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Ideas Without Action? You’re Not Alone.

Procrast Blog (1)

Great opportunity comes often with great risk. But just as importantly, and far more prevalently, everyday challenges wear on us, too. How many times have you had the same conversation with a client about opening that 529? Or upping that 401k contribution? They want to do it – so they say – but they keep showing up for meetings without having done it.

But guess what? They’re human. Come to think of it, so are you! What IS it that keeps us from doing the most obvious best-next-steps?

If your day is anything like mine, back-to-back meetings overpopulate your calendar, and suddenly a family member needs something, your phone rings with answers to that question from last week, you’ve got a prospect call (and don’t forget at 5pm you’ve got that hobby class you signed up for two weeks ago).

Now that time you slotted for “thinking” and “outlining next steps” is completely gone. Welp, let’s add it to a sticky note and circle back in a couple weeks. (read as: NEVER.) The cycle continues. 

You’re not disorganized (you know where it all is, right?) but you could probably benefit from small behavior changes, some fresh boundaries, and a hefty dose of reality. 

I write this as I sit on a pile of sticky notes, a suite of to-dos started in ‘notes’ on my laptop, and thirty tabs on my browser. I’m a serial doer that has way too many irons in the fire. (Or do I?) I blame my brain that relentlessly says “yes” and prioritizes without checking my calendar. I’ve got a legitimate capacity problem. Before I sign off from a meeting, I jot down follow up notes, open up a new tab with that thing I needed to check out, and set my sights on the next meeting. 

It feels TERRIBLE. No one can sell me that this is an intentionally relaxing approach to getting S&%# done. This is where what worked for me at 25 simply doesn’t work for me now. My life, and my professional career, are far more complex than they were back then. So what simple steps can we – our united, anonymous, community of serial over-committers – take right now to rectify this balance?

Failure to accomplish a task is NOT necessarily procrastination. I am positive that much of my delays are from lack of time, time management, lack of clarity on how I want to pursue this goal, etc.

So IXNAY on the word "procrastination." We'll call it failure to progress. It can be a result of:

  • Stress
  • Perfectionism
  • Being overwhelmed
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Lack of clarity
  • Self-confidence
  • Time management

Whatever your primary challenge, the science says we need to solve for this both mentally and physically. And, because it stems from many, many things, it cannot be solved with a one-size-fits-all prescription.

Here are seven ideas for ending the cycle and finally getting more done.

Even better news? These are in order of time required to accomplish. I see you.


1. Brain Dump

This requires minimal time, which is why many people do this as a beginning step towards action. You finished a meeting, it had an impact on you, so make a short list of the key thoughts you had as your 'next action steps.' This not only organizes your thoughts, but helps you get it onto paper which is scientifically proven to improve your recall ability. Even though this isn't accomplishing your project, it is a step in the right direction. Now you can turn your sights elsewhere and come back to this perhaps by use of another technique: time blocking.

(Time Spent: 1 minute)

(Credit: Psych Central)


2. The 2-Minute Rule

This simplistic concept suggests that if you can make headway on a project by spending roughly two minutes on it, then you should do it. Technically, if you can accomplish it in two-minutes or less, then you should do it right away. But in an adoption of this, many have found it useful in taking a bite out of a bigger project by tackling minor steps within the larger demand. (How very six-sigma of you.)

(Time Spent: 2 minutes)

(Credit: David Allen, Getting Things Done.)


3. State Your Goals

Writing down what, when and how you are going to get something done can motivate us to 'check them off the list.' A popular belief that verbally stating your goals moves you closer to accomplishment was recently proven inaccurate. The bad side of vocalization is two things: A/ You have to do it or else it mars your reputation. B/ Vocalizing goals can create a premature sense of accomplishment. (that's the opposite of what we're going for...) So keeping those in mind, maybe scale back your verbal commitments and instead create a checklist of what you MUST do (privately) to make headway on your larger goals.

(Time Spent: 5 minutes)

(Credit: Melissa Chu, Inc,com)


4. Take a Break

There are two powerful benefits from taking a break. The first is that it gives you a chance to do double-duty. By following a simple breathing exercise, like this one from renowned health and wealth expert, Stevyn Guinnip, you can power your future health and reset your current state of wellness. The second benefit is that small breaks can ultimately make you more productive as it changes up your thinking, gives you time to digest ideas, and reinvigorates you. Let's get those synapses firing on all cylinders!

(Time Spent: 5-10 minutes)

(Credits: TheGirlNamedStevyn, Pause & Breath.  Francesco Cirello, The Pomodoro Technique)

5. Exercise

You know this. Anything that makes you sweat but that is NOT mentally stressing. Taking 1,000 free throws and beating yourself up on the misses, that's not what we need here. Jogging, biking, trying to set a PBR in weight-lifting, that all works. So does power walking, pickleball, swimming, and dancing. Take a mid-morning walk, an afternoon jog, and add on a late night yoga session. These are the things that reset your physiological state and get you back into a lower-stressed state of mind. Once you feel right on the inside, you can focus on the outside challenges that are creating some stress.

(Time Spent: 30-60 minutes)

(Credits: Lewis Kite, Muscle Squad)

6. Time Block

Time blocking is when you break your day into essential sections. Some people say time blocking allows them to tackle 60+ hours of work within their 40 hour workweek. (I'm interested!) Taking this a step further, within the concept of time blocking, you can task-batch and set exact start and end times for specific tasks on your calendar. As you may have done with step 1 or 2 above, having broken down larger to-dos into smaller, digestible activities, you can plan to knock those bits out at set times within your day. 

This may NOT work if you are in a customer-facing role that requires you to solve key problems on a daily - or hourly - basis. You will quickly become frustrated with your inability to adhere to it regularly. Essentially, if time blocking doesn't come naturally after one month of trying, then it may not be for you. (Remember, habits take 30 days to lock in, so unless the world is crashing down around you, don't give up until you hit that 30 day mark.)

(Time Spent: 30 minutes) - - - That you should ultimately get back if you do this right.

(Credit: Robert Carroll,

7. Mindless Hobby

This is one way to overcome a mental block. You might be listening to music, a podcast, or just quietly thinking. But regardless, your eyes and hands are completely consumed with something you know and makes you happy. This could be gardening, photography, woodworking, playing a musical instrument, painting, crafting, (cleaning!), whatever floats your boat. The idea is that while you are doing something else, your brain is freedom to think uninterrupted. I personally have found this quiet time, without my kids around, to be the best way to chill out and unlock the mental dam that has been holding back so many good ideas. 

(Time Spent: You Decide)

(Credit: Johnny Nash, I Can See Clearly Now.)


Share this article with a colleague who is struggling to make headway on a major project. It could be simply prioritizing your business needs, like engaging in strategic planning, completing that valuation, defining that continuity plan, or it could be tackling major growth challenges like succession planning or redesigning your compensation packages. Ultimately, the health of your business is in your hands.

Our team at FP Transitions is here to do the heavy mental lifting. We have the data, the tools, and the expertise to connect the dots and move your biggest ideas to action. 



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