Do you tend to talk about all the things you plan on doing… but then do almost none of them? You could achieve so much more of the things you say you want to do, if you just make a few daily changes and take action.
Busy doing nothing
We all seem to be so busy these days don’t we? Everyone complains that they don’t have time to do such-and-such a thing. It seems that time, right after money, is a scarce commodity. But have you noticed that some people are REALLY busy… doing nothing?
And there’s nothing wrong with doing nothing, if that’s what you want from life. However, I know lots of people who claim they can’t do XYZ because they are too busy, yet they spend every evening sat in front of the TV. They get home from work, kick off their shoes, heat up something to eat and have their dinner sitting on the sofa, watching TV.
It’s easy to ‘do nothing’. That’s why many of us end of doing exactly that, waiting for life to happen to us rather than going out and looking for what we want.
To not take action is to waste time
Take my graduate degree for example. I was a pretty lazy student, first time around. And like many students, I left researching and writing my thesis until the last moment. After it was all over, and the mad, last-minute panic was behind me, I realised that if instead of having watched my favourite soap on TV every day, I had spent that 30 minutes a day on my thesis, the work would have been done and dusted long before the due date.
Now we’re not even talking Game of Thrones quality viewing here, no. I mean the trashy, recycled TV soaps that go on for years, regurgitating themes and characters. So what did I learn from that? I should have sacrificed some of my TV viewing to prioritise doing something else that was certainly more important.
One of the biggest problems with the TV, like facebook, is that it can be addictive (for TV read Netflix, Amazon Prime and the list goes on…) and it ends up filling up a large proportion of our time. Watching TV allows us to live life as someone else. Instead of getting on with our own actions, we live in a world where we watch others take action. and we achieve nothing in our own lives.
We have become a society of observers, not do-ers. In this world, the only people taking action are the actors. Instead of taking our own risks, making our own decisions, enjoying our own romances, we observe others doing so.
Because doing nothing is easier than taking action, we put things off. We have our long to-do lists that keep getting longer. And piles of unopened mail and email that keep getting bigger. Not to mention the mountain of laundry to be ironed which never seems to go down…
I mentioned the pile of unopened mail since that is one of my personal sins. For instance, a letter requesting more tax info arrived recently and I threw it on my admin ‘to-do’ pile. I’m pretty organised with just about everything in my life, except certain admin things, like taxes. How long mail usually stays in my admin to-do pile is anyone’s guess. But not anymore!
A recent LinkedIn article talked about the habits of very successful people and something really resonated with me: they touch things only once. Instead of opening that tax letter, reading it and thinking “I’ll deal with that later”, a very successful person is more likely to deal with it there and then, especially if – like that tax letter- dealing with it takes just a few minutes. That way, they don’t waste time having to read it again down the line, nor do they put pressure on themselves for having a mountain of mail that they need to respond to.
And more excuses
Putting things off and finding excuses not to take action means we will never achieve our goals.
And we find perfectly decent excuses not to do things. Take going to the gym for instance: “It’s too cold to go to the gym now, I’ll go tomorrow”, or “It will be dark by the time the class finishes so I’ll go first thing in the morning instead.” Or, “I’d love to go to the gym but I can’t afford the membership” – despite the fact that we spend more than that on our daily coffee.
Taking action is empowering
We often put off doing things because we’re scared of the outcome, of failure. This is especially true if we lack confidence in ourselves. But once we take action and start ‘doing’, we gradually begin to feel more confident. We see that we are capable of making decisions and carrying out plans and ideas, that we can achieve what we want.
Whats more, when we allow our fear of failure to stop us taking action, we are even more aware of the fear than if we are actively ‘doing’. Our sense of fear is heightened in a state of inaction. I wrote more in depth about fear and success in this article: ‘Why you shouldn’t sweep your failures under the rug’.
Do you suffer from analysis paralysis, finding yourself over-thinking a decision so much that you end up never making a decision at all? Or do you take so long thinking about your options that your final decision is no longer timely?
Let’s suppose you need to have a small leak fixed in your roof. You go on facebook and ask for recommendations for local builders. The responses start coming in and you begin to check out the websites of the recommended builders. And instead of looking at a handful and selecting say, 3, to come and give you a quote, you keep looking though their websites. You spend hours browsing images of their work, reading feedback comments. You want to get the best guy for the job… and so it goes on for days without a single decision being made or a single action being taken.
And all the while your roof still has a leak and nothing gets done about it. Of course we want to make informed decisions, but over-thinking and over-analysing make decision making and action taking impossible: we need to act as soon as we have enough information.
Make your time go further
We don’t treat our time as something precious. But it is precious, we can’t get it back. And there are so many wonderful ways to spend our time, and so many ‘nothingy’ ways too.
Focus on the things that are more important by cutting back on the things that aren’t.
If you find yourself complaining that you don’t have time to do a certain thing which supposedly matters to you, think about your goals. Define your priorities. Focus on the things that are more important by cutting back on the things that aren’t.
Be an action taker and achieve more
You can do almost anything if you REALLY want to, but NOTHING will change if you DO NOTHING.
Think about ONE THING in your life that you’d like to do, but still haven’t. It could be something small, for instance, you want curly hair but you have naturally straight hair. It only takes a small decision and action on your part to resolve that: go out and get a perm.
You CAN do it. Just do it.
This fabulous video by Heidi Priebe and Sarah Snow beautifully illustrates some of these ideas: