“There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.”
– Ken Blanchard
We all have the greatest of intentions when we make plans, but then something happens. Our problem isn’t motivation, our problem is following through on our motivation. It could be as small as saying “Today I’m going to break down those boxes for the recycling” to as complex as a large goal you set for yourself. For some, the act of getting started is the hardest part. This problem is a relatively simple one to fix. Break it down into a task so small that it’s really easy to get started. I’ve talked about this before, but if you can’t seem to get on your bike, commit to riding for 5 minutes and if you don’t want to anymore, you can stop. For cleaning, put 2 dishes in the sink, take one thing and put it back in place. If your inbox is a disaster, try to answer just 1 email that is nagging you.
Sometimes the issue with follow-through is much bigger than the act of getting started. Here are some ways to help.
- Learn to Say No
- Sometimes we make commitments that we didn’t want to do in the first place. We felt like we couldn’t say no in the moment. Time is our most precious asset and it’s not a renewable resource. Learn to say no to things that you really don’t want to do. You might feel bad about it in the moment, but if you told someone yes and then don’t follow through, they’ll feel even worse and you’ll have also wasted their time.
- Consider your Future-Self. i.e. Delay Gratification
- When the time comes to get started or even to keep going (like following through with this article instead of stopping in the middle), think of what your future-self would want. Sure, I could stop right now and go do something else that would gratify my present-self. But I know from experience that my Sunday night future self will not be happy if I have to work on this last minute to get it done. This example can be made even as simple as making your bed. Your present self might just want to walk on by and say “I’ll do it later” but think of how your Future-Self would feel- even 1 minute into the future the next time you walk by the bed and feel better because it’s done?
- Strengthen Your Get It Done Muscle (how it feels)
- The Future-Self examples is a great lead-in to this point. I just said “think of how it will feel for your future self.” Follow-Through is a muscle. It feels good to identify aa someone who honors their commitments. How does it feel in your body when you actually did the thing you said you would? How does it feel in your body to procrastinate? If it’s hard to pinpoint how it feels, ask yourself if it makes it a little easier to breathe or a little harder to breathe. If you can bring executing on your intentions to the physical realm of your body, it might be easier to delay gratification and do the thing right now.
- Use Mindfulness to Stop Excuses
- The alarm clock goes off at 6 AM because you said you were going to get up to exercise. Your first thought is “I’ll hit snooze once” or maybe it’s “I’ll start tomorrow.” Meditation and mindfulness practices take you off autopilot and help you be more aware when thoughts pop in your mind. If you can stop the excuse train in its tracks- with the first excuse you made, it’ll prevent them from multiplying. Stop the excuse and get moving. Take one small step to stop that excuse. If you think your excuse may be valid, go back to the commit to getting started model. For exercise, if your excuse is “I’m too tired to ride my bike” which has been an excuse I have had almost every day of being pregnant by the way, commit to starting. If you’re still too tired after you start and feel awful, then stop. But by doing this, you didn’t let your excuse win. It’s a muscle to overcome excuses and it gets easier. I recorded an entire podcast episode on overcoming excuses you can read or listen to here.
- Write it Down
- There are many productivity apps and tools out there. Pick one that works for you. Personally, I’ve tried a lot of them and the best one for me has been a simple spreadsheet I made for myself. I have each day of the week listed and at least a couple days in advance, I list what I want to get done for the week. I also map out that time on my calendar. Seeing it written down and checking it off can be satisfying. The hardest part is not listing too many things. If you find you are never getting through your daily to-do list, keep reducing it until you through it. And don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t getting it all done every day.
- Reduce Distractions
- If you aren’t getting that to-do list done, is it because you are doing other things instead because you are distracted? Did you check your email 3 times while reading this article? While writing this article, I closed ALL browser tabs, put in headphones so I couldn’t hear anything, and put my phone in the other room. Otherwise, it’s too tempting to be distracted and it would take me 5x as long to get this done.
- You don’t Start Things that take a lot of time
- Another hidden iceberg that could be stopping you from follow-through is you choose to do the easy tasks first. These are the tasks that take little time and you feel like you are doing something. Start your day by tackling one time consuming, bigger task first and I guarantee you that you’ll feel like you got more done.
- Having a system to measure if you’re doing what you said you would will help with follow-through. Sometimes we don’t even realize we aren’t performing well. For me, it’s my spreadsheet. I can go back and see what I accomplished by the end of the week and ask myself realistically if I’m sticking to my commitments. Everyone’s motivation comes from different places. Some are internally motivated while others need external motivation. I’m usually internally motivated which is why holding myself accountable works. But if you are externally motivated, find a person to help keep you accountable. You could have a weekly check-in where you help each other. If your lack of follow-through is with exercise, sign up for a class, group ride, or group run so you have that external accountability.
Yay! Our Podcast Sponsor- Sufferfest Beer
In 2012, Founder and CEO Caitlin Landesberg started her search for the perfect beer to cheers with friends after long trail runs in and around San Francisco… but didn’t find a beer that fit the bill when it came to celebrating her athletic lifestyle and diet. So, taking matters into her own hands, Caitlin spent years developing the beer she wanted to see in the world. After teaming up with an all-star brewmaster to perfect her recipes, Caitlin started to share her beer with friends and fellow trail runners. The beer is brewed with built-in superfoods so you can recover, sweat for your beer, and feel good!
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