You Don’t Need More Motivation — You Need a System
One of my greatest talents has always been coming up with an excuse for putting off something I didn’t want to do.
Skipped the gym? Eh, I’ll just make up for it tomorrow.
Hit the snooze button? Well, I needed the rest.
Brushed off a task on my to-do list? It wasn’t that important.
Procrastination is always an inner battle. But losing it has greater consequences than a missed workout or a blown deadline every now and then.
Six years ago, I tried to pursue my dream of becoming an entrepreneur: I did some freelance writing, built websites, and took on some content marketing and design projects. But, despite all the time I put in, I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted. Why? Because I couldn’t get myself to do the uncomfortable work — the difficult, tedious, and unsatisfying tasks that come with actually building a business. I kept looking for relief from those tasks, often scrolling through the news or going out (yet again) for a coffee break.
That was, and to a degree still is, the story of my life. Right now, I’m writing a book. Writing is hard. I keep fighting the urge to put off the work. But I’m moving along and getting it done. The only difference between my life six years ago and my life today is that I now have a system.
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Here’s what I mean. To be truly productive, you can’t rely on hacks or apps or new technologies. Trust me. I’ve tried. You need to develop your own sustainable system, a set of routines and practices that serves as the foundation of your work. My system looks like this:
- I exercise my mental toughness every day. I used to neglect my brain. I didn’t trust my instincts and would spend my time overthinking. So I started reading about Stoicism, Pragmatism and mindfulness, which helped me to control my thoughts and improve my mental toughness.
- I exercise my body every day. When I don’t exercise, I lack focus, confidence, and energy. So I now do daily workouts. Overcoming procrastination starts before you fight the inner battle. Soldiers don’t go to war untrained, right?
- I have a set of daily habits. I journal, read, set daily priorities, and don’t consume useless information. I also make sure I interact with my friends and family every day. Human contact is important. All of these things keep me grounded and help me actually enjoy my days.
- I carry a list of small, but important, tasks that I must complete. I often think about all the logistical things that come with writing a book besides the actual writing. I do everything I can to get out of adding new words and new pages to my book draft. So I break the big task of writing into more manageable pieces, giving myself small daily writing assignments to complete. It’s about doing the big things first.
As you may have noticed, not all of these things are related to the work directly. That’s okay. My system gets me in the right headspace to get the work done. It makes me a more disciplined person, so when I sit down to write, I can power through all my distracting thoughts and actually write.
You will always want to procrastinate. But if you have a system, you can be productive in spite of that. Work on creating one today — not tomorrow.