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3 Reasons You Should Start That Thing You’re Putting Off (You Know the One) Today

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3 Reasons You Should Start That Thing You’re Putting Off (You Know the One) Today

My wife has a brilliant response to the question, “What would your ideal career be?”

Her answer: ex-president.

That’s my wife’s ingenious way of explaining that, yes, she’d love to lend the name recognition and public trust she’d enjoy as a former president to helping people and doing important work… but that she’s also got zero interest in the exhausting work of actually running for president, let alone being one.

The movie Good Will Hunting came out just after I graduated from college, and I remember a friend complaining to me, “Sure wish I wrote that thing!”

Same principle.

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Every one of us wishes we had already done something great. Far fewer of us are willing to first take on the work and risk of actually doing it.

You hear variations of this sentiment all the time:

“Why didn’t I think of Facebook?”

“If I were Bill Gates, I’d just retire and enjoy my billions.”

“I’ve got an idea for a business/book/movie script/change in career. I’ll start as soon as things settle down.”

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All reveal the same underlying hesitance or unwillingness — either due to fear of failure, fear of success, or just plain laziness — to start the hard work of creating or trying something new. Something that’s going to take a long time and a lot of frustration to pay off. Something that might not pay off at all. And besides, Netflix just made some new movies available for streaming, so why start that tricky, all-consuming project anyway?

Here’s why.

1. Taking on a big project is rewarding almost immediately.

You know this feeling, I’m sure of it. At some time in your life, likely many times, you’ve tackled an enormous project, something that filled you with pride. You’ve learned a complex skill. You’ve gotten into great shape. You’ve written or painted something you were proud of. Got that memory in your head? Now ask yourself…

Did the joy, happiness, contentment, and pride from that experience come to you only after you were completely finished? Of course not. I’d bet my wife’s ex-president money that you thoroughly enjoyed yourself throughout the process.

When you’re taking on something all consuming (running for political office, learning a new language, writing a book), every day of that experience is an adventure. New ideas pop into your head so frequently you need a journal by your side 24/7. And frankly, sometimes it feels great just knowing you’re doing something more demanding of yourself than watching TV.

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Starting a difficult, long-term new challenge can be a lot less daunting when you understand that you don’t need to wait until the very end to reap its rewards — those rewards start flowing right away.

2. When you’re engaged in a big project, you’re guaranteed some thrilling surprises.

I took an introductory screenwriting course in college. (This was not an example, I’ll admit, of taking on a challenging project like the ones I’m describing here. I heard the class was an easy few credits, that’s all.)

The professor said something I found shocking and inspiring. As a screenwriter crafts a film script, the movie’s theme almost never emerges until near the end of the writing process, and it’s almost always a surprise to the screenwriter.

Sign me up!

Yes, taking on that big project is going to be work. You’re going to get frustrated and feel at times like quitting. But you’ll also find all sorts of wonderful surprises along the way — surprises you’ll never get to enjoy until you actually start.

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3. Unless you start, you’ll never finish.

If that sounds obvious, then consider the friends or family members who have been telling you for years about their “plans” to start their venture or creative project, but still haven’t. Don’t they realize this obvious law of reality that nothing can be completed until after it’s been started?

If you’re not persuaded by the first two reasons to get moving today — that you’ll begin experiencing rewards almost immediately, and that you’ll enjoy all sorts of wonderful, unanticipated moments during your journey — then consider this one. Starting is the only way to give yourself even the slightest chance you’ll ever finish.

Or, as my wife brilliantly sums it up, you can’t start your novel with a second draft.

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robbie hyman

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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