Many of you, I am sure, have big dreams. Things you want to accomplish in your life, goals to achieve and a lifestyle you want to create. Yet, despite having these dreams and aspirations, you never seem to be able to get round to doing anything about making them happen.
One of the biggest reasons for this is procrastination. We think about what we want, begin to give some thought about how we will achieve it and then get pulled away by another blog post on motivation or productivity or a video by Mel Robbins or Robin Sharma. It becomes a never-ending cycle. We sit down with the intention of finally doing something about what we want and get dragged off in directions we had not intended to go.
So how do you overcome this?
Nine times out of ten the reason you never actually start doing what you need to do is that you have not clearly defined what it is you actually want. You may have a vague idea — to build a solid financial foundation for your future, for example — but it is only a vague idea and every time you sit down to develop a plan you begin to feel overwhelmed, so a Ray Dalio video on investing seems close enough to make you feel like you are doing g something.
To avoid this kind of procrastination you need to get very specific. What do you define as being financially secure? How much money do you need? What investments will you need to make? How will you grow your investments? Unless you answer these specific questions, you will always struggle to get started. The task will always feel too big. The solution is the break things down into bite-sized chunks so you can begin moving forward and building momentum.
Whatever it is you want to achieve unless you are intentional about doing what you need to do to make it happen it will never happen. Knowing you need to start exercising is very different from intentionally starting to exercise. As Tony Robbins says, you need to “turn your shoulds into musts” “I should start exercising” is never going to happen. “I must start exercising” has a much greater chance of becoming reality.
To do this use your calendar. Whatever it is you want to change or begin doing, schedule time on your calendar to do it. Often to make something happen consistently, you need to have a regular time to do the activity. If that is exercise, get it on your calendar. If you want to master a new language, get your study time on your calendar. If you want to save more money, get putting money into your savings account on your calendar.
Whatever it is you want to do, be intentional. Set a day and a time when you will do what needs to be done and stick to it. You don’t accidentally roll out of bed at 5 AM in the morning and go out for a run. You go out running when you intend to wake up early and go out running.
Consistency is the key component of any person’s success. Without consistency, nothing will change. Saving $100 in January and then not saving anything else until July is not going to give you the results you want. Likewise, if your goal is to wake up early and you only get up early once a week, you are not achieving anything.
When you consistently schedule your activity on your calendar, when the time comes to do whatever you need to do arrives, you don’t need to think about what to do next, you will know exactly what you need to do and you will do it. I set my exercise time at 2 PM every Sunday to Thursday. I know exactly what I need to be doing at 2 PM on those days. It’s on my calendar and I know exactly what I want to do. There is no procrastination, no matter how tired I am or how cold or wet it is outside. If my calendar says I am going running at 2 PM today, that is exactly what I will do.
Being aware of what you do when you procrastinate helps you to stop yourself from doing it. If you find yourself aimlessly scrolling through Instagram frequently, don’t let yourself go near Instagram until you have completed the task you want to complete. In extreme cases delete the app from your phone. Although this is not necessary if you cannot resist the urge, delete it. Alternatively, hide it on a screen you rarely go to so the temptation is not there.
Knowing what your procrastination habits are goes a long way to helping you avoid situations where you procrastinate. In the past, I have found following the political machinations in the UK one of my bad procrastinating habits. I ended up deleting all news feeds that contained UK political news and now only allow a limited amount through into my RSS reader, Reeder. That way, I am not distracted whenever I am doing research for courses or articles, but I still get to know about the antics of the politicians in Parliament when I catch up on the news later in the day.
Discipline, along with consistency, are two of the most powerful traits of highly successful people. Without discipline, you will never get yourself out exercising or sit down to study applied economics. You need discipline and the good news about discipline is it is like a muscle. The more you exercise it the stronger it becomes.
To develop your discipline all you need to do is start small. Begin by limiting your social media time to lunchtimes and evenings for thirty minutes, for example. Learn how to say “no” to yourself. When you find yourself procrastinating, say “no” to yourself and stop doing whatever it is you were procrastinating with. Go for a short walk, or get up off the sofa and do the dishes. Do something other than what it was you were procrastinating with.
Over time you will find yourself being stronger mentally and that will set you up to be much better at preventing yourself from procrastinating.
Procrastination is not all bad. There are times when your brain needs a distraction to be creative. Procrastination is bad when it is stopping you from doing your important work or is not allowing you to get on with achieving your goals. When that happens you need to take steps to stop yourself. Be specific about what you want to achieve, be intentional with your time consistently and be aware of your procrastination triggers These habits will allow you to develop the necessary discipline to be more focused on what you want and will take you further towards achieving the success you are capable of.
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