Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The FOUR important questions successful people ask ... Part 4 - WHY NOT NOW?


Do you remember what the word ‘NOW’ meant as a child ? … I recall it being often used with that urgent, raised and directive tone, sometimes followed by counting 1, 2, 3 … !  It meant:
                  ‘hop right to that’ … ‘ don’t delay’ … ‘just do it’  …  ‘the clock is ticking’ … 
and often not doing it now, meant less than pleasant consequences!  

Yet … somewhere along life’s path of growing up,  making our own decisions, and having lots of choices, we learn lots of reasons [and excuses] why NOW might not be the optimal time … we become more hesitant, perhaps more cautious, maybe even a tad complacent.  And somehow, ducks lining up becomes a necessity.

This is the fourth and final blog in this series … and this question – WHY NOT NOW? is number 4 of the all important questions that successful people ask themselves, for good reason.  I have previously written about:  WHY? [a great place to start questioning the status quo] … WHY NOT? [my favourite challenging question] … WHY NOT ME? [addressing the inner voice and fears];  so if you haven’t already, perhaps read those blogs first.  WHY?  … because when you have clearly, openly and honestly answered the first 3 questions, the fourth one becomes less of a real challenge.

So … WHY NOT NOW? … is today’s question.  Yes, another challenging one … fits in with all those years of nagging reminder sayings in our heads like:
now is as good a time as any’
‘time is passing by quickly’
‘when opportunity knocks, jump on it’
‘if I don’t do it, someone else will ’
‘seriously, it’s now or never’
‘NOW is the only time we have … yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not a given’

Geez, just writing these straight out of my head is like being slapped in the face over and over … it’s a real wake-up call to action.   I mean … how many times have you had a great idea or a half completed plan that you’ve sat on for a while, then find out that others have jumped on it and you’ve missed a good opportunity to showcase what you can do? … Seriously, I’ve lost count.

So why don’t we just JUMP to it? Many of us are creative thinkers … have great ideas … make a lot of ‘should do’ lists.  I love creating stuff: planning out my week on the whiteboard and designing new programs on butchers paper stuck all over my wall … gotta love self-stick butchers paper, bright coloured pens, flow charts, drawings, inspirational quotes, continually tweaking my website J  Creative thinking is fun … like playtime or make-believe or perhaps ‘blue skying’.  All good stuff … and I can do that all day, every day … but that doesn’t make me or my business a success.   At some point [maybe NOW?] … the rubber has to hit the road.

Taking action is where the NOW comes into play. It’s all good to know WHY you are doing things – your purpose and intent … to challenge yourself to WHY NOT do that innovative thing or make that change … to question WHY NOT ME – build belief in your own ability … but, if you don’t DO it, you won’t succeed.   To say, ‘someday’ … ‘one day soon’ … ‘maybe next year’ … is not a plan of action; it’s a concept at best, a whim and whine at worse. It’s what happens to many New Year’s resolutions, and the ‘gonna-doers’ with their all talk – no action habits.

When I’m facilitating a brainstorm session towards action planning with a work group, I use this simple 3-step framework:  We start with:

1.       WHAT [options / ideas / possible solutions]
2.       SO WHAT [what will give us the outcomes we want - prioritised into top 3-5]
3.       NOW WHAT [specific action, by who, by when, how - with what support]
It’s the word NOW … that makes the difference … not - ‘by the end of 2015’ … more like -‘by COB next Monday or by next staff meeting in 2 weeks, we will have … ‘.  NOW WHAT is a good way to list specific actions with short timeframes, for a ‘we need it NOW’ approach. 

Lets get back to the question … WHY NOT NOW?  If you are like me [come on -  I’m not the only one], you can make priority lists with short timeframes every week, every day actually … but that doesn’t mean we always action them NOW.  Right?  Yep … in fact, an example that epitomises that point is this very blog … it’s been 6 weeks since I posted Question 3 in this series, so according to my initial plan, this one is several weeks late.

Procrastination is a bitch!  There are all sorts of excuses as to why we don’t do things NOW … or in the short timeframes we plan. Here are 3 top ones, from my personal experience and insights ... and how to overcome them:

1. Competing priorities or the inability to prioritise [everything is important?]. 
When you have made your priority list, but then other things become more important and you allow them to take over … STOP, and reassess … WHY?  Are the new items simply more exciting? … Do you REALLY need to do that right now? … Can you schedule the new thing  for another day?  For some of us, it is the next shiny new idea that comes along and tempts us to park the previous unfinished one. I know what it’s like to have too many great ideas … all at once! Learn to focus on completing the task at hand, by parking new ideas to the side for later. I use 4 small whiteboards, or 4 stick-up paper sheets ... ideally, on the wall in front of my desk, with:

  •  TODAY [right in front of me - middle, slightly above eye level]
  •  THIS WEEK [just off to the right]
  •  THIS MONTH or QUARTER [over on the left]
  •  PARKED IDEAS [well off to the left side, out of direct vision unless I turn my head] 

2.  Perfectionism those damm ducks again!
Is NOW not the absolute right time? … not ready yet? … are you often needing everything to line up just perfectly … and there is seemingly always more detail that needs to be done, before rolling out or starting that task, or completing it NOW.  Do you have trouble knowing when enough is enough, when to just DO IT / finish it? As an experienced creator and planner, I know how to chunk projects down into sequential tasks … it’s just that I’m often waiting for several ducks to line up in a specific order … or I go looking for more of them - fatter, brighter coloured ducks to keep increasing the size and tweaking the look of the perfection circle.  It is fear that causes perfectionism ... one of the most common ones: the fear of not being enough [not good enough] ... which I wrote about in my last blog.

3. Overwhelm mindful focus discipline.
Firstly, forget multitasking – believe me, it doesn’t work. Recent Neuroscience research shows that it actually jumbles the neurons in our brains and slows down our productivity and achievements. When you are constantly switching from one task to another, it is difficult to get anything done or completed. Women especially need to address this … we are serial multi-taskers and our lives are often in overwhelm  … ‘of course women multi-task … we have to … many of us have three jobs - [career, house management, child care]’.  Perhaps … but we also have choices and don’t have to do it all [get help], or all at once.  It’s not about juggling several balls in the air … it’s about picking up one ball at a time and choosing to be in charge of how you manage your life [... and that’s a whole other blog series!].

Yes … we live in a world of constant distractions.  Like many of us, I have discovered I achieve more of my goals by simply ‘switching off’ to get tasks done [switching off phones, Facebook, emails, TV, background music, etc] … and mindfully focus on completing one thing at a time. My best writing time is in the quietness of late evening … or the calming environment of a secluded spot, sitting beside the ocean or river [not at my desk full of e-distractions].

So ... there are lots of reasons why we procrastinate … I’ve only touched the surface with these three that have regularly impacted on me. Sometimes it is fear that holds us back, or perhaps not having a strong enough purpose or reason to act.  The important thing is to become more acutely aware of when it’s happening, so you can:

change your thinking … change your behaviour … 

change your habits

One of the best ways to overcome procrastination is to make sure you have a strong, compelling reason to do it NOW.  To do that, you need to firstly focus on the pain points of not doing it … ask yourself:  What is it costing you? … what has it cost you in the past? … if you don’t achieve this, then what? … how will that feel?

Then … when you see clearly that old routine and outcome is not working for you, and you are no longer willing to accept that … turn your focus on the pleasure of achieving that thing:  What will it give you? ... How great will that be? ...  How will that feel?  Focus strongly on the outcome and get excited like it’s already happened.

So why not do that NOW!  Successful people jump on ideas and make them happen, with a mindful determination to succeed.  

Sure, I’m not there yet … but I’m much more aware when the procrastination, perfectionism and overwhelm creeps in … and I’m choosing to say ‘YES I can, YES I will’, more often than ‘not ready yet’. 

If you need an extra push and an encouraging, experienced voice on the sideline, a personal coach is a great way to implement better strategies, embed new behaviours and better habits. To get started today - Contact me for a personal Vital VERVE Probe coaching session  ... 


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