You know the feeling: a pressing task looms over you, but when you start to think about all the effort it’ll take to get it done, suddenly you have the overpowering urge to Google what that actor from Boy Meets World is doing now…and actually, isn’t this the perfect time re-organize your sock drawer according to cotton thickness? Procrastination will only intensify your anxiety, but you’re so tripped up on analyzing possible outcomes and planning contingencies that committing to action somehow becomes harder than just performing the action itself. Before you know it, the “I’ll do it tomorrow” excuse turns into months of inaction and you’ve got nothing to show for yourself except a Netflix feed full of binge-watched episodes of Lost. So how do you beat the cycle?
Roadtrip Nation Leader Michelle Dreher once said, “Do you really want to spend years thinking about what you want to do? Or do you want to actually do something?” If this quote just made you say “damn, she has a point,” then here are some baby steps to get you started.
Scaling the wall of inertia is about making the decision to just start. And yes, we use the word ‘decision’ here because it takes conscious, steely resolve to turn off Extreme Cupcake Design and start something (OK, that’s not a real show, but you know you’d watch it). The trick? Don’t get bogged down in preparation. It’s rare to feel 100% ready, with your skills at the perfect level and all your ducks in a row. So don’t wait for the “perfect moment” or the “perfect answer” to come along. Jim Koch, founder of Sam Adams brewery, didn’t quit his 6-figure job as a business consultant to brew beer in his basement because he knew his product would one day be featured in Super Bowl commercials. He just chased his interest and vision. There’s the here and now, and that’s as good a time as any.
2) Write down your goals and give yourself due-dates
Writing down goals takes them out of the ether of your brain matter and makes them more tangible. Putting goals to paper (or the fake iPhone notepad) also sets them apart from the cacophony of thoughts inside your head, so your goals no longer have to compete with thoughts like “what should I do for dinner?” or “what causes hiccups, anyway?” Assign a specific due date to those goals, and it’ll make harder to say “I’ll start tomorrow.”
We get it. Slipping into the comforts of the couch and mindlessly browsing Pinterest pictures of DIY reclaimed wood shelves for the living room you don’t even own yet is an easy way to tune out the stresses of “real life.” But at some point you have to look up from the hypnotizing screen to your room that’s covered in two weeks’ of laundry and an old Lean Cuisine, and hop to it. Blame it on the Endorphins, but exercise can actually be the catalyst for getting you on track and getting ish done. It clears your head, helps you live in the moment (#yolo), and stimulates creative ideas. Don’t like jogging/swimming/doing reps on a gym machine that looks like a James Bond torture device? That’s fine. All it takes is a few minutes of frenetic dancing to Beyonce, and you’ll be feeling ready to take on the world in no time.
4) Tell others
We’re living in an era where we all aggressively broadcast the mundane minutiae of our lives. So you’re probably already Instagramming the sandwich you just ate, posting pics of that weird (mosquito? ant? CHILEAN WOLF SPIDER?!) bite on your leg, and checking into local bars on Foursquare your friends 5 states away don’t care about. Since you’re giving a play-by-play of your every move, you might as well declare to your friend base the things you want to accomplish. Making your goals public doesn’t mean that you can’t change your mind, and it doesn’t mean you need to candidly divulge that you’re “finally going to get a real estate license and stop eating cheese past midnight!” But having a community to hold you accountable and root you on in times of tumult can be the difference between staying on track and giving into bad habits. Want to keep your goals off social media? (and not let your high school lab partner whom you haven’t talked to in 8 years know your plans to lose 10 pounds?) Join a Meet-up, an online forum, or find a gathering of people in your local community who are striving to reach the same goals. They’ll commiserate with your struggles and you won’t have to worry about a future employer coming across the time you asked your followers the best way to do butt squats.
5) Focus on the positive
It’s important to not beat yourself up when all doesn’t go according to plan. What we’re about to say sounds very “cheesy inspirational poster in a corporate office headquarters” but it’s true: every day offers a clean slate. It’s easy to fail once and feel like trying again isn’t worth it. But failure is simply a piece of data you can use to reconfigure your approach. OK, the data suggests you suck at doing it one way, but can you get at your objective through a different door or tweak the goal altogether? Put on your mad scientist hat and manipulate your methods, but most importantly, be forgiving of yourself. Adopting a mantra of “I’m worthless, so I’ll just eat my feelings with the pack of old tortillas and 3 types of mustard I have in the fridge” doesn’t help the situation. Dust off the debris and dive back in. And hey, if you need a spoonful of Nutella to rekindle your spirits, ain’t no shame in that. Just keep chipping away ’til you break through.