Tuesday, May 3, 2016

How to take action

Why Smart People Find Themselves in Motion
If motion doesn’t lead to results, why do we do it?

Sometimes we do it because we actually need to plan or learn more. But more often than not, we do it because motion allows us to feel like we’re making progress without running the risk of failure. Most of us are experts at avoiding criticism. It doesn’t feel good to fail or to be judged publicly, so we tend to avoid situations where that might happen.

And that’s the biggest reason why you slip into motion rather than taking action: you want to delay failure.

Yes, I’d like to get in shape. But, I don’t want to look stupid in the gym, so I’ll just talk to the trainer about their rates instead.

Yes, I’d like to land more clients for my business. But, if I ask for the sale, I might get turned down. So maybe I should just email 10 potential clients instead.

Yes, I’d like to lose weight. But, I don’t want to be the weird one who eats healthy at lunch. So maybe I should just plan some healthy meals when I get home instead.

It’s very easy to do these things and convince yourself that you’re still moving in the right direction.

“I’ve got conversations going with 4 potential clients right now. This is good. We’re moving in the right direction.”

“I brainstormed some ideas for that book I want to write. This is coming together.”

Motion makes you feel like you’re getting things done. But really, you’re just preparing to get something done. And when preparation becomes a form of procrastination, you need to change something.

Ideas for Taking Action
I’m sure there are many strategies for taking action, but I can think of two that have worked for me.

1. Set a schedule for your actions.

Every Monday and every Thursday, I write a new article and publish it to the world. It’s just what happens on those days. It’s my schedule. I love Mondays and Thursdays because I know that I will always produce something on those days. I’ll get a result. That’s a good feeling.

For weightlifting, I train on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. That’s the schedule every week. I’m not planning workout exercises. I’m not researching workout programs. I’m simply working out. Action, not motion.

For on–going goals and lifestyle changes, I think this is the best approach. Set a schedule for your actions and stick to it.

2. Pick a date to shift you from motion to action.

For some goals, setting a daily or weekly schedule doesn’t work as well.

This is the case if you’re doing something that is only going to happen once: like releasing your new book, or launching a new product, or taking a big exam, or submitting a major project.

These things require some planning up front (motion). They also require plenty of action to complete them. For example, you could set a schedule each week to write each chapter of your book. But for the book launch itself, you could spend weeks or months planning different venues, locations, and so on.

In a situation like this, I find that it’s best to simply pick a date. Put something on the calendar. Make it public. This is when X is happening.

For big projects or one–time goals, I think this is the best approach. Force yourself out of motion and into action by setting a hard deadline.

Choose Action
Never mistake activity for achievement.
—John Wooden

Motion will never produce a final result. Action will.

When you’re in motion, you’re planning and strategizing and learning. Those are all good things, but they don’t produce a result.

Are you doing something? Or are you just preparing to do it?

Are you in motion? Or are you taking action?

Taking action (James Clear)