“Don’t wait til you reach your goal to be proud of yourself. Be proud of every step you take.” — Karen Salmansohn
2020 was a tough year for everyone. Looking ahead in hopes of a brighter, better year, what ideas would you like to turn into action? Which items will you move off your “someday” list and onto your today list?
Productivity guru David Allen says, “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” He goes on to talk about the benefits of capturing ideas and listing them onto projects or to-do lists.
I used to swear by to-do lists and every other productivity tool available. I would read the blogs and follow the experts, trying to see what wisdom resonated with them rather than seeing what resonated with myself.
Instead of being proud of the ten tasks I completed today, I’d beat myself up over the three I missed. It took me far too long to realize the tools we use can help, but they aren’t everything.
You can have the most detailed calendar and still be lost.
You can have the best to-do list, and still not get anything done.
You can read the best books, and still have everything stay the same.
You can sign up for the best courses and still be stagnant.
Preparation is great, but it’s useless if not paired with action. So how does one move forward when there are plenty of great ideas? Here are some ideas that have been valuable along my journey:
1. Reflect on your current patterns.
As with any endeavor, awareness is key. Do you continue to shift your tasks to a later date? Do you continue to do other tasks instead of the ones that need your attention most?
The first step is to recognize this is happening and be aware of it. Why are you procrastinating? Are you afraid to start? Are you lost on what to do next? Take the time to think this through. Better questions lead to better answers.
2. Make smaller tasks.
While it’s helpful to jot everything down, it’s also important to evaluate what’s on the list. Are these tasks too big or too unrealistic?
Let’s say you want to write a chapter of a book. Perhaps one task is to do research on one of the chapter topics for twenty minutes. Another task might be to collect the quotations you want to use.
Breaking tasks down provides a sense of sustainability and achievement. Both of these feelings give us momentum to continue moving forward.
3. Shift your environment.
Most people are naturally lazy. It’s easier to watch Netflix instead of workout, surf the web instead of clean the house, and eat ice cream rather than vegetables. Given human nature is outside of one’s control, focus your attention on your environment instead.
Tempted by junk food? Replace it by healthy and convenient options.
Snooze too much in the mornings? Keep your alarm across the room.
Trying to start a workout habit? Prepare your workout outfit the night before.
While these are simple shifts, they change the environment and keep us in check when we need it most.
4. Get supportive people to help.
Our social environment can impact our habits just as much as our physical environment. People like to fit in and keep up with those around them.
Find people who have characteristics you want to emulate. You don’t need to find one person with all of your desired characteristics, leverage different people for different activities.
Go running with your athletic friend.
Talk about interesting books with your friend who loves to read.
Exchange healthy meal recipes with your friend who loves to cook.
Your friends will appreciate you tuning in to their interests, and so will your habits.
5. Let tasks go.
Sometimes, tasks, projects, or goals just don’t go as planned. Sometimes, the best thing one can do is to let go.
This doesn’t mean giving up, it means it’s no longer a good fit. If you continue to postpone a task, is it something you want to do in the first place?
Letting go of tasks that don’t matter frees up time and attention for the most important tasks. David Allen has also said, “You can do anything, but not everything.”
As you look forward to 2021, what do you want to accomplish? What do you want to let go of? Remember that you don’t need to wait another month, week, day, or moment to change your life. As Aruthr Ashe once said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
Real progress is tough and it may take some time before the results are clear. But the time will pass regardless, you might as well make the best of it.
Figure out what you want to do, and go after it. May your workload be lighter, and better, because of it.
About the Author: Andrew Rocha writes at Successful Steps, where he shares his passion for personal development and success stems from the desire to be happy and make the most out of life. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.