When did you realise that you’re the bottleneck to your own progress? For me, it was when I realised I was buying lots of apps, software and courses to help me progress, but I wasn’t using them. I’d start using them, then … I’d stop. I knew I needed to write more, create more, produce more, but I wasn’t doing it. And it frustrated me.
Notice that your procrastination makes you frustrated
You know how you just get busy? You just have to do that other thing. And it’s an important other thing. It might be a business thing, a proposal, a team meeting, a review of some of your team’s work so they can move on. You don’t want to be the bottleneck.
Who is your bottleneck?
For the value I needed to create, I noticed that my bottleneck was me. And when I realised it, it frustrated me. Sometimes it’s a simmering frustration, and sometimes the odd burst of anger comes out at something like a spilt coffee. And I have realised that most of the time, I’m annoyed with myself. Because I know I should be doing better. Have you felt like this?
Resistance wants you to fail
In his awesome book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield describes this as the work of a power he calls Resistance. Resistance is that malevolent force that tries to stop you contributing your value to the world. Awesome book. I’d read it again if I didn’t think I was just procrastinating doing it.
Overcome your Mindset
In her book Mindset, Carol Dweck describes a person with a growth mindset as one who learns from failure and seeks ways to overcome and grow, and a person with a fixed mindset as one that continually relies on their raw talent to get them through, or else they give up and do something else.
I think you and I have both a growth mindset for some things and a fixed mindset for others. And importantly, I think there are strategies that we can utilise to overcome Resistance and grow by getting the work done. Here are three immediately implementable actions to get out of your own way and get more done.
1. Increase your Task Clarity
Most of us know the end goal, but we get stuck on what to do next. For example, would you like to make a million dollars in a year? Yes? Okay, that’s your goal. Super. Lots of people make that in a year, so go and make it too! Okay? No? Strange that everything stops after setting the goal. And that’s because what can’t answer the next question, which is: what do I need to do next?
Because we don’t know what to do next, we don’t do it and we don’t get the end result. So increase your task clarity. What are the three most important things I want to accomplish today/ this month/ this year? And what is the FIRST THING that I need to do to get each of those things done? Note: when you complete that first thing, ask the question again. The next thing you need to do will be your new answer to that first thing question. For more on this read this book: The One Thing. Still with me? Great.
2. Leverage Social Leverage
Put your reputation on the line. Tell someone what you’re about to do so they can hold you accountable. Establish a group who hold each other to their word, and throw people out of the group who don’t complete what they said they would complete. Now that doesn’t have to mean complete excommunication, but it can mean that they don’t get to go to this week’s group dinner or coffee session or whatever. There’s a cool site called Stickk.comthat will help you set positive and negative consequences if you want to take this to a whole new level, but the point is to get others involved.
We’re more likely to deliver for someone else than we are for ourselves. Leverage that. While you could post on social media that you’re going to do something and that you want the world to hold you accountable, there’s a bit more amnesia and anonymity in the more impersonal public spheres than in a closer smaller group. Reach out to 2 to 5 people and ask them to hold you accountable. Especially if they have similar desires to complete their stuff. If you’re at work, you could also go and tell your boss what you’re going to get done by the end of the day too! Now your work reputation is on the line.
3. Twelve Minutes of Madness
Third, get into the habit of having bursts of Twelve Minutes of Madness. This is your “Just Do It” time, but since you only have 12 minutes, you cut the crap and get on with it. Plus you give yourself permission to procrastinate afterwards if you want to. A focused 12 minutes will do wonders, especially as this becomes a habit. Plus you might find that you want to keep going at the end of the timer because you’re on a roll. That’s what you want, to overcome inertia and gain momentum. But it’s also okay to stop after 12 minutes. That’s the rule.
Need a timer? Put Tomighty on your laptop, change the work time to 12 minutes and get going. Or use your phone. Even Siri can set it for you. I like Tomighty though, it ticks excitingly.
Okay. Enough. Now go, do. No “no” or “not yet” or “just this one thing first”. Just go. Set up the process before you can think of all the Resistance-led reasons why you might not now. Book the session, announce the goal, invite the group, leave the comment, start the work. You have twelve minutes. Start your timer… and GO.