Procrastination. We’ve all been there. We get hit with a bolt of inspiration that feels like an electric shock. Eureka! You’ve discovered the cure for the common cold, the better mousetrap or the magic formula for riches. Your brain is spinning with all the things you have to do. You madly scribble down your ideas and clearly see the bright future ahead of you. As you sleep that night, you smile, secure in the knowledge that life is about to take a turn for the better and you will be hailed a hero.
When you awaken the next day, you leap out of bed eager to pursue your brilliant flash. You start thinking of the exciting day ahead. You shower, eat breakfast and then… do absolutely nothing. Well, that’s not exactly right. You somehow find a lot of stuff to do. Just anything but what you said you would do. You remember that errand you have to run and it has to get done now so your idea will have to wait. After that, you’re hungry so you simply must eat now. Work can wait. “Ooh, what’s that on TV? That looks good. Think I’ll watch it.” Hmmm, you always wanted to sort your closet so why not now? After that, more time goes by and nothing gets done on your idea. What’s that there? Those pesky dishes won’t wash themselves so I better get on it. As the sun fades, it’s dinner time. Your stomach calls out for a food run so you jump in the car and make a trip to your favorite take out joint. After you get home you feel the need to relax with another movie. Yawn, it’s late. Time for bed. No worries. The world can wait for your brilliant idea. There’s always tomorrow, right?
Wrong. Tomorrow indeed comes but then it’s only filled with more “busy stuff” that distracts and keeps you from doing the real work of pursuing your idea. The siren song of success calls out but as time goes on the volume gets lower and lower until you can’t hear it anymore. What happened? Why did such a promising start end in such a disappointing fizzle?
In many cases, it’s a little thing called “Imposter Syndrome.” It also goes by the name of self- doubt or fear of success. It’s a nagging fear that sits deep within us that tells us we don’t have what it takes to make it. That even if we do, once we climb the ladder high enough everyone will realize we’re a phony, a fake, a fraud who only “got lucky” and failure is destined for our future. This horrible beast that lies within will do everything in its power to fight you so you are not “exposed” to the world for what you are, a loser. And you are not alone. Everyone is plagued by self-doubt at one time or another. The difference between winners and losers is that winners act in the face of self-doubt while losers find every excuse in the book to give in to the fear and do nothing.
The truth is, you are no different from anyone else. You put your pants on, use the bathroom and tie your shoes just like those winners so they don’t have any innate advantage over you. The trick is, you have to convince yourself that this is true. But how do you do that? How can you cultivate the mind and habits of a winner? How do you overcome years of ingrained fears and bust through to come out a winner despite the odds? Here are four things you can do right away to get the ball rolling in your favor.
1) Screw Perfection. One of the biggest enemies of progress is perfection. Somehow, we convince ourselves that unless every ‘T’ is crossed and every ‘I’ dotted and it’s polished to a high shine, it’s not ready for prime time. Forget all that nonsense. Just do it. Perfection is an impossible goal. There will always be errors, glitches and other assorted imperfections to deal with. So, if you’ve got 80% right, go with it. You can always work out the kinks on the fly. Publish the book. Launch the website. Start the business. Push the button. Just do it!
2) Break it Down. There’s that old question that asks, “How do you eat an elephant?” We all know the answer. One bite at a time. And it’s so true. Sometimes we get so afraid of the enormity of the task ahead of us that we retreat into our safe place thinking it’s just impossible to get it done. Not true. Just break it down into manageable tasks. I use a little process I call reverse-engineering. Start with the end goal. Then work backwards figuring out what can be done in smaller and smaller tasks to get to the desired goal. For instance, if you wanted to self-publish a book in a year, that’s the end goal. But there are many smaller steps in between. Your 6-month goal could be to have a rough manuscript. Your 3-month goal could be to start on that manuscript. Your 1-month goal might be researching the subject matter. In one week you might figure out everything it takes to self-publish. Today, you could google “self-publishing.” When you break it down, write it down and put dates on each step, what once seemed insurmountable becomes very doable!
3) Journal it. Experience shows that nothing succeeds like success. Success is like a powerful snowball that feeds on itself. When you accomplish one thing, it fuels you up to move on to the next task and the next and the next. Before you know it you’re an unstoppable productivity machine! Documenting your successes along the way gives you something to look at, to celebrate and to feed on to prove to yourself that you can do this thing. Journaling is a powerful tool for accomplishing that. Just keep a daily record of what you did TODAY to move one step closer to your goal. Try it. You will be surprised at how it empowers your mind to keep moving forward until you realize your ultimate goal.
4) Be the Superhero. When we were kids we had no problem tying a bedsheet around our neck, striking a pose and running around the house convinced in our mind that we can fly. Lately there is growing evidence that this childhood act might have some real substance to it. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, in a TED Talk from 2012, demonstrated that assuming power poses- standing in a posture of confidence even when we don’t feel so confident- can actually affect testosterone and cortisol levels in our brain, thus boosting our confidence and chances of success. So, the next time you feel procrastination creeping up on you, or you feel unsure about what to do, stand with your hands on your hips and your chest out for 2 minutes. Go ahead and try it. It’s 2 minutes out of your whole day, yet it can make your whole day! Isn’t that worth the effort?
In conclusion, insert these habits into your daily routine and you will most likely see a noticeable boost in your productivity, confidence and attitude. Pretty soon you’ll be getting so much stuff done your mom might ask, “Who are you and what have you done with my child?”