Archive for the Personal Development Category

Monotasking: Mindfulness at Work

Monotasking: Mindfulness at Work

monotasking

NAVIGATION

Many of us fall into the habit of multitasking, especially when so much of our time is taken up by digital communication and online distractions. But did you know that multitasking actually hurts productivity? Monotasking — taking on one task at a time — is a much more efficient way to accomplish your short and long-term goals.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

It seems like in modern life it’s always go, go, go. With a million things pulling at our attention, monotasking has been the answer to a distracting world for me.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

What Does It Mean To Monotask?

What Does It Mean To Monotask

Simply put, the practice of monotasking is deliberately focusing on one task, with no distractions, for a clearly defined time frame. While it may seem deceptively easy, there is more to what is meant by monotasking than just sitting down to work on a project.

deliberately focusing on one taskThe mindset behind single tasking is one of self-reflection and connection. The practice is not just about focusing on work, but also examining our relationship to time and how we spend it. Recently, I sat down with my friend Anna Pugh, one of the co-founders of Spacetime Monotasking. We discussed what it means to monotask and why monotasking is important.

The goal of monotasking is to avoid burnout and to bring a sense of purpose to all aspects of our lives. Work tasks are not the only things that can benefit from a state of deep focus. Eliminating distractions helps us stay mindful during creative projects, leisure activities, and quality time with our friends and family.

anna pugh

“Monotasking is just doing one thing at a time, which sounds really simple but happens to be really difficult to do, especially in the age of the internet. Our need for a practice of creating space to focus and connect with our attention is growing.” – Anna Pugh, Spacetime Monotasking

Stop Multitasking

Stop Multitasking

Many of us are used to multitasking, especially when it comes to our careers. For a long time, the working world considered the ability to juggle projects and communications a desirable asset. However, we’ve recently learned the truth about why monotasking is better than multitasking.

Monotasking improves your focus and actually allows you to accomplish more in a day than switching back and forth between tasks. While multitasking may seem useful when your plate is full, it’s far more efficient to monotask your way through a to-do list.

multitasking to distraction

Why You Can’t Concentrate

Why You Cant Concentrate

Despite what we’ve been told, the human brain can only focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking is not splitting your focus, but rather your attention switching rapidly between tasks, breaking your concentration with each leap. This habit overwhelms your brain and leads to decreased productivity.

Monotasking Benefits

Monotasking Benefits

It is all too easy to stay stuck in our old ways, especially when our increased internet connectivity allows an influx of notifications to flood our awareness almost constantly. Breaking free of the multitasking habit may be difficult at first, but it can lead to a number of great benefits.

Monotasking allows us the chance to tune in to our lives and tune out the distractions that lead to procrastination and stress. It brings mindfulness to our everyday tasks and allows us to pursue simplicity in the workplace.

Benefits of Monotasking

  • Optimized Production. Monotasking is much more effective than multitasking when it comes to maximizing your productivity. Focusing on one thing at a time increases the number of tasks you can complete in a day and improves the quality of your work.
  • Increased Connectivity. By focusing on being present, you will improve your relationships with the people around you. I’ve found that eliminating distractions has allowed me to be there for my loved ones and connect with them on a deeper level.
  • Improved Outlook. Monotasking is all about living in the moment. Focusing on what you are doing, not what you have to do, decreases stress. By letting go of the past and not worrying about the future, you can learn to simply be happy where you are in the present.

How To Practice Monotasking

How To Practice Monotasking

The key word I want to highlight here is “practice.” Like any new skill, monotasking is not something any of us will be good at right away. Learning to enter a state of deep focus is a challenge, so it’s important to realize there might difficulties in the beginning and allow yourself time to grow.

When it comes to learning how to tackle something new, tangible steps are the best place to begin. Here are a few actionable tips for getting started on your monotasking journey.

Outline Your Goals

Outline Your Goals

Successfully monotasking begins with setting your expectations for yourself and defining the goals you wish to accomplish. Take a moment to check in with yourself and determine what it is you wish to achieve through monotasking.

Maybe you have a household to-do list or a work project. You may be looking to grow deeper friendships or focus on one recreational activity at a time. Whatever your goals are, have a set idea of them in your mind to guide you.

anna pugh

“When we think about monotasking, I like to think about it as mindfulness in motion because in order to monotask, you have to get really clear on your expectation of yourself. Monotasking exists underneath the umbrella of mindfulness.” – Anna Pugh, Spacetime Monotasking

Focus On One Thing At A Time

Focus On One Thing At A Time

This practice is the foundation of monotasking. Once you know what your goals are, pick one and devote your attention to it for a set time. If your goal is to clean the kitchen, set a timer for an hour and only focus your energy on that one task.

Setting a timer is an important part of monotasking. We are trying to prevent burnout, not cause it, and pushing yourself too hard to stay focused can have the opposite effect. I’ve found that starting small with 15 to 30-minute sessions has allowed me to work my way up to longer increments.

Silence Your Notifications

Silence Your Notifications

Our ability to focus is often impaired by the flood of notifications that keeps us from work. While it may seem mundane, stopping your workflow to answer a quick text or read an email can completely derail your progress. Silence your notifications and if necessary, turn your phone off to eliminate distractions.

silence your phone and device notificationsMake sure you set clear boundaries with the people around you. Let your colleagues know when you need to focus, and ask that you not be disturbed for a set period of time. You can program an automatic reply email or text to let others know you will get back to them when your monotasking session is over.

Sometimes we lose focus without even realizing it because we’ve become so accustomed to multitasking. Identifying the common culprits that draw your attention elsewhere can help you avoid them. Make a distractions list and keep it near where you work so you can nip bad habits in the bud.

Be Kind To Yourself

Be Kind To Yourself

Like I said before, monotasking takes practice, and you won’t always be good at it right away. Nothing kills productivity like a destructive inner monologue, so try to replace your self-criticism with words of encouragement.

Let yourself start slow and work up to the level of focus you want to achieve. It’s important to respect your energetic boundaries so you don’t become overwhelmed and give up. If 15 minutes is all you can handle for the day, congratulate yourself for that achievement and move forward.

anna pugh

“The most powerful thing is tuning in to your inner dialogue. That’s where we start. The inner critic wastes no time jumping in, so offer yourself compassion and gently guide yourself back to focus.” – Anna Pugh, Spacetime Monotasking

Optimize Your Workspace

Optimize Your Workspace

Monotasking requires an intense amount of focus, so it’s crucial to create a workspace that makes you feel comfortable. Anna told me that headphones, a great playlist, and crystals to fidget with are all essential parts of her monotasking set-up.

Optimizing Your Workspace for fewer distractionsOne way to stay focused and improve productivity is to declutter your digital tools. An organized computer makes it easier to find projects and documents quickly without risking the distractions that come from sifting through a messy desktop.

A water bottle and a healthy snack might also help you stay focused when sitting for a period of time to work through a project. At the end of the day, your perfect monotasking workspace is all about you and your needs. It might take some trial and error to discover what set-up works best for your goals.

Resist Distractions In Your Free Time

Resist Distractions In Your Free Time

Work hours aren’t the only times of the day when we can benefit from a mindful state of focus. If you’re like me, chances are you’ve sat down to enjoy a good book or watch a new movie and found yourself scrolling through your phone instead. Monotasking in our free time allows us to be fully present with the activities and people we enjoy.

Social media can be a huge distraction and often takes us away from spending quality leisure time. Consider taking a break from Instagram or Facebook so you can stay in the moment and connect with yourself.

social media break

Even if you don’t delete all of your social apps entirely, be mindful of how you spend your time on them. You can use monotasking as a way to break the cycle of endless scrolling and focus on learning something new or relaxing purposefully.

What To Do When You Can’t Concentrate

What To Do When You Cant Concentrate

Setting up the perfect work space and silencing our notifications isn’t always enough — we still get distracted and lose focus all the same. If you find yourself with an inability to concentrate, it’s time to take a break and reset. Try one of these tips for re-calibrating your monotasking session.

Take An Exercise Break

Take An Exercise Break

Sometimes the quickest way to bring back your focus is to get up and move around. Try stretching with some light yoga or going for a short walk.

Exercise breaks don’t have to be a big trip to the gym. Do some jumping jacks or throw a toy for your dog — something simple to shake out the kinks before you get back to work.

anna pugh

“If you feel like you’ve been working on something for a while and it’s not going anywhere, it’s okay to take a break. A simple phone-free walk around the block can be very powerful.” – Anna Pugh, Spacetime Monotasking

Identify What’s Stopping You

Identify Whats Stopping You

identifying the root of the problemDetermine what it is that’s keeping you from completing your task. Our first reaction might sound something like, “I just can’t focus,” but identifying the specific root of the problem can help you realize the problem isn’t your attention span, but something else.

For example, if you’re struggling to finish a report, your first instinct might be to say it’s because you can’t concentrate, but the reality might be that you’re missing an important piece of information. The trick is to examine reality at face value and not fall into old habits of self-criticism.

Try Again Later

Try Again Later

If you’ve found that you’ve truly hit a wall and can no longer remain in your state of deep focus, there’s nothing wrong with walking away and trying again later. Monotasking is meant to ease your burdens, not add to them. Practice being grateful for the goals you were able to achieve, and forgive yourself for the ones you were not.

Your Turn!

  • What are the goals you want to achieve with monotasking?
  • What are some distractions that commonly keep you from those goals?

Places To Go Alone To Clear Your Head

Places To Go Alone To Clear Your Head

 Places To Go Alone To Clear Your Head

NAVIGATION

As an introvert, I find that quiet time alone is the best way to recharge my mental batteries, but everyone can benefit from taking the time to seek some mental clarity in their own way. Wherever you live, finding places to go alone to clear your head can help you get back to life with a renewed sense of peace.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

A long walk in the woods filled with introspection has been a godsend when life gets complicated or when I have a million thoughts racing through my head. Using introspection to clear my head has been a powerful tool to calm the noise.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

Places To Go Alone To Clear Your Head In Nature

Places To Go Alone To Clear Your Head In Nature

When the stress of modern life piles up, my immediate go-to for some mental rejuvenation is going on a long walk in the woods. Spending some time outdoors helps me clear my head and find some peaceful time to be alone with my thoughts. There’s nothing like the feeling of being amongst nature to put things in perspective.

Taking time to unplug from your devices and reconnect with nature is an excellent way to clear your mind and refresh your body. Studies have shown that spending time in nature or near water can improve your mental health substantially.

Places To Go By Yourself In Nature

  • Regional Park
  • Nearby Waterfall
  • Botanical Gardens
  • Local Beach
  • Forest Path
take a nature hike

social media break

Exercise To Clear Your Head

Exercise To Clear Your Head

Taking care of the mind starts with taking care of the body. Like many people, I work long days in the digital world, so it’s important to clear the mental fog with something physical. Exercising lets me use my hands, feet, and body in a tactile way that connects me with the real world — not just bits and bytes.

If you’re looking for a way to declutter your mind, the best way to start is to get moving. According to the CDC, moderate to intense physical activity can improve cognitive function, reduce your risk of anxiety and depression, and help you get a better night’s sleep.

Ways To Quiet Your Head Through Exercise

  • Biking
  • City Park
  • Nature Hike
  • Yoga Studio
  • Local Pool
yoga studio

ways to declutter your mind

Calm Your Mind On A Local Adventure

Calm Your Mind On A Local Adventure

One of my favorite ways to get away from it all while staying local is to go for a drive. I put on a driving playlist and head in one direction until I’m purposefully lost. Then, I try and find my way home without the use of my phone or GPS. There’s something about driving that allows my mind to wander.

Planning a short weekend getaway or a local day trip is another great way to spend some alone time without breaking the bank. If your budget is causing you anxiety, then taking an expensive vacation isn’t going to soothe your worries, but finding a unique local haunt can be the cheap (or free) adventure you need.

Places To Be Alone With Your Thoughts

  • Library
  • Café or Coffee Shop
  • Movie Theater
  • Hotel
  • Museum
visit a museum

Relax At Home To Clear Your Head

Relax At Home To Clear Your Head

Something I’ve learned over the years is the importance of feeling comfortable in your space at home. Sometimes, taking a mental break alone can be as simple as having a cozy corner of your house to retreat to.

If you work from home like me, it’s even more important to have a place in your house that’s just for you. For example, if you like to read, try setting up a corner where you can relax with a good book and not think about work or chores.

How To Clear Your Head At Home

  • Take A Bath
  • Paint A Picture
  • Read A Book
  • Savor A Cup Of Tea
  • Write In A Journal
take a warm bath

the basics of hygge

Focus Your Mind Alone Somewhere Spiritual

Focus Your Mind Alone Somewhere Spiritual

Finding a way to connect to the world spiritually can help rejuvenate and refocus your mind. Many religions and spiritual ways of life suggest meditation as a way to relax and let go of anxiety.

Whatever form of spirituality is right for you, finding somewhere quiet to be alone with your thoughts can help you adopt a meditative state of mind. Amongst nature, in religious structures, and even at home as you do your morning chores are all great places to clear your mind.

Spiritual Places For Self-Reflection

  • Religious Building (Church, Mosque, Etc.)
  • Spiritual Retreat
  • Nature Chapel
  • Meditation Labyrinth
  • Somewhere Personally Significant
find a spiritual place

When life gets hectic, finding somewhere restful to retreat is what helps me focus my thoughts and replenish my inner well. Whether you want to take a solo adventure, get in some physical exercise, or just relax at home, it’s important for all of us to have places we can go alone to clear our heads.

Your Turn!

  • Where do you go when you want to be alone?
  • How can you carve out a relaxing space in your home?

You’ve Quit Your Job, Now What? How To Build A Better Life

You’ve Quit Your Job, Now What? How To Build A Better Life

how to build a better lifeRight now, there are a lot of people quitting their job as part of what has been dubbed “The Great Resignation” following all that happened last year. People had time to reflect on their lives while staying at home, remote work has become a reality for many, and many have just said, “enough is enough.”

If you haven’t quit yet but are planning to, we’re going to first cover how to exit properly. And if you have quit, we’re also going to cover how to go about building a better life.

ryan tiny house and the tools he used to build itHi, I’m Ryan

I’m often asked how I went about building my own path in life. Having simplified things from the ground up; I now live in a tiny house, earn a living doing what I love, and focusing on what matters.  In the process I’ve learned a few things and I wanted to share some advice with you!
ryan

How To Quit Your Job / How To Resign

how to quit your job

If you’ve decided to quit your job but haven’t formally resigned, here is how. First off, while it’s tempting to leave with a dramatic exit, let’s do our future selves a solid and not burn any bridges. You may still want to use this employer as a reference, so let’s exit on the best terms possible.

Preparing To Quit Your Job

Preparing To Quit Your Job

First, I’d sit down and get serious about a budget, making sure you have a solid runway, reducing expenses where you can, and having a good handle on where you are financially. This will vary person to person and also depend on if you’re going to go looking for a new position right away or wait a while.

Next, where your employment contracts allow, document all the work you’ve done to build a portfolio for future interviews. I’d also slowly and quietly start taking home most of my stuff, removing my personal property so that when I do give notice, I could walk out right then if I needed to. Some employers have a policy that they end things right there and then and don’t even let you clear out your desk yourself. So why chance it? just have it all cleared out so you can shake hands and move on.

Lastly, I’d think about those who you’d like to stay in touch with and get their personal contact info if you can — subtlety — and don’t already. I’d also connect on LinkedIn.

Formally Resign From Your Job

Formally Resign From Your Job

Write a brief and to-the-point resignation letter. Don’t go into details and be sure to give proper notice based on what the company normally expects for a notice period. During this time, it may be a bit awkward, but if you’re able to stay professional, you maximize your chances of receiving a good reference, should you need it. Again, this is for our benefit, not theirs.

Where possible, give this letter printed and in person to your manager. They will most likely ask why you’re leaving, but I’d just leave it vague and brief. If you have another job lined up, share that you’ll be starting a new position. If you don’t have anything quite yet, I’d say something like, “I’ve decided that it’s time for me to move on.” You don’t owe them an explanation.

Finally, if your company has a formal exit interview, I’d just politely decline. There really isn’t any upside to consenting for you. I’d also decline any counter offers they make, because if they actually valued you, they would have paid you that amount in the first place.

Take A Break For Two Weeks – Weeks 1 & 2

Take A Break For Two Weeks

I think this is an important step because we want to create space where we sort through all our thoughts and feelings about our lives and what’s gone on so far up to this point. Life moves fast and we need to slow down enough to sit and reflect on things we haven’t given space to.

I consistently find that people are so busy, they don’t have enough time alone with their thoughts. The endless distractions of work, life, phones, and more mean we put off working on ourselves. Take this time to be alone with your thoughts, catch up on rest, veg out a bit, and do some self-care.

Remember This Isn’t Really A Vacation

Remember This Is Not Really A Vacation

I think it’s also important to put a time frame on this because it’s not just kicking back without a plan. I say take two weeks because most often it takes a few days to just wind down. Then a few more days to actually relax.

I also think two weeks is an ideal amount of time because most people barely take any paid time off so they’ve never had the chance to detach for a while. I think a week would just feel like a vacation, while two weeks makes the relaxation restorative.
This time is about getting you in the space mentally to do the work that needs to happen.

Take Time To Work On Yourself

take time to work on yourself

This step requires you to be totally alone with yourself and most importantly that means no phone, TV, computer, social media, or anything else. Normally, we don’t get time to unplug like this because we’re always going nonstop. Now that we’ve taken some time away from work, you have this time and that’s so important.

Additionally, you don’t have the dread of going back to work that is filled with everything that piled up while you were gone.
People are often very uncomfortable with being alone with just their thoughts. You’ll need to fight through this resistance and get comfortable with it.

How To Spend Time With Your Thoughts

how to spend time with your thoughts

For me, I take long walks in nature, and generally the more that’s going on in my life, the longer I need. Your process will be different, but it needs to be distraction-free.

I will sometimes bring a blank notepad and pen so that if there is something I want to Google or remember to check on later, I can write it down and my brain can let it go.

For me, nature is an important part of the process, but I also know some people don’t love the outdoors. You do you — the important part is to be alone with your thoughts.

My walks typically follow this mental pattern:

  1. Think through all the things that are going on in my life.
  2. Resolve most things down to the one or two things that I need to address.
  3. Think through and deal with the emotions of those things bothering me the most.
  4. Go round and round with them in my thoughts until they’re actually resolved.
  5. Realize I’m lying to myself and wrestle with my thoughts some more.
  6. My brain goes blank and I realize I’m being present in that moment.

It is only then that I realize I’m able to totally set aside the things that have been bothering me and be in the moment, which is where the real growth is going to happen. Sometimes steps one through six take only 30 minutes, sometimes it takes hours. For me, that sometimes means a very long hike, because only when you get to that final stage can the work begin.

For these hikes, I usually choose a pretty easy route so I can cover more distance without worrying too much about fatigue, and I bring lots of snacks and water. You can also find a good place to sit and chill out — you don’t need to be moving to be thinking. I’ve gone to a park and sat at a picnic table before. Other times I do this at a coffee shop, but I also allow myself to leave if I find I’m getting distracted.

What are you trying to figure out during this time?

It’s going to be different for everyone, below is a worksheet you can use to help.

defining the dream workbook

Catch Up On Things You Never Had Time To Do – Week 3

catch up on things

Catching up is a good way to help you build up some positive momentum without jumping back into the same life you used to live — we don’t want to fall back into old patterns. It also helps you further clear mental space because we all have a running list of unfinished to dos in the back of our minds. Whether we’re aware of it or not, it’s hanging out there, subtlety pulling for our attention and adding to our sense of stress.

In the next few steps, we’re going to start to design our ideal life and we don’t want these unfinished to dos detracting from that deep work that needs to be done.

Start by making a list of all the things you’ve put off. This could be things like getting an oil change, fixing something around the house, changing a light bulb, going through your fridge and pantry, etc.

declutter challenge

Get it on your list and then work your way through that list it like it’s your job. Because right now, it kind of is your job; You’re taking this time for you, so take it seriously. The first two weeks were about relaxing, so now that you’re rested up, don’t laze about.

I’d also recommend taking the time to clean your house from top to bottom, declutter heavily, and organize things thoroughly. It’s rare that you’ll have free time to do this, so take advantage of it. This can take time, but it also further allows you to be totally focused on what comes next and not on the junk drawer, messy counter top, or overflowing closet that is a constant hassle.

If you need to take more time than a week to do this, then do so, but do it intentionally and work on it all day, every day until it’s done. Go all in here.

Refocus On Productive Activities That Spur Positive Feedback Loops – Week 4

refocus on productive activities

We all have things we’ve let slide over the years when life seemed to get in the way. Let’s take this time to refocus on some positive things we can do.

Taking a break like you’re doing now lets you get over the initial hump of setting a new habit in a positive feedback loop, allowing you to keep them going long term. Start these new positive habits around week four and continue with them as a new norm for you.

dopamine detox

Start Cooking Most Meals At Home

start cooking most meals at home

Start cooking at home for most of your meals. Try avoiding processed foods and cook from whole foods as best you can. If you can’t cook at all, make a sandwich, even if you do it badly. People get wrapped up in not being able to do this perfectly, but don’t let yourself. Don’t let perfection get in the way of good.

Consider subscribing to a meal-in-a-box service like Green Chef or Blue Apron for a few weeks. Watch YouTube cooking channels to learn how to cook some simple things. Don’t get fancy and don’t get overwhelmed — cooking is just a great way to save money, slow down, and share a meal with loved ones.

minimalist diet

If you cook your own foods from simple ingredients, it will pretty much guarantee you’re going to eat better. You’re putting higher quality inputs into your body and therefore getting a higher quality of output. This stacks the deck in your favor and, since you’re living the YOLO life, you’ve got the time.

Again, this doesn’t have to be complex, there are some really excellent recipes that are dead simple for a person who has never cooked a day in their life. Something I really like is sheet pan meals, where you throw all the ingredients on one sheet pan and toss it in the oven. Below are a few to get you started.

I’d also consider cutting out alcohol entirely for at least 30 days. Seriously.

Connect With Friends And Family

connect with family and friends

During these first few weeks or, at the latest, week four, take the time to reconnect with loved ones. Ideally one on one and in person where ever possible. Do your best to leave behind the phones, as they’re just going to get in the way. Choose people who activate you, who care for you, and who leave you feeling energized. If that list seems small or non-existent, take this time to think about how you can remedy that situation.

social media break

Evaluate And Set Boundaries

evaluate and set boundaries

It’s easy get lost in our lives: We throw ourselves into our work, we commit to our partner in a relationship — we are so busy taking care of others that we don’t make room for ourselves, which means we are trying to pour from an empty vase.

If we don’t take care of ourselves first, we can’t show up for the important people in our lives when they need us. Putting aside the guilt, you should extend the same kindness you extend to others to yourself as well.

If you’re someone who continually puts your own needs on the back burner for the benefit of others, you should spend some time establishing boundaries. These will help you make space that you need and also encourage others to help themselves when we you can’t be there all the time.

Do Something For You

do something for you

Find a hobby, a mini adventure, or a curiosity to nurture for a while and set aside a few hours a week to do only that. If you get into something that turns out to not be as interesting as you thought, just make the conscious decision to do something else. If not this, then what?

For me it’s hiking, reading, and various creative outlets. Whatever you decide to do, make it a priority and establish it during this time where you can reflect how it impacts your mood, your energy, and your interaction with family and friends.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

practice good sleep hygiene

Sleep is critical and boat loads of studies show that good sleep is a massive factor in good health.

Quick Tips For Good Sleep:

  • Don’t eat within 3 hours before bed
  • No phones, tablets, TV, or screens 60 mins before bed
  • Get in bed 30 minutes before you want to fall asleep with no phone
  • Sleep at least 7 hours
  • When you wake up, try to get outside in the morning light without sunglasses or shade for 45 minutes
  • Be consistent about your sleep routine and the points above

Start To Build A Vision For Your Life – Week 5 and Beyond

Start To Build A Vision For Your Life

Building a vision for our lives seems like a daunting task — in fact, there have been many times when I struggled to do this myself. What’s become clear to me is that there is no perfect solution, magic bullet, or secret that’s going to unlock a vision for my life or instantly help me “find my passion.” If some “guru” says they have a system, they’re lying.

So, let’s dispense with that right up front. There is no trick, no hack, no secret. But there is a way …

Some of you probably have a clear vision of what your ideal life would be. If that sounds like you, check yourself to make sure you haven’t just adopted someone else’s vision as your own.

For the rest of us, I believe there are a few main ingredients to this that should be customized for your purposes:

  • Don’t stand still, move in any direction
  • It’s not bliss, it’s about what you’re willing to give up
  • Treat this like an experiment
  • Be open and question everything

personal goal setting

Don’t Stand Still, Move In Any Direction

dont stand still

Here’s what I’ve found to be true for me: When I don’t know what I want to do, what my goals are, or what I should do next, I’ve learned that the worst thing to do is to stand still. Just start doing something — literally anything.

More likely than not, you’re not going to know what your purpose is until, one day, you stop what you’re doing and realize that you’re already doing it. What that means is we need to do several things in an intentional manner until we find what’s is right for us.

But realize that it’s not going “click” or come to you in some grand vision when you discover some secret or insight. It will slowly sneak up on you, consuming your whole life in a weird and unexpected way.

bias towards action

Choose A Starting Direction

choose a starting direction

Consider things that you’ve found interesting, curious, fun, or maybe even something that scares you. If that doesn’t work, start putting yourself in different environments that you’re not quite comfortable in, talk to people you’d never normally speak to, attend events that aren’t what you’d consider your thing, read a book that’s outside your normal pattern, or go to your favorite places at a totally different time.

Go into those things curious and open.

In many cases, I think it’s not so much that you’ll “find” something while doing these things, but by doing these things you’re not comfortable with, you are forcing yourself to be more open. You are literally strongarming your mindset into a place that is more receptive to new thoughts. This allows you to see opportunities that are sitting right in front of you.

What To Do When You Can’t Find Direction, Purpose, Or Passion

what to do when you cant find a direction

I’ve been here before and know how tough it is. I was making a real, concerted effort at progress, but despite a thoughtful approach and a lot of work, I came up with nothing. I was desperate and knew that if I couldn’t figure it out, I was cruising to a state of real depression.

Here’s what I did at that point: improve myself.

what to do when you cant find your directionI had no idea what I wanted, but I made the decision that until I figured it out, I would work on being the best that I could be. At least then when I figured out whatever my life’s purpose was, I’d be in a good place to seize it!

The reason this works is because by making a decision, subconsciously you’re saying to yourself, “I’m betting on myself. I am worth it.” In that seemingly simple decision, you’re also setting aside the excuses, which is so key to your mental game here.

This is also just a really positive way to trick yourself into motion. Remember earlier when I said pick a direction and start moving? This has the added benefit of improving your body and mind to boot.

So set about the task of working on your mind and your body. Eat better, exercise, be serious about getting better sleep, go to a therapist even if you think you don’t need one, put down the devices, and take a break from social media, the news, and alcohol.

Ask Yourself: What Do I Want More/Less Of?

what do you want more or less of

A good practice I’ve found is when you can’t paint a picture of what you want your life to be, then at least make a fuzzy image of it.

Remember those picture books where there were numbered dots on a page and you’d draw lines between them and suddenly a picture became clear? That’s what we want to do. We want to put lots of independent data points down on the proverbial page so we can start to connect them and draw a picture. The more dots, the clearer the picture. How do we do that?

Ask yourself these questions

What do I want more of in my life?

What do I want less of in my life?

I’ve found people may not always know what they want in life, but they can list 100 things they don’t want in their life with ease. The important part here is not to be vague — be really specific about these things.

Here’s the trick …

Take what you don’t want in your life and then ask, what’s the oppositive of that?

Do you hate having a micro manager who doesn’t trust you to deliver without them butting in? Flip it! I want a manager who empowers me to deliver my work independently. Frustrated with how disorganized and chaotic your home always is? You want to strive for a well-organized and tidy lifestyle.

It’s Not Bliss, It’s About What You’re Willing To Give Up

its about what youre willing to give up

Now that I’m on the other side of this having found what my passion is, most people expect fulfillment to be a blissful state with no problems and only happy times. That’s absolutely incorrect. What it’s really about is finding something that you enjoy doing so much that all the stuff that normally drags you down, the boring stuff and the difficult challenges, literally doesn’t matter because you see it as the price you pay to do what you love to do.

There is a lot of talk about finding your passion on the internet. The online conversation typically sounds like “living your best life,” “doing what you love,” and so on. Honestly, most of these people are faking it, but for those who have found it, it’s hard to talk about it without sounding very positive because it’s a blissful state.

The truth is that when I think about a goal, a passion, or an ideal life, it comes down to being honest about what I have to give up in service to that. This isn’t a negative mindset or a scarcity thing and often doesn’t have to be about money at all.

no spend challenge

It’s about what hard work I have to do and the uncomfortable truths about myself I need to square with. It’s having perseverance when life throws me down a flight of stairs to get back up.

And the uncomfortable truth is after life does that, you’re going have to climb back to the top of those same stairs and throw yourself down them again, over and over. Why? Because you’ve decided that the life you love comes at a cost and it’s a price you’re happy to pay every day.

Do Hard Things

do hard things

Humans are really lazy creatures; we seek comfort and our lives are pretty good. This is actually rooted deep in our DNA because it allowed our ancestors to be very efficient when they were fighting for survival every day.

Basically, our ancestors had to be lazy to preserve energy or they would have run out of calories and starved to death. So, in a weird way, we are the evolutionary survivors of the laziest people ever. Cosmic joke right there.

do the hard workThings started to go wrong once we progressed into modern life. It’s hard to keep the perspective that life as we now know it is only a hundred or so years old!

Most of us don’t have to worry about starving, we are pretty healthy compared to our ancestors, and we have amazing climate-controlled boxes we call houses instead of a patch of ground around a fire we stoke to stay warm and ward off predators that want to eat us. Where our ancestors would have keeled over from the flu, we take a $3 pill that cures it.

We have it really good. If you ever doubt that, take a trip to a less fortunate country and stare into the faces of those who live in absolute poverty. If you’re reading this on a laptop, you’ve been afforded a life of such luxury and opportunity that it is unapparelled through human history.

This is where the true “first-world problem” exists. When you’re not fighting for survival every day, you suddenly need to create something to struggle for and through. The only way to do that is to consciously do difficult things that challenge you to grow.
I’ve found a good way to kick start this is with the 75 Hard Challenge, which I outline here:

75 hard challenge

Treat This Like An Experiment

treat this like an experiment

I can’t guarantee much through this process, but the one thing I can is that you’re going to get a lot wrong. As you start to move in some directions, you’re going to get it wrong. The trick here is to not beat yourself up for it.

You’re going to pick a direction and then constantly course correct along the way. As you course correct, you’re going to be able to make decisions faster and at a higher level of accuracy because you’re gaining experience from doing it wrong. Doing it wrong is kind of the whole point.

My best advice is not to say you’re going to do ___ and worry about failure, but instead to say, “I’m exploring this right now.” Think of it as a series of mini experiments.

why not tryIf you have a gut feeling or curiosity about something, make a mini hypothesis about it, then test it out. After you complete the “experiment,” stop, reassess, and design the next experiment.

The key thing here is to remember that it’s not a failure, it’s just a result of the experiment. You just ran the test and observed results, no big deal.

People also have a tendency to bail at the first sign of trouble or difficulty. Remember, you need to be willing to give up things like your ego, your negative self-talk, and your preconceived notions in service of this new life you want to build.

If you don’t want to go back to your old life, remember what drove you insane to the point that you quit your job. When you fall flat on your face, when it gets really hard, you’re going to have to say “F#@$ it, I’m not going back.”

Push through and push hard. The old you would have given up, but you’re not that person any more.

Be Open And Question Everything

be open and question everything

While you’re exploring things and running your experiments, you also want to build in some natural stopping points where you take a step back and question everything. If you adopt my experimentation method, you’ll have a hypothesis that you test, then you can stop after running that experiment and reflect on it and ask yourself some questions.

  • Should you continue?
  • How would you continue differently?
  • What did this experience teach you about what the next step might be?
  • If this wasn’t it, why wasn’t it, and what’s the opposite of that thing?

bullet journal challenge

Build The Life You Want

how to build the life you want

If you come into this with a plan, be smart about it, and question each step along the way, you’ll eventually find a home in the perfect life for you. Set aside the negative self-talk. Forget the social pressures of society and focus on you. Realize that you’re going to have failures and that’s part of the process.

Also realize that there isn’t a magic bullet, a process that works for everyone, or a secret to success.

The General Path I’d Suggest Trying Is This:

  1. Relax and create space.
  2. Take time to do housekeeping in your home, in your life, and in your mind.
  3. Start to outline what you want your life to look like.
  4. Determine a direction to experiment and start moving.
  5. When in doubt, improve yourself — mind and body.
  6. Do difficult things and push through failures and self-doubt.
  7. Take time to stop and evaluate, and question everything.
  8. Rinse and repeat.

The way forward is frankly through doing the difficult work, failing forward, and not bailing when things get tough.

The good stuff is on the other side of those things that you think are so hard they might break you.

Your Turn!

  • What advice do you have to share for others?
  • What tips have you found to find the right path?

Personal Goal Setting: Powerful Strategies to Achieve More in Life

Personal Goal Setting: Powerful Strategies to Achieve More in Life

personal goal settingPersonal goal setting is one of those things that we all know we probably should do, but just never really get around to doing. It can be easy to go with the flow (sometimes that’s a good thing) but lack of direction often is the difference between living a mediocre life or living your best life. I, for one, want to set personal goals to make sure I live in the way that’s best for me. Here’s how to make the most out of life by setting personal goals.

Why Personal Goal Setting Is Important

Why Personal Goal Setting Is Important

Let’s be honest with ourselves, building the life we dream of doesn’t happen by accident. By the same token, it’s surprising how adding even a little intention to our lives can have such a huge impact on our happiness and success. What’s more, if we don’t set priorities in our lives, there are plenty of other people and companies that are happy to set them for us, only to their benefit, not ours.

personal goal settingI’ve found that setting goals does two main things for us: it gives us something to aim for and it gives us a guide to weigh decisions in order to keep moving forward. These two things are vitally important to a life worth living because they provide a purpose for our lives; purpose is what gets us up in the morning and it’s what carries us when times get tough.

When I think about the best times in my life, I consider them to be so great because I had purpose. The darker times in life were characterized by an aimless state of wandering. Leveraging goal setting, I was able to claw my way out of those dark spots to a brighter place.

That’s why personal goal setting is important: it gives you aim, it gives you guidance and it gives you a purpose that carries you through the good and bad times.

How To Set Personal Goals

How To Set Personal Goals

There are three parts to setting personal goals: identifying what you want to achieve, building a system to attain that goal, and finally, articulating what you’re willing to sacrifice or endure in order to achieve it. Despite the nuances within each part, I’ll be honest here and say the biggest challenge is you getting out of your own way.

When you’re setting new goals and executing them, you’re building new habits, which is incredibly difficult to do. I’ve written a good bit about this topic, so make sure you check out this post.

tools for building good habits

— TOOLS FOR —

BUILDING

GOOD HABITS


Identifying What You Want Out Of Life

Identifying What You Want Out Of Life

Obviously, the first step is to know where we are going, which can be easier said than done sometimes. There have been times when I knew exactly what I was going to do next, then other times I struggled for years to figure out my next step. I wanted to take some time here to dig in, because I’ve found advice out there to be thin when it comes to not knowing what you should do.

indentifying what you want out of lifeThe trick with a goal is finding that sweet spot between something that is difficult to achieve and something that lights a fire within you. The key component to a satisfying victory is proportionate to the amount of struggle: the more struggle, the greater the feeling of satisfaction. Too much struggle and your goal will take forever to achieve or it isn’t realistic.

Without struggle, wins around goals can feel cheap and hollow. If I map the greatest things I have done in life, they correlate heavily with the amount of struggle that occurred with it. I don’t believe this is by accident.

Along with the perfect amount of struggle, the goal needs to stir something inside you. I’ve had goals like earn six figures, live in another country, be featured in the NY Times, but they all left me feeling blasé. I was able to get hired pretty easily for that six figures, bought a ticket to Croatia with money I already had and realized being in the NYT didn’t change my life.

Compare that to my goal of writing a book and seeing it published on the shelf in a Barnes & Noble. After writing a blog for 7 years, I attracted a publisher who offered me a contract. I then spent 6 months writing every day, and editing the manuscript for 3 months after that. The feeling when I walked into my local Barnes & Nobles and saw my book on the shelf for sale was one of the top moments of my life.

When it comes to determining our goals, we fall into three main buckets:

When We Think We Know What Our Goal Should Be

When We Think We Know What Our Goal Should Be

When I was young, I was very money driven. I thought a large income, a big house, nice clothes and fancy things would lead me to happiness. When the 2009 recession hit, I realized through prolonged introspection that what I thought I wanted, was actually a narrative I adopted out of default.

american dream houseGo to school, get a good job, land a successful career, find a wife, settle down in a nice house and drive a red car. Some call it the American Dream, but I never stopped to think if it was right for me.

When you think you have landed on a larger life goal, spend some time picking it apart. Play devil’s advocate, think about what the daily realities would be like and maybe see if you could test out what it would be like in some way.

Me defaulting to the normal path of life was bought and sold to me by society at large. For some, a perfectly fine path, but one that I never stopped and asked: “is this what I want?” When I finally did get around to asking that question. I soon realized this clear-cut route really meant in a day to day reality, and it was not for me. I thought I knew what I wanted; boy was I wrong.

When We Don’t Know What We Want

When We Don’t Know What We Want

There have been a few times in my life when I just didn’t know what to do. I was floating along, “successful” by most people’s standards, but I wasn’t particularly happy. I spent a lot of energy trying to figure out what I wanted, but any idea that came to me kept falling flat. I struggled with it immensely in my early 30’s and the lack of purpose was a major negative force in my life.

I spent a solid year doing thought experiments, brainstorming ideas, testing a few of them, and reading a lot of advice, only to come up empty. Sometimes people say they don’t know what to do because they haven’t honestly put effort into it, but this was not the case. I spent a sizeable amount of time making concerted efforts.

I was so clueless about what I wanted. So, in a mild act of desperation, I decided to set aside my goals and focused on making myself better. I had no reason to think this would solve anything. My rationale for all of this was telling myself that I might as well work on myself, so by the time I do figure out what I want, I’ll be at my best to do whatever it is.

75 hard challenge

GET MOTIVATED WITH THE

75 HARD

CHALLENGE


I started with my diet, losing 90 pounds. I worked in some moderate exercise and started walking each day, then running a few times a week. Finally, I spent time alone with my thoughts on long walks through the woods, sorting through feelings and my mental state.

I’m not necessarily saying to do this exact thing if you don’t know what you want to do in life. Instead, think about what the proxy would be for you and pursue that. It is quite possible that what I did will work for you too.

I think the big part is to just do something that is going to make your life better in any dimension. It’s a mix of improving your life and gaining forward momentum. Basically, you’ll get out of your rut and since you’re focusing on yourself, it’s a way forward. I think the motion in any direction is important.

The beauty of this approach is if it doesn’t work for you, the worst outcome that can happen is that you’re better than you were. If nothing else, you’ll be wiser, healthier, and most importantly, moving in a direction.

After about a year and a half of focusing on my diet and health I also found I slept better, got dates easier, my neck pain went away and my mood lifted. In the end it was all worth it if for nothing else than that!

are you living a level 10 life

Then something funny happened, I started having clearer thoughts around what I wanted for my future. I saw possibilities and was excited by them. I could tell I was onto something. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but it was like following a rope and knowing you were getting to the end where the prize was.

Then one day clarity hit me like a lightning bolt, I knew where I was going.

When You Know Your Goals

When You Know Your Goals

Having an aim in life is super important, to my earlier point, having a purpose is what breeds a good life filled with happiness, contentment and interest. The only thing you want to be cautious of is false positives, meaning when you think you know what you want, but realize later you pursued the wrong goal.

Take time to really think through the life you want to build, what are the realities of living like that? Too often we idealize things. Make sure you’re willing to put up with the downsides, because every way of life has them.

when you know your goalsAn important step to this is we often think about how it will feel when things go right: the sun is shining, money in the bank, the car works, we’re healthy and we don’t have a worry in the world. But also think through what the worst day of that new life would be like: you lost your job, the economy dipped, you break up with your significant other, you’ve been sick for a week and the chores are piling up. What would those days feel like? Would you still want that life?

Another important thing to do is to understand how you arrived at this goal in the first place. Analyze the sources where the motivations or ideas for these goals come from. Was it a nostalgic memory from your past, was it something you coveted in your neighbors or friends, or was it a status symbol that might end up empty for us?

Understanding the drive behind a goal is important to make sure it comes from a good place. Always be cautious, examine your own thoughts around your goals, and check to make sure they’re right for you.

Building Systems To Achieve Goals

Building Systems To Achieve Goals

A key component to goal setting is not only figuring out what you want to set as your personal goal, but what you’re actually going to do daily in order to reach that goal. Training yourself to think this way is critical and will get you far in life because there are many goals that are complex, very ambitious and can take years to reach.

A system is a consistent set of actions that you perform daily, which will eventually accumulate in a way that reaches your goal. Examples would be:

  • Your goal is to write a book: your system is to write 500 words each day
  • Your goal is to lose 30 pounds: your system is to track calories for all your meals
  • Your goal is no debt: your system is to reduce spending and pay down your debt

This does a few things for you. First, it breaks down a goal into smaller parts so you can just focus on what is right in front of you: what do you need to do today?

build systemsIt also helps motivate you on long-term goals where the finish line may be very far off. You can draw satisfaction from a job well done today and the knowledge that it’s building towards something.

Finally, a system is repeatable, which means you can get more efficient with it. When you do something over and over again, day in and day out, you naturally get better at it. This means you might discover ways to achieve the same thing in less time, cutting down the time to achieve that goal.

You may realize that some things you were doing each day were bringing the impact you thought they would so you can adapt to having more meaningful results. If all else fails, you’ll get really good at what you do each day and you can “brute force” your way to a goal.

Systems are powerful and I’ve learned they are what separates successful people from less successful people. Successful people have a system or process for achieving their goals and they seek them relentlessly.

Below are some details about building systems that can help make sure you hone in on the right steps to achieve your goals through daily system actions.

Question Everything

Question Everything

I have talked about how just through some simple questions I was able to free up half of my time in a new job, which equates to about 30 hours a week. In challenging my assumptions around email, I took my email inbox that received 700 emails a day of real and actionable emails, not spam/newsletters, down to 40 emails a week! It also allowed me to question my housing, where I replaced my rent of $1,500 down to $15 (not a typo) a month.

simple office and work life

This willingness has proven very valuable. The ability to take a step back and question things objectively has saved me a ton of time, money and stress. In short, we need to question everything and challenge our assumptions.

Build A List Of Options

Build A List Of Options

Start by making a list of five distinctly different ways you could achieve this goal. The first option you write down will most likely be your personal favorite, your second option will be a good alternative. When you get to your last three options, you’ll have to start getting creative. You want these to be totally different from your other options, not just a slight variation.

bullet journaling

HOW TO START A

BULLET

JOURNAL


Don’t be afraid to ask other people how they would achieve the same goal. Don’t be afraid to press them for alternative options as well. It’s options four and five that often reveal some insights, opening you up to a better way or new way of thinking about your challenge ahead.

This process does a few things. First it allows you to potentially come up with a better path forward, forcing creative solutions sometimes gets you to think outside the box. It also provides fall back options if your first approach fails, saving you valuable time after a possible failure.

Take the time to write these down and brainstorm ideas, don’t be afraid to get really crazy.

Break Down Your Goals

Break Down Your Goals

Many goals are multi-faceted, complex or require many actions. It can be daunting at times to keep going or to know where to even start. The best way I’ve found to deal with this is to break down the goal into smaller steps.

You can approach this in two different ways: break goals down to what you need to do today or break down goals to a point that it seems easily achievable.

My preference is to break down goals into a daily to do list. Sometimes it’s easy, for example, “I want to earn an extra $5,000 this year.” You take $5,000 and divide by 365. What’s nice about this is instead of feeling overwhelmed by the thought of earning an extra five grand, you can set that feeling aside and realize today you only have to figure out how to earn only $15.

break down your goalsOther goals are a bit more complicated: For example, building my tiny house. To do this, I outlined all the steps I needed to do in order to build the house: determine a design, draw the plans, purchase the trailer, learn to use tools, etc. I then grouped them into what seemed like easy to do chunks.

If there is a section that is still too big, I looked for ways to break it down further: instead of “buy a trailer” I’ll first make a list of people I want to call to get prices. After that, I’ll call those people, compare prices, go see the trailer, make a decision, then finally purchase. That one item was broken down into six smaller steps that seemed easier on their own.

The other way for you to break down ambitious goals that seem daunting, is to break them down into approachable portions. The key here is to figure out the actions that are so simple, small or easy that you think you can manage it. For some people these actions may be bigger or smaller, the point is you figure out the thing you can manage to do.

Break it down into small pieces and then set a plan to get you from where you are today to where you want to be, one small step at a time.

Own The Pain Of Achievement

Own The Pain Of Achievement

Most guidance fails because it doesn’t include what you’re willing to endure in order to make the dream a reality. l Goal setting advice focuses on making SMART goals, dream boards, motivation etc. but doesn’t spend any time recognizing the pain required to achieve a goal.

We need to define what we are willing to undergo in order to achieve our goal. Inherent in our pursuit of our goal, we are going to have to give certain things up, say no to a few things, get up when we just want to be lazy, and keep pushing when everything seems to be against us.

Goal Setting is Easy, Achieving Goals is Painful

The space between where we are today and where we want to be in the future is filled with hard work and sacrifice. It’s going to be painful in some manner, so let’s adopt a mindset now that will set the stage for the daily actions of our systems.

Define The Pain We Are Willing To Endure

Define The Pain We Are Willing To Endure

Understanding what pain we are willing to go through is critical to this process. There are certain things we understand are more valuable in reaching our goals. Therefore, we are more willing to ride out the disadvantages because we realize they are necessary for success. Contrary to this, there are some things we come to recognize we are not willing to do.

This saves us time, but also attributes the lack of change to the proper source: ourselves. It allows the proper internal dialogue of “I want this in my life, but if I’m not willing to take the actions to make it happen, then I won’t have earned it.” It’s a hard pill to swallow and sometimes, just maybe, it’s this realization that makes us stubborn enough to preserve through those sacrifices.

Make sure you are setting your goals, but then make sure you outline exactly what you’re willing to sacrifice in order to make it happen.

Prepare For Failure

Prepare For Failure

There are times when we miss the mark and the critical part of failure is training ourselves to have the right response. Failure is an opportunity to start again wiser, but we should also own our faults and mistakes no matter the circumstances.

Another key to success is what is called failing forward. While we want to make sure we don’t have any catastrophic failures, learning to embrace small failures and learn from them is a valuable skill.

go for it

Be The One

Who Goes For It!


In my time working as an entrepreneur, I’ve found that failing provides useful data. I’ve often found I needed to fail in small ways (numerous times) so I could figure out what will work. Realizing this, the trick has been to reduce the time and cost between failures. By shortening the intervals between failures, I can get to a successful place more quickly.

In my personal life, I’ve found that failures often taught me more about myself than any other time. You go through a rough breakup; you learn a lot about what you do and don’t want in your next partner. You made a poor money decision, you are smarter the next time round. You let your house get really messy, spending hours cleaning it, so you start to clean a little each day instead.

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” — Henry Ford

Failure is traditionally seen as a bad thing and there are times when the shame and pain of such failure is necessary to reinforce good behaviors. In my opinion, failure also needs to be seen as a place of growth and learning.

Putting It All Together

Putting It All Together

Now that we’ve figured out what we want, it’s time to build a system to achieve our goals and get clear on what we’re willing to withstand.

Take time to get clear on what you truly want and examine the motivation behind it. Understand that you need to put in the work to make this happen. Finally, break your goals down into small daily actions that will allow you to make progress towards each day.

Your Turn!

  • What tips do you have for setting goals?
  • What goals are you going to work on this year?

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How To Stop Procrastination – Advice From An Expert Procrastinator Who Figured It Out

How To Stop Procrastination – Advice From An Expert Procrastinator Who Figured It Out

how to stop procrastinationI have to admit, there are times when I’ve been a procrastination pro in my life, but I’ve come around and learned how to stop putting things off before it got out of hand. So, I figured who better to share a few tips on how to stop procrastination than from a person who was once a huge procrastinator himself.

What Is Procrastination?

what is procrastination

At its core, procrastination is delaying a task for later in the future because we don’t feel compelled enough to do it right now. A good way to look at it is realizing there are two selves: a present self and a future self. Procrastination is when our present self pushes off the pain of doing something to our future self.

How To Stop Procrastinating For Good

how to stop procrastination

Understanding that there is a current self and a future self, we have a decision to make. Are we going to set up our future self for success or failure? To help drive this point home, I even go as far as visualizing a scenario where my future self could come back and say “what the hell man!” about a decision to shirk off something.

Why Do We Procrastinate?

why do we procrastinate

After many years of putting things off, I sat down and asked why I don’t get things done. It was then that I realized that procrastination is a state where not doing something has less pain than the pain you’ll incur by doing the task.

An example is if you’re just a little hungry but have no food in your house, you’ll put off getting up to drive to the store. Later, when you’re really hungry, the “pain” of hunger is larger than the pain of going to the store. So, you get up and drive to get food.

That means procrastination is a function of pain. It was then I realized that if we can manipulate the level of pain, we can push ourselves forward to get things done.

Adding Pain To The Process

adding pain to the process

Realizing that pain was the key variable here, I had to figure out a way to control the level of pain in the equation. It was this hack that I learned a long time ago when I wanted to stop drinking sodas. It seems odd at first, making things even harder, but stick with me here…

I knew it would be challenging to stop drinking sodas. At first, I said I could drink sodas with one caveat. I could drink soda; I just couldn’t buy a pack of soda for the house. What I could do though, was get in my car and drive to the gas station down the road and buy one bottle of soda to drink.

Why did this work? I wasn’t denying myself the soda, I just added the pain of having to get in my car and driving to get it. Each time I wanted a soda, I had to weigh the hassle vs. how much I wanted it.

Taking this lesson and applying it to things we are procrastinating on we can see how pain will come into play. This little trick lets us overcome procrastination by making the pain for the present self higher than the pain of doing the task. Adding pain makes a huge difference.

Visualizing Failure

visualizing failure

Another way to add pain to the process is to envision yourself not fixing your bad habits. Visualize how it could spiral out of control later in life, what is the inevitable result if we don’t fix this now? We want to take this to the most realistic extreme.

If you want to stop drinking so much, imagine what it would be like if you didn’t make the change. Imagine you drink a little more each day leading you to sleep through your alarm a few too many times. Your boss notices and fires you, which leads you to drink more, and eventually your spouse leaves you. You drive drunk back from the bar and end up killing an innocent person. You end up in jail for manslaughter.

This may seem a bit dramatic, but Let your mind go wild here and sit with that dread, angst, and self-loathing. This vision of the future may never happen, but you could use that pain to pile on your current state in order to push you forward.

How To Use Accountability

how to use accountability

Much like my methods before, accountability is another way to layer on pain, just from a different source. At its core, accountability is about adding in social and peer pressure to a positive outcome.

I have found this effective when doing my work through a mastermind group, which for the uninitiated, is a business accountability group. Each week I had to show up and layout what I actually got done, they’d compare that to what I said I’d do the week previous. This meant I added the pain of the social pressure by having to answer for my failings.

tools for building good habits

TOOLS FOR

BUILDING

GOOD HABITS


The social pressure of an accountability partner is a great technique if you can find the right people for it. I’ve found it hard to find people who could call me out on my own excuses because those types of people are also sympathetic to your circumstances.

It is easy for people that care to go easy on you. In a funny way, they too are trying to avoid the pain of social discomfort today, even though they know you’d be better for it if they went through the pain now.

Understand That Every Decision Has A Price

understand that every decision has a price

Understand that life is really a series of choices and it can be easy to think that the small little decisions – read: compromises – we make add up to major currents in our lives. It can seem trivial to choose water at dinner over a diet soda, both have no calories, right? But the cumulative effect of these can pile up fast.

The best illustration I’ve had to this effect comes from a conversation I had with a multi-metal Olympian. He said every decision he makes, he thought of it like building himself a castle, stone by stone. Each choice he made, he’d literally visualize himself laying a new stone to build his castle. If he made a bad choice, he would visualize himself walking up to the wall and pushing over a section of it.

Another approach and a technique I’ve used to good effect is when I’m faced with a decision, I ask “is this getting me closer or further from my goal?” This let me put my decisions into context and make good decisions time after time.

Understand that every choice has a price. The question is are you willing to pay the bill for your bad decisions when it comes due?

setting personal goals

SETTING

PERSONAL

GOALS


Do The Work

do the work

At the end of it all, we will have the life we build for ourselves. There is no magic bullet, short cut or trick to make it happen other than to do the work. We need to ask ourselves what is the life we want for ourselves and what pain we are willing to endure to make it happen.

Be the person that sets aside excuses. Be the person that gets things done. Be the person who does the things which will get you to where you want to be. The space between where you are today and where you want to be in the future is filled with hard work. Stop procrastinating and get on with it!

Your Turn!

  • What tricks do you use to stop procrastinating?
  • What are some ways you can overcome your favorite excuse?

THE FOUNDATIONS

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Building good habits guide
How to set personal goals guide
how to prioritize guide
how to get stuff done