What are you still waiting to accomplish?
Why haven’t you done it yet?
Goals can be big and small. On a weekly and monthly basis, we all set tasks we want to accomplish, some of which are very important. They are the kinds of things that move our team forward or move our company forward, and they are the kinds of tasks that have a ripple effect when you check them off your to-do list.
And then there are the big goals. The “I want to start my own company” and the “I want to get an MBA” goals. These kinds of goals take months or years to come to fruition, and by making small consistent progress every day or every week, the results add up over time.
But how many items like these, big and small, have lingered on your to-do list for weeks? How many goals have you knocked down the road another week, another 6 months, another year?
When things are hard or really important to us, it can be scary to get started. So we find good reasons why we can’t start. We check email, load up on busywork, and take jobs that don’t move our career forward.
“Oh I’m just too busy today.”
“I just need to get a little more experience with _____ before I build my own thing.”
These are convenient excuses – and they’re convenient they’re convincing (to us and to the people we tell them to). But all they really do is hold us back. This week I want to help you explore these excuses and then overcome them, so that you can spend your time doing things that matter.
Why your excuses are holding you back
If you’re reading this blog, I think that I can safely assume that you’re someone who is probably used to having your default mode be “working hard”. It’s not hard for you to summon the energy or motivation to get things done – most things, that is.
In his book, The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks talks about the power of our own excuses to keep us from achieving greatness. He told a story about meeting with a few fellow psychologists, and noticing a pattern where each one explained that he was very nearly happy – except for this one thing standing in his way.
For most of them, the reason they weren’t building the projects or seeing the clients or beginning the studies they wanted to were because they were too busy. There was just too much going on that required them to focus on things that weren’t helping them feel satisfied at work or grow their business. And so they all left it at that; those things would get done later. Someday. When it was more convenient.
You see, “I’m too busy” and excuses like it are almost always accepted as true. We tell ourselves we’re too busy to apply for new jobs; we tell friends and family we’re too busy to do that project we’re always talking about.
And people believe it. We believe it when we say it to ourselves and other people believe it when we say it to them.
But we shouldn’t. Why?
You are the way you spend your time. You make time for the things that are priorities for you, plain and simple. (Even if those priorities are motivated by fear of leveling up or fear of failure or even simple lack of motivation.)
When we put things off because we are “too busy”, what we are really saying is that we just don’t want to do them right now. No productivity hack or to-do app will help you create more hours in the day; you simply have to decide whether or not you will make time for the work that matters and set aside or delegate things that aren’t moving you forward.
There is always a real reason why you are choosing to be too busy to take on these projects. It is up to you to find that reason and take control.
How many people have you talked to who always seem to have the same big project or job on the horizon? The people that are always looking ahead to the next big thing but never actually moving that way.
They never get any closer because taking a step towards your big dream is one step closer to potential failure – and so sticking with the reason “I’ve just been too busy/stressed/overwhelmed to make much progress” is a much more secure place to be.
These excuses can be especially hard to spot when you are telling them to yourself. If you’re keeping a job that bores you because you don’t have time to interview for new ones, or you’re putting off a big assignment because you don’t yet have the experience or resources – you are fooling yourself into thinking you are trapped where you are.
It is totally within your power to take action on these things.
How to stop procrastinating and start making progress
The first thing you need to do is get really honest about why you’re procrastinating on something. Ask yourself:
- What are the real reasons I have been putting this off?
- What do I feel when I think about this opportunity? Afraid? Intimidated? Small? Unprepared?
- What about this project makes me feel that way?
- What is the most challenging part of this undertaking for me?
- What concrete things are standing in my way from starting? How many of them are in my control to change?
When you can understand why you are procrastinating, suddenly you give yourself back the power to stop procrastinating and start making real progress. If you’re afraid to start but don’t know it, there will always be a good excuse for why you can’t start.
However, if you can understand what is motivating your feelings, you can begin to overcome those feelings too.
All it takes is one step to start moving in the direction of things that really matter.
This week — I want you to examine something you’ve been putting off, find out why you’ve been procrastinating, and then take a first step towards that goal.
What is something that has been stuck on your to-do list for too long? What is the thing you always have a good excuse for not doing?
It could be a project you’re not sure how to get started on (or feel afraid to start on), or it could even be something unrelated to work. Maybe setting up your retirement account or fixing something around the house?
Here are some of our favorite ways to get started on daunting projects:
- Google the first step you’ll need to do
- Email a contact who can help you with a key part
- Download/buy the tools you’ll need
- Read directions or a guide to your project
Outlining a project or writing an action plan don’t count — those are just more effective ways to spend your time feeling productive without making any progress at all. This exercise isn’t about creating accountability or motivation; it is about making tangible, real progress, plain and simple.
And here’s the secret about taking a first step: it usually leads to a second step. By breaking the inertia, you see that progress is possible and it is that much easier to keep going.
Momentum begets momentum. Once you start making progress on “your thing” whatever it is, you begin to see how un-impossible it really is and how your work – little by little – can add up into things you love and that really matter. And if you were able to take a first step, the second step doesn’t seem so crazy, and the third, and the fourth…
This week, take one little step closer to something you know will be valuable to you.
If not today, then when?