Task Ninja: Form the Action Habit
Get all Ninja on your actions.
A lot of us get stuck in inaction –procrastinating, doing a lot of unimportant tasks to avoid the important stuff, worrying about failing or about being perfect, having a hard time starting, getting distracted, and so on.
It's time to start forming the Action Habit instead.
And it's really not that hard if you focus on it for a little while. Like any other habit, start in small doses, little tasks, just short bursts, and then build on that momentum.
Some quick steps for forming the Action Habit:
1. Figure out your key actions. Focusing on the right actions is just as important as the doing. Don't spend a lot of time in this step — just quickly decide your Top 3 actions for today.
2. Pick one key action, and visualize the outcome. How will it look when you're done? Again, don't spend a lot of time here — just form a quick picture in your mind.
3. Just start. Tell yourself, "Do it now!" Make it a mantra. Don't mess around with tools, with distractions, with anything that will get in the way of doing this task. Strip away everything but the task, and get going!
4. Focus on the moment. Just be in this task, don't worry about the future or what mistakes you might make or might have made before. Just focus on doing this task, as best you can. Immerse yourself in it.
5. Get to done. Complete the task. Feel good about it! Pat yourself on the back!
Now repeat with the next task. The more you practice this habit, the better you get. Do it in small doses, and keep practicing. You'll fail sometimes. See the next section for how to deal with that. But don't let failure stop you — just practice some more.
Barriers to the Action Habit
But what if you're having trouble actually taking action? Some quick thoughts:
- Don't worry about perfect. Too often we want to create the perfect plan, but while it's important to know where you're going, it's more important not to get stuck in the planning mode. And while it's important to do your best, perfection isn't necessary.
- Stop fiddling. Are you messing around with your software or other tools? Are you playing with fonts and colors and other non-essential things? Stop! Get back to the task.
- Remove distractions. Turn off the phone, email, IM, Twitter, etc. Shut off the world around you, and just focus on the doing.
- Improve it later. Just do it now. You can make it better later. Writers call this the sh*tty first draft — and while it sounds bad, it's actually a good thing. You're getting it done, even if it's sloppy.
- Break it into smaller chunks. Sometimes the task is too intimidating. If the task takes more than an hour, start with a 30-minute chunk. If that's too big, do just 10 minutes. If that's too hard, do 5. If you have to, just do 1 minute, just to get going.
- Stop thinking so much. Thinking is a good thing. Overthinking isn't, and it gets in the way. Put aside all the thinking (analysis paralysis) and just do.
- If you can't do something … figure out why. Maybe you don't have the tools. Maybe you don't have the authority. Maybe you need something from someone else. Maybe you're missing some key info. Maybe you don't know how to do something and need to read up on it, or be taught how. Maybe you just don't want to do it, and you should drop it altogether. Figure out what the barrier is, and solve it.
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