Way back when, in the time before I discovered the concept of action habits, I used to call myself the “queen of procrastination” and I was pretty proud of the fact that I could put things off with the best, and then work like heck around the clock to get things done on time. Once I finally figured out that I couldn’t do that anymore – yes, a heart attack or two is a pretty good indication that it doesn’t work – I started looking for ways to develop action habits that help me ditch procrastination once and for all.
Here are 5 action habits that I’ve found to work for me…
Habit #1 – Live By Your Planner!
Right about the time I had some major surgery a few years ago (long after the heart attack), I also discovered bullet journaling. I’d always loved to write and hated planners that didn’t have enough space for what I wanted to record in a day.
Once I found I could create my own planner layout that had enough space for everything I wanted to do in a day, I was off to the races. And I learned to put everything in the calendar – from appointments, to project deadlines, to reminders to do the dishes or wash my hair. You might think those last two are a little strange, but I’ve learned that for myself, if it’s not on the to-do list, it doesn’t get done.
I’ve switched to a digital planner now, but the first and last of my action habits every day is to write in my planner and review my day.
Habit #2 – Ditch the Need to be Perfect
Sometimes when you put something off – kinda like me with course videos – it’s because I think they’re not good enough, and that need to look like a video pro has me procrastinating on them. As long as I remind myself that no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes, and that me looking nervous and stumbling over my words just makes it real, then I can usually force myself to take the actions needed to get the lessons done. I’ve learned to live by the “done is better than perfect” motto, even though it still doesn’t come naturally.
Habit #3 – Intentions are Good, Results are Better
This is another place where my action-taking (and a lot of other people’s too) needs constant work. You mean to do the thing. Truly really mean to. But when it doesn’t happen, or doesn’t happen in the way you thought it should, you feel guilty about the whole thing. Feeling guilty sucks, so do the thing and if it turns out really badly, do it over or pay someone else to do it for you.
Habit #4 – Just Start
I learned this one from a counsellor when I was having trouble getting myself motivated to do a really big project a few years ago. She gave me the challenge to just start each day, to do two to five minutes of the project and if I still wasn’t feeling it, I could stop for the day. And you know what? It works. Nine times out of ten you’ll keep going because you don’t want to lose the momentum you’ve built up just by getting started for those few minutes. This is one of those action habits that is really easy to implement, because it literally only takes two minutes!
Habit #5 – Build in Time for Breaks
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, my health doesn’t let me work nonstop for 10 or 12 hours anymore. So, I’ve had to learn to take breaks, and lots of them if I want to have a productive day. I usually manage about 8 to 10 hours of actual work time, but I also take a long lunch, and a long dinner break every day. And I take shorter breaks in between tasks to clear my mind and get focused on the next action.
Sometimes I’ve even been known to take 3 or 4 hours off and go golfing on the spur of the moment. That doesn’t happen often though, and the planned golf outings and really long breaks are something I use as incentives to get the daily actions and to-dos out of the way first.
The fact is, whenever you need to get something done, simply taking action and getting it done will take less time and cause less stress than all the energy you will spend trying to avoid doing it. Practice building up your action habits every day, and you’ll find that you get more done and have more mental space and energy to think up new creative projects for yourself. And you’ll have more time for your favorite hobbies too!