“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
Leonardo Da Vinci
To get things done you need to take action. Things seldom happen on their own.
But taking action can be difficult and hard. And so it’s easy to wind up in Lazyville or Procrastinationland a lot. How can you break out of such behaviour and develop a behaviour of taking more action?
Here are 10 tips that you’ll hopefully find useful.
1. Reconnect with the present moment.
This will help you snap out of over thinking and just go and do whatever you want to get done.
This is probably the best tip I have found so far for taking more action since it puts you in a state where you feel little emotional resistance to the work you’ll do. And it puts you in state where the right actions often just seem to flow out of you in a focused but relaxed way and without much effort.
One of the simplest ways to connect with the present moment is just to keep your focus on you breathing for a minute or two.
2. Be accountable to others.
My favourite...If you tell a bunch of people that you are going to do something then it will be hard to not do it. You don’t want to disappoint them. Or have to face up to them the next time you meet.
If you have a hard time getting going with something get some support. If you for instance workout, do it with a friend to motivate each other to take action – and actually go to the gym – when motivation runs low. Motivating each other and bringing enthusiasm when one of you is feeling low can really help to develop consistency and useful habits.
Think about how you can involve others to help all of you to take more action.
This tip works well. But it can put you in situation where you take action to avoid pain, to avoid judgement. And it can help you create pressure within yourself. Such a state may not always be the best one to be in to take action and perform well. One way to lessen such problems is to use this tip and then when you are about to take action you reconnect with the present moment to quiet negativity within yourself.
3. Be accountable to yourself.
In the long run a more consistent and perhaps healthier way to develop a habit of taking more action is to answer to yourself instead of others. To set your own standards and principles for how you will behave.
The problem with this one is that you are likely to cheat on yourself and rationalize how you don’t need to take action or follow your principles. When the social pressure of having to answer to others isn’t there it’s easy to slip and fall into laziness or procrastination.
But over time you can become more and more consistent with acting according to your own standards. I believe that one of the keys to develop this kind of thinking is to get off a dependence on external validation and be more internally validated.
If you can develop accountability to your own standards then it can be more consistent than the one you get from relying on being accountable to others. It comes from within so it doesn’t have to rely on other, outer circumstances that may fluctuate.
It is also very useful to help you feel good about yourself and to help you grow. If you rely on being accountable to others and their validation then you may grow but also feel confined by what others expect from you. If you are accountable to yourself then you set your limits wherever you want them.
4. Lighten up.
One way to dissuade yourself from taking action is to take whatever you are about to do too seriously. That makes it feel too big, too difficult and too scary. If you on the other hand relax a bit and lighten up you often realize that those problems and negative feelings are just something you are creating in your own mind. With a lighter state of mind your tasks seems lighter and becomes easier to get started with.
5. Use a limited to-do list.
A to-do list is a simple and great way to remember what you are about to do. But it’s easy to get overly enthusiastic when writing it and putting in too many items. And then when you look at that big list you feel drained and an urge to procrastinate.
But do you need to do all those things?
Think about what the absolutely most important items on the list are. Just two or three. Then put them on a new to-do list. This list will seem less daunting and I have found that it makes it easier to actually take action and get those things done.
6. Choose instead of should.
Here’s a small but useful tip. You don’t really need to do anything. You always choose what to do. Thinking about things this way removes the “shoulds” and “need tos” that take your personal power away and make you feel like you aren’t in control. When you think that you choose to do whatever you do then you regain the control and power. And it becomes easier to take action.
7. Focus on the how instead of the if’s.
What if’s can really mess with your mind. You can spend days, weeks or years thinking about what may happen if you take action. So instead of letting your mind get lost in what if’s focus on the how. In a situation focus on how you can do something, how you can solve a problem or achieve a goal. Get support and help from other people if you need to.
Focusing on the how puts your mind to better use and creates a positive attitude within rather than a negative and uncertain one. This makes it easier to take action without too much hand wringing and time spent over thinking things.
8. Get enthusiastic.
Enthusiasm is great emotional state to be in to get going and take action. And if you aren’t feeling enthusiastic then that’s OK too. You can pretty much always create enthusiasm within yourself. Check out 4 Powerful Reasons to Up Your Enthusiasm, and How to Do It for tips on how you can do that from both me and you (there are some really good suggestions in the comments section of that article).
9. Start small.
To get from a state where you just feel like sitting on your chair and doing nothing much to one where you take action over and over you can do this: start small.
Getting started with your biggest task or most difficult action may seem too much and land you in Procrastinationland. So instead, start with something that doesn’t seem so hard.
One of my favourites is simply to take a few minutes to clean my desk. After that the next thing doesn’t seem so difficult to get started with since I’m now in a more of a “take action” kind of mode.
What is your best tip for taking more action?