Taking Action - what stops us getting things done

Taking Action - what stops us getting things done.

Some professionals call it displacement activity.  When we’re faced with an unenviable task that we know needs to be completed, curiously other tasks suddenly seem to become more important.  Indeed, we can feel compelled to do these other things first and leave the important task for another day, after all, “Dealing with these other things means I’m still taking action, right?”   There’s a saying: “The quality of your actions determine who you truly are”.  In the fast paced life you probably lead, results and their attainment appear of greater importance than ever before.  People link more to those who are prepared to take action and get things done, preferably on their own account without too much pushing and cajoling.  So are there any rules to follow to feel and become more action-orientated?  Here are a few things you may wish to consider:

1.   The Setting of 3 Daily Goals

Few people think about setting themselves at least 3 goals each and every day.  When I say ‘goal’ this can be a task or an important TO DO item, but setting your ‘top 3’ and achieving them every day can be a fantastic reflection of who you are and what you are capable of.  The person you can most impress here is yourself.  To wake up each day and simply throw yourself into an on-going TO DO list is a bit like being a hamster on a wheel travelling faster and faster, yet strategically going nowhere.  By the way, once you habitualise 3 goals Monday to Friday, that’s a minimum of 60 goals set a month, and if the 3 you choose each day are as strategic as possible, imagine how your hamster wheel starts to get dismantled.  An inspiring idea?

2.   Being an Intender versus a Non-Intender

It’s so easy to go through your career and life thinking of yourself as an intender, seemingly having clear intentions that culminate into a defined vision that spurs you on.  It seems certainly better than being a non-intender, someone who has no intention of change that may bring them greater success.  However, being an intender is not enough.  The world has probably more intenders than non-intenders, but these well-meaning goal setters are missing the key ingredient, the all-important critical step called - taking action.

3.     Having an immediate TAKING ACTION tool.

There are various tools that will get you acting rather than just thinking about things.  One worth mentioning is the 4-minute Action Challenge tool.

This is about knowing what you should do, but at the same time have a feeling of reluctance to get on and do something about it.  The reason could even be sheer laziness.  Let’s have a simplistic example to clearly illustrate the point.  You’re in a shared environment and it’s your turn to stack the dishwasher and clean up the kitchen, the little voice in your head is saying: “Do it in the morning”, however, you’re also aware that the feeling against doing it in the morning is that it would probably feel worse then.  So how do you break the spell and take action?

4-minute Action Challenge in 6 Steps

  1. Identify the task that needs acting upon (clearing up the kitchen).
  2. Have a timing device (use your smart phone?)
  3. Work out what the first action steps are (stacking plates, cleaning surfaces).
  4. Start the timer counting down from 4 minutes.
  5. Dive into taking action at twice your normal speed. Put everything into it.
  6. When the alarm goes off, know that if you’re really hating what you’re doing you can stop and leave it for another time or continue at the same pace and polish off the job.

As silly as this may sound it really is a very effective way to get something completed, because at twice the speed there’s a little adrenaline there that will help you along, and getting the dreaded task completed so fast will also invariably get you buzzing in a way where you now desire the completion of the task.

A variation on the 4-Minute Action Tool is Parkinson’s Time Law.  It states: "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

This means that if you set aside one hour for something, you will always take the full hour and if anything, take longer than an hour.  How to use this tool starts by considering how long something will take, then cut it down to size.  So if you are doing the dreaded expenses for yourself that will normally take 90 minutes, set aside 55 minutes instead and use a stop watch.  The chances are you’ll exceed your expectations, perhaps even completing the job in 49 minutes or as long as 77 minutes.  Both these results are better than the 90 you would have taken without using Parkinson’s Law.  In time, you end up saving the most valuable resource you own - something that can’t be borrowed, bought or extended. Your time!

Other Ideas

  • Always think about what the completion of an action will bring.  In fact, make the images big, bold and colourful (however, compare an existing exciting image like an upcoming holiday.  When you think about this, is the image big, bold and colourful too?  If it’s small and in black and white, then copy this template instead).
  • Actions in small baby steps can be much easier than big outrageous ones. So taking a few small action steps towards completing a task or goal is always better than assuming you have to wait for the right time because you must finish what you start. The psychology behind the 4-Minute Action Challenge allows you to achieve much more than you anticipated in a timeframe that you’ve agreed with yourself.
  • Start a ‘Goals Book’.  Every action you take that leads to a positive result could be logged in a book or on your smart device along with the date, time it was allocated for completion and the time it actually took.  You will find this a real habit changer and probably highly motivating too.

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