If you can, spend more than 10 minutes, but get going and get the first result.
- For a blog post, the first step might be to write an outline.
- If you want to get fit, go out for a walk right now (stop reading and go).
- If you want to start a business, list the reasons why people want to buy what you offer.
- If you want to learn Chinese, learn the 10 most commonly used phrases online.
Above all, do something that has a tangible result. For instance, in the case above,
- the outline of a blog post,
- 20 minutes of walking,
- a list of reasons why people should buy,
- 10 Chinese phrases.
Action is the foundational key to all success. ~ Pablo Picasso
By acting right now, you will get momentum.
You have already started.
You have a feel for it.
At the end of the first step, make sure you know what the next step is. Make a decision to take that next step within 24 hours to keep the momentum going.
Deciding what the next step will be, and when you do it, can become a ritual. Add this activity at the end of each step you take. Knowing what comes next will help you keep the flywheel spinning.
Fourth, commit to keeping at it. The point of immediate action is to get going. To keep going, you have to commit to some action every day.
Take tiny steps if you have to but do it every single day.
- One pushup
- One sentence
- One idea
- One of anything tangible.
Relentless grinding transforms the actions you have to take into a routine habit. When you have a habit, you don’t have to think about it. It’s just something you do every day.
Small steps over extended periods will get you results you wouldn’t believe if you set them as one huge goal.
Over time, you will be able to work longer on the tasks you want to get done. You will reach the point where doing your tasks is just like brushing teeth. You don’t think “OMG! Not brushing teeth, again! When will it end!”, you just brush your teeth more or less automatically and move on with your day.
Take a wall calendar and cross off the day after you are done with the task for that day. Make an unbroken chain of crosses. Every day, no breaks and the momentum will carry you through.
Schedule some minor tasks even for weekends. 10 to 15 minutes to make a little progress so you can cross off the day. Do one thing at the time.
Take action every day!
The path to success is to take massive, determined actions. ―Tony Robbins
10 minutes at anything should get you going, and then you can use the technique I learned from Steven Pinker.
Just 5 more!
When you are close to finishing or feel tired, then decide to do just five more. Five more items, five more minutes of what you are doing.
When you keep stretching yourself in this way, you will grow.
There may be times when you skip a day. Forgive yourself and continue on the next day. Always try not to skip two days in a row. Skipping two days dramatically increases the probability of quitting on your goal.
A word of warning
If you commit to your tasks and want to build the momentum every day, then you have to select your goals carefully.
First, just take one big goal you want to accomplish.
Trying to do too many things at once will deplete your willpower. After that, you’ll find out that there are not enough hours in the day.
You may add another goal after you have reached the point when working at the first goal has become a routine.
The steps are always
- Why do you want it?
- Break it into manageable daily tasks
- Do the first task immediately
- Grind! Daily! Until automatic.
Now, select a goal you want to reach. Determine the first step and act now!