Advertising

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

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

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.

Advertising

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.”

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

More by this author

robbie hyman

Copywriter

3 big mistakes creative freelancers make with their careers 2 Lessons in the Movie Rudy that Can Change Your Life Words and Phrases to Avoid in Your Professional Writing Freelancers And Consultants: 3 Reasons You Shouldn’t be Billing Hourly Why Money Might Not Be As Important to You As You Think

Trending in Productivity

1 7 Effective Ways To Motivate Employees in 2021 2 How a Project Management Mindset Boosts Your Productivity 3 5 Values of an Effective Leader 4 How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them 5 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
Advertising

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

Advertising

From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

Advertising

The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

Advertising

But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

Advertising

Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

Read Next