September 11, 2019
Last week, I listened to an interview with business coach/best selling author Steve Chandler. His business has been built up around the idea of being a “Time Warrior.” Put simply, he teaches folks how to overcome procrastination and accomplish more in life. The thing that I found most interesting about the guy is that his solution could be boiled down to one line: If you have something to do, do it now. It seems really simple, and it is. He argues that we tend to look at time in terms of deadlines or when we need to begin something in order to get it done. The problem with this thinking is that it just puts off what needs to be done until later. Essentially, we begin dealing with a task by procrastinating. This can often take place in ways that look like productivity, but are in reality just very active procrastination. One example he cited in the interview is creating elaborate to-do lists or having lengthy meetings, that take as much time as completing the task involved. Often, dealing with a task is as simple as doing it immediately. This is particularly true of unpleasant tasks. Mark Twain once said that if your job is to eat a frog every morning, you should do it first thing. If you have two frogs to eat, eat the big one first. The reasoning behind this is that unpleasant tasks just get harder the longer we put them off because we think about the experience and suffer through the act in our own imagination time after time, which makes the actual experience even worse. In addition, the more we put things off, the easier it is to put them off again. It becomes a failure in our own will. I’ve heard the same thing said by a retired Navy Seal whose podcast I listen to. He was asked by a listener how to develop the willpower to exercise daily. The solution he offered was simple: Forget about willpower. Just decide when you are going to do it, and do it. Don’t worry about if you feel like it or not, just do it. The two bits of advice share a common idea: If you have a thing to accomplish, do it. I’d suggest you do it right away, rather than later because we tend to talk ourselves out of doing hard things if we have long enough to think it through. It’s one of the reasons I encourage people to get up early and exercise. Numerous studies have found that people are less likely to exercise if they plan to do it after work than if they do it first thing in the morning. This can be applied to any area of life. I talk to a lot of folks who say they can’t find time to read and ask how I find time to finish books. The answer is simple: decide when you are going to do it, and do it. All of this seems like an overly simple solution. The first time I heard it, I had a dozen reasons why it wouldn’t work. “You can’t just do stuff right away” was what they all boiled down to. When I began to really consider my underlying objections, I realized that I like procrastinating and didn’t feel like stopping. The ongoing process of overcoming it has boiled down to the simple solution: decide in my head that I need to do things right away regardless of whether I feel like it or not.