This is part of our Rich Habits series, by best-selling author Tom Corley. Be sure to check out all previous habits we’ve covered!
Whether or not we’re aware of it, there are two wars raging inside each one of us: Taking Action or Procrastinating. Procrastination prevents even the most talented individuals from realizing success in life. Most people have this Poor Habit and it is not an accident that most people struggle financially in life. One of the main contributors to procrastination is not being passionate about what you do for a living. We simply like to do the things we like to do and we put off the things we do not like to do. There is a feeling of dread and fear associated with doing things we don’t want to do but have to do. So we procrastinate until the pain of the consequences of not doing the thing we dread and fear outweighs the dread and fear of doing it. Procrastination is a big reason why most are struggling financially in life. It damages our credibility with employers and fellow colleagues at work. It also affects the quality of our work and this affects the business we or our employer receives from customers, clients and business relationships. Successful people take action on their dreams and goals. When we take action it moves us forward in life. Action creates ripples, which produces feedback and is critical in understanding if we are on the right track or the wrong track. That feedback enables us to pivot and to make course corrections. Action fosters happiness. It reduces stress that is the byproduct of not doing the things we know we should be doing in life. Unsuccessful people procrastinate, which creates problems that require immediate attention. They cannot accomplish much as they are constantly putting out one fire after another. They react instead to outside forces, which command their immediate attention. Procrastinators distract themselves by doing other things that are not so demanding or painful. But our subconscious, our old brain, never allows us to forget that we have an uncompleted task. It constantly nags us and reminds us that we have an uncompleted task. It does this through stress, an unconscious advanced warning system built into our physiology. Believe it or not, the voice of procrastination screams just as loud and clear in the minds of those who excel in life, as it does in the minds of those who do not. The difference is how successful people stop that voice of procrastination in its tracks. Here are five tools that can help anyone silence the voice of procrastination forever:
Tool #1 – To-do Lists
In my study, successful people often relied on "to-do" lists to help them get things done. There are two types of daily to-dos:
- Goal To-Dos – These are daily tasks tied to monthly, yearly and long-term goals. These are almost always fixed in nature, meaning the same to-dos show up every day on the to-do list. For example: "Make 10 sales calls".
- Non-Goal To-Dos – These are to-dos that are unrelated to any goals. They may be administrative tasks (i.e. respond to emails), client tasks (i.e. meeting with client) or daily obligations (i.e. go to bank). They may be fixed, daily tasks or they may vary daily.
Tool #2 – The Daily Five
Every day, successful people list five things to accomplish before the day ends. The Daily Five can represent five things that are unrelated to your nine to five job. They can be five things that you do every day that move you toward accomplishing some goal or realizing some dream or purpose in life.
Tool #3 – Setting and Communicating Artificial Deadlines
When we set deadlines and communicate those deadlines to third parties directly affected by the completion of a task, we increase the urgency for completing the task. It elevates it from a mere "to-do" to a personal promise we make to another individual. It puts pressure on us to fulfill our promise and meet the deadline.
Tool #4 – Accountability Partners
An Accountability Partner is someone we meet with regularly (weekly, for example) who holds our feet to the fire in accomplishing our tasks. This can be one or more individuals. Knowing that there are others watching us helps us all perform better.
Tool #5 – "Do It Now" Affirmations
Whether we realize it or not, nagging alters our behavior. We tend to get something done that we don’t want to do when we are repeatedly nagged about it. The "Do It Now" affirmation is a self-nagging technique that really works. By repeating the words "Do It Now" over and over again, we are effectively nagging ourselves. When I uncovered this tool during my research, I began using it to nag myself into doing things I regularly procrastinated on, like time and billing. Now all I have to do is think about the affirmation in order for the nagging to alter my behavior and force me to get a task done. You are the commander in chief of this war raging inside you. When the thought of putting off something enters your mind, immediately cast this thought out by saying, "Do It Now" or using any of the other strategies provided. Find what works for you and use it. Do not allow thoughts of procrastination even a second of life. Once you are fully engaged in an activity, you will soon find yourself absorbed in the activity and all thoughts of deferring the task will be gone. You will feel exhilarated in accomplishing the task and feel more control of your life.
Take command of your forces. You can only win the war by taking action on your goals and dreams.