Over the years I’ve learned a few things about myself and how to get things done. This has been a slow, evolutionary process. Oddly enough, what got me going on this was something I learned from Star Wars. Remember the final battle sequence in the first Star Wars movie? Luke Skywalker had to drop a shot down an intake valve on his final desperate approach over the Death Star to win the battle and save the Rebellion. His wing commander was shouting through his headset these powerful words:
“Stay on target, stay on target!”
This has become my mantra, and it’s helped me develop these 4 simple strategies for getting things done:
1) First Things First – For years my natural inclination was to procrastinate – anything that needed doing now could be done later. There’s a theory that procrastination can be a good thing, a way to weed out the essential from the non-essential. If you can put something off for now, maybe you can put it off forever and spend that time doing something more useful or fun.
But my procrastination habit was not forged in strategy. It was built on stubbornness. An unwillingness to commit and get serious about my dreams. Perhaps a better way to look at it was that I was in the wrong places doing the wrong things. Had I been pursuing a great passion, rather than a buck, I probably wouldn’t have been so task-resistant.
Luckily I’ve had some great teachers, from Napoleon Hill to Stephen Covey to Mel Robbins and now Greg McKeon. They all teach in one way or another the importance of attacking the most important tasks right away.
2) Force a Deadline On Yourself – Being a champion procrastinator, I’ve found that deadlines, even artificial ones, help create the urgency I need to take action on my ideas. Launching this blog required a self-imposed deadline. I could have spent endless months researching the blogging business and writing multiple drafts of content so that everything would have been perfect when I eventually (never) unleashed it on the world. And sure, it might have launched with more of a ‘bang’ and less of a ‘thud’. But who knows when or if that would have actually happened.
Perfectionism much? You bet your ass!
Instead I chose to launch after a short planning period and craft things as I went. To learn while doing instead of trying to get all the learning and prep done before taking action. This strategy is commonly called Start Before You’re Ready.
I went ahead and picked an arbitrary launch date. My deadline. Far enough out to give me breathing room, but within a few months of reasonable. Funny, I ended up taking my foot off the gas and made no progress for two months during that “breathing room.” I’m just not the type to get things all buttoned up well in advance. I’m like you, the type that uses all the available time before committing to performance.
In the end, the arbitrary deadline forced me to produce, and my work was no less polished than if I had spent many more months planning and perfecting.
3) When Hunting Foxes, Avoid Rabbit Holes –Manic Impressives are notorious for chasing shiny things. We love to ramble in our right-brained, non-linear way. That’s cool when there’s little at stake or you’re on vacation. But if you’re chasing a dream it’s catastrophic.
So I bust out the Wing Commander’s mantra whenever I wander from my work and I’m tempted to open an unrelated email, watch a click bait video, or respond to a text. Say it with me now,
“Stay on target, stay on target!”
4) Get Up And Walk Away – Most of the time, pushing through the urge to procrastinate is the best thing to do. But sometimes, when you’re stalled, distracted, or frustrated, the most productive thing to do is get up and walk away. Just put a bookmark in it and go do something completely different. Something physical, something to change your heart rate or mental state, something that will let your mind wander.
Amazing things can happen when our minds wander. Things bubble up from our subconscious and we can notice what’s causing our stress and distracting us from our work. We can channel new ideas and create solutions to nagging problems. And we can daydream about our deep, dark desires, things we hold precious and don’t dare say out loud for fear they’ll be crushed by our current conditions.
By visualizing future adventures we can get our dream-achieving mechanism to kick in and stoke the desire we need to make things happen.
All of this can allow us to return to our work with a clear head and fresh eyes. Many times I’ve come back to where I was stalled and found mistakes I never noticed, or easier ways to complete things. So now and then, when you need to, get up and walk away. It just might be the most productive strategy for when you’re stuck.