#21 How to stop putting off your most important tasks

  • How to quit stalling on your most important tasks
  • How to overcome Fear, uncertainty and inertia
  • How to spot your secret, most important task.
Things I'm grateful for this week

I'll share a system to take action every day on the things that move your business forwards, regardless of motivation or willower.

This system will help you tackle any task that you have on your plate right now, without willpower or motivatoin.
Plus there’s a video recording and bonus system for managing overwhelm for subscribers too.

highlights unstick yourself masterclass

Take action on your Most important task using my goals ▶️ action framework..

Watch my "Unstick yourself" masterclass for x10 tools to take action on important goals.

Here’s why you aren’t growing…

I’ve identified my ‘Most Important Task’
written it down,
set aside time in my schedule,
meditated on it for twenty minutes,
removed distractions,
performed my deepwork ritual,
checked the stars are aligned,
and prayed to the gods or productivity,
set my Pomodoro timer,
I sit down to start…

…then snap back to awareness an hour later, only to find myself on social media.
What just happened?

I got distracted. 🤦🏻‍♂️
or more accurately, I allowed myself to get distracted.
Because the truth is I didn’t really want to do my Most Important Task today.
But sometimes you just have to do things you don’t want to do.
This is where we need systems to take over where willpower and motivation fail.

For a long time, I was the worst kind of procrastinator;
The kind who pretends to be productive,
by working on lots of other meaningless tasks, instead of the ONE thing I was supposed to be doing.
This made me feel as if I was getting things done.
But in reality, 3 months later my life and business was no different.
I was coasting.
In the words of one of my students:

“I was the “busy fool”, jumping between tasks, doing everything manually, I see a tiny job and I’d jump on it.”

The issue with this approach is that you can feel productive, and feel like you’re getting lots of stuff done,
when in reality, your business, and your life is frozen in place.

There’s a popular parable, attributed to Newt Gingrich that sums this problem up nicely:

A lion is fully capable of capturing, killing, and eating a field mouse.
But the energy required to hunt mice exceeds the caloric value of the mouse itself.
A lion that spent its day hunting and eating field mice would slowly starve to death.
A lion can’t live on field mice.
A lion needs antelope. Antelope are big animals.
They take more speed and strength to capture and kill, and once killed, they provide a feast for the lion and her pride.

So ask yourself at the end of the day:
‘Did I spend today chasing mice or hunting antelope?’

So today we’re going to run through a super practical, nitty gritty walkthrough of a system I use to avoid mice and take action every day on the kind of tasks that bring home the antelope.
🦁🍽️🦌

lifestyle pets 1
☝🏻 Be more Clive. Hunt antelope, not mice.

The problem

We all have tasks we’ve been putting off for too long.
Something we know is super important to our business.
Something that would make everything else easier,
that would cut out all the busywork or possibly even change our lives.

As I write, cast through your todo list and I’m sure you can think of something you’ve been telling your coach / partner / journal that is your most important task.
hint: It’s probably sunk to the bottom of your todo list

So why is your calendar full of coffee chats and admin?
Why haven’t you done it yet?

Whether you consider yourself a freelancer, or a solopreneur, all of the business growth and tasks lay on your shoulders.
Sometimes it can feel almost impossible to get things done.
We set out with the best of intentions.
At least once a week I find myself in this awkward situation:

It’s easy to beat yourself up,
to berate yourself, or tell yourself that you just lack focus, or summon more willpower.

It’s a problem I see all the time.
As soon as our brains come across something slightly challenging, or boring, we slip onto something more rewarding.

Let’s look at a real world example of what happens when you get stuck,
And how to use the framework to take action on it.

This article came about after a catchup with an old client…

Catherine is the leading expert in treatments for sufferers of chronic head pain.
Last year I helped Catherine to build a personal brand as a medical professional,
showcase her authority with a new website,
and also coached her to help her refine her service into neatly packaged offers which she could sell on social.
She had all the tools she needed for a profitable solo business.

So when we caught up this year I was surprised to find her in a bit of a rut.

When we spoke she felt like little had changed in 6 months.
She wasn’t getting any leads from the site,
Which meant she was stuck in place,
no new clients, feeling frustrated and like she was failing,
and wasn’t sure what to do next.

You can watch the session here if you want for more context. 👇🏻

 

YouTube video player

It turns out Catherine already knew WHAT she needed to do, she just didn’t know HOW.
And so she’d taken no action whatsoever.
I see this a lot.

All she needed is a strategy to break down the task into smaller parts, and the tactics to start each part.
This system can be applied to ANY task that you have on your plate right now,
and I’ll walk you though it just now,
plus there’s a video recording and bonus system for managing overwhelm for subscribers too.

highlights unstick yourself masterclass

Take action on your Most important task using my goals ▶️ action framework..

Watch my "Unstick yourself" masterclass for x10 tools to take action on important goals.

Before we use the system we need to know why we need a system.
Willpower alone will not help you here.

 

Why we get stuck on tasks

Let’s ask the experts.
According to Ali Abdaal, “Feel-good productivity“, the most common blockers to creativity and productivity are:

  • uncertainty
  • fear
  • Inertia

The good news is that simply being aware of these blockers, and identifying them in ourselves, can help beat the block.

When tasks seem too big, we don’t start them.
Then we feel guilty for not having achieved anything,
then we feel crap for not getting the results we want.

Feeling crap is yet another blocker and makes us even more unlikely to start the task.
In fact, your brain will literally seize on any excuse to avoid paying attention to the task.
Here’s why we procrastinate on tasks:

Uncertainty

If you don’t understand the problem, the goal or the task, this creates uncertainty in your mind.
People don’t like the unknown.
If you’re struggling to start a task, write down all the unknowns.
you don’t need the answers just now.
But you can figure them out. later. at the right time.
Knowing the unknowns mean you can start the task now.

Fear

If the outcome is guaranteed, we become worried we’ll fail.
It’s easier just not to try, right?
In the West we equate failing at tasks to being a failure as a person.

Failure can be scary.
Here’s the truth that will set you free:
You WILL fail.
Often.
And you will learn.
And try again.

Successful people are just the ones who failed and kept trying. It’s a cliché but it’s true.
There are no memoirs written by successful entrepreneurs who hit a roadblock and gave up.
It’s just that most people rewrite their success story later on to reframe their failure as a challenge or pivot point.

Failing is how you figure it out.

The easiest way to spot the fear blocker:
You’ve fallen into endless planning, looking for examples, note taking, overthinking.
This is a nice way of feeling like you’re working while avoiding doing the actual work.

Inertia

The more you think about the task, the bigger a deal it seems. you have a lot of complex parts to complete. thinking about it more is only going to halt your momentum even more.

If there’s an important task and I’m struggling to start it, the best thing to do is break it down into tiny micro-actions and just start.
Identify the “next logical step”.
Momentum builds momentum.
Starting will generate more ideas.

In Atomic Habits, James Clear uses the example of exercise:
If your impossible goal is to do an hours workout, the first next step is simply to put on your gym shorts. easy!
Now just walk to the weights. easy!
Now just do 1 lift. easy!
It sounds silly, but it works.
one small step gives momentum for the next. If you can’t find momentum,. make the steps even smaller:

  • “Open my browser tab”
  • “Open Mailchimp”
  • “Create new broadcast”
  • “Write the heading”

Spot the nag and fight the urge

You must be on alert for the moment your mind starts to slip off the task.
I find it’s usually about 5 minutes into a task.
The moment you hit the first tricky bit, your mind will start to crave novelty,
It will “slip” off the task onto something easier and more rewarding like emails, or scrolling social.

It’s counter-intuitive but the more important your task is, the less likely you are to do it.
This is the great irony of procrastination.
It’s why we spend so much time on useless admin,
and so little time on the things that actually grow our business.
So you never end up doing all those things you KNOW you should do if you want to change your life.

A real world example of taking action

For now, let’s get back to Catherine’s problem.
She wasn’t getting leads from social media.
It only took a few minutes for us both to realize the root cause of Catherine’s problem:
She wasn’t taking any action!

She had spent a lot of time and effort already into her brand and website assets, and it was all going to waste unless she drives traffic to the site.

So we broke down the task into micro steps for her.

  • Create a list of contacts (uncertainty)
  • Split them into groups
  • Write down a short pitch for each group
  • Contact them (fear!)
  • Consistently repeat once a quarter

By breaking down this mammoth task of “get more leads” into actionable microsteps,

Catherine felt more comfortable taking action.

We removed her uncertainty, and fear of failure, and gave her inertia to get started which led to further momentum!

Before

“So I feel stuck. It feels like you’re asking me to walk across a road of burning coals or something!

After

“It felt like If I don’t do something soon, [the business] will just dissolve away. Just hearing that spurred me on, you came up with something that my mind could follow through!”

If you’d like the full set of tools I share with my students at Life by Design, you can subscribe to grab my masterclass on taking action below:

highlights unstick yourself masterclass

Take action on your Most important task using my goals ▶️ action framework..

Watch my "Unstick yourself" masterclass for x10 tools to take action on important goals.

Take action on your Most important task using my goals ▶️ action framework..
subscribe for instant access.

💡 Key Insights

Bigger tasks require smaller actions.

🛎️ Daily Reminder for Solopreneurs

The bigger the task, the smaller the actions you need to take.

💥 How to take action in the next 5 mins

Find your most important task.
If you’re not sure, it usually the thing that’s been on your todo list the longest.

  • write it down
  • write down the steps
  • break the steps into daily actions
  • schedule the daily actions
  • stick to the schedule

Picture of Nicholas Robb

Nicholas Robb

Founder, Design Hero
Author of Life by Design

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