During the month of May, our theme is Pursuing Possibilities. To be able to pursue possibilities, we must be inclined to take initiative and have a bias toward action.
The Social+Emotional Intelligence competency of Initiative & Bias for Action is defined as, "being proactive and persistent; being ready to act on opportunity."
What keeps you stuck in inaction?
Good Intentions -> Intentionality
We all have good intentions. Intentions to complete the work before the deadline, check everything off the “To-Do” lists, people to call, write the blog before the day you want to post it (yep) and planning so we can be proactive vs. living in a state of reactive. How do you go from a state of having good intentions to being intentional? You need to create a bias for action. Bias is having a natural prejudice of being in favor of action.
We must break ourselves of the inclination to not act. Creating a bias for action takes work and effort, beginning first with understanding the possible cause of your procrastination.
1) Understand Cause for Procrastination
None of us are completely immune from procrastination. There are simply things we must do that we don’t necessarily enjoy. What about those things that are really important? Why do we still procrastinate? Inaction can be the result of an overload of information, temporary overwhelm, or lack of clarity.
If the root of procrastination for you is not from one of the three mentioned above, is it possible that it’s a by-product of distractions or competing priorities? We are all only granted the same amount of time. What distracts you? Is it the activity of an office or home, the endless supply of streaming services and binging opportunities, or those around you that desire your attention?
Consider this: If there’s something you could do that could change the trajectory of your business or career, what is that worth? Or more importantly – what will it cost you if you delay in acting to the point of missed opportunity?
Understanding why you’re not acting is necessary to create that desired bias. If you are procrastinating on doing tasks that can possibly be done by another, consider delegating. Those items can be uncovered during planning time.
2) Make Time to Plan
It may seem illogical to stop when you want to create a bias for action, but it’s necessary so that you can take intentional action. Making time is also crucial for creativity and being able to see the possibilities you want to pursue.
Stephen R. Covey expands on this in his discussion of “Habit 3: Put First Things First” in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. We all need Quadrant II time to work on what’s important, but not urgent.
Start making time by finding 1 hour per week. I like to do all my planning for the coming week on Sunday afternoon or evening. Some like to time at work on Friday to make the list for what the top priorities are for the next week. If you’re visual person, a whiteboard or blank journal page might provide the canvas you need to plan out your next week.
Maybe your best thinking is during morning meditation or even during shower time. You could invest in a whiteboard for that space! I’ve included my PDF fillable Weekly Plan worksheet for your use. Challenge yourself with finding time to plan at least weekly.
3) Brain Dump -> Chunking Down
The “To-Do” list can seem daunting if we don’t have clear priorities or if it covers a broad range of areas. I’ve long been a fan of a “brain dump” to get everything down on paper to really see what you might need to do. During your planning time, set a timer for just 3 minutes and write without editing what is swirling. This will get most of what you’ve been thinking about out and down on paper.
Once it’s on paper in front of you, you can then more easily organize it and look for similarities and possible priorities. Organizing the list into similar tasks that make sense to work on them together will allow you to “batch” your work as some describe it.
Next, you want to prioritize your tasks by what is most important to you. What is urgent and which tasks will help you make the desired progress? Once you have identified 1 or 2 clear priorities, you can then take those tasks and chunk them down to what can be done in the space of time you have available. An example of this might be the five calls you need to make to prospects today from the 25 you want to make this week.
4) Release Your Fear of Mistakes and Need for Perfection
Pursuing possibilities requires experimenting, and experimenting may very well include mistakes or errors. So much of the time, we can get stuck because we’re trying to figure out how to do it perfectly before we even start. Starting right where you are is the perfect place.
We learn more when we must work through some mistakes or do a little troubleshooting. Most innovation and invention come to reality only after mistakes or failed attempts.
Some products come about through mistakes or by chance following experimentation. This is the case with Post Its created by 3M and Viagra discovered by Pfizer. Both products were not the initial intended outcome, however I believe we can all agree that they have changed the landscape within their relative industries.
Our mistakes are not guaranteed to make us billions, but if we aren’t acting because of a fear of errors, mistakes, missteps, or failures and the need to do it perfectly the first time; then we could be missing out on something that is life