- You live in a world of infinite distractions and novelties, one that works against your work ethic.
- The only remedy for the poor results that stem from low activity is greater activity.
- You have to hold yourself accountable, so no one ever has to ask you to do your work—or to do more work.
- The first step in any twelve-step program is acknowledging that you have a problem. There are more interesting areas of self-improvement than not doing enough work, but when your poor results stem from too little activity, more activity (with or without more cowbell) is the required remedy. Instead of trying to hide the fact that you do little work throughout your day, admit that you have a problem.
- Spend time deciding what you want in your single allotted life. You might think that getting straight to work and gutting it out with an iron discipline is the only way, a belief that will fail you if you don’t have powerful reasons for increasing the amount of work you do in a day. You need to undergird your work ethic by wanting things that require you to work, like paying for your children’s college, paying off your student loans, or buying your dream house. Work is the path to the things you want, so you need to acknowledge the link between your effort and your goals.
- People who are lazy or who cannot will themselves to do enough work are like the “pantsers” who try to write a book without any plan. They never plan their days or weeks, their lack of structure causing them to spend long periods without working. The best place to start improving your activity level is to create an ideal week, blocking the time for the different activities you need to pursue.
- Spend one solid hour on Sunday planning your upcoming week. Use your ideal week as the starting point, then adjust it to include meetings or tasks that you need to accomplish. The value in planning your week ahead of time is that you no longer have to spend any time deciding what you are going to do or when you are going to do it. The elimination of slack removes the option to waste time, provided you exercise enough self-discipline to go from one activity to the next without giving up on yourself.
- Put your blocks of work on your public calendar. Publishing what you are going to do and when you are going to adding your new activity provides public accountability, ratcheting up the pressure to walk your talk. If you are in sales, make sure your prospecting blocks are boldly highlighted and come with the warning “do not disturb.”
- Remove your most enticing distractions, the ones that capture your attention and steal your time. There is no end of distractions available to you, none more insidious than the internet. It’s a newspaper, television, radio, movie theater, shopping mall, bookstore, car lot, sports venue, and public square all rolled into the most incredible time suck ever imagined. The fact that all this lives on a device that is never more than nine inches away from you requires that you eliminate the distractions long enough to do your work.
- Prioritize the work that generates the most important results you need to create, ignoring the tasks that contribute little or nothing to your results. Activity for activity’s sake is not a good way to improve your results. If you devote an extra hour to the meaningless tasks that don’t contribute to your goals and responsibilities, you might as well just watch cat videos for an hour. More activity means you do more of what is critical to the results you need. Don’t delude yourself into believing that your email is a priority; it isn’t.
- Work in blocks of time you can easily complete. The fact that you have low activity likely means that you’ve trained yourself to waste time, so it’s going to be hard for you to work for ninety minutes without losing focus or wandering away from your work. Try starting with one hour of uninterrupted work, then train yourself to add the extra thirty minutes over time.
- After completing a work block of sixty or ninety minutes, take a break of no more than fifteen minutes, but not the kind of break where you indulge in distractions. Avoid the rabbit hole of conspiracy videos that your Uncle Enrico texts you each day, the ones about the upcoming alien invasion being ushered in by the Illuminati by bouncing 5G rays off the Large Hadron Collider. Instead, stand up, stretch, and get a glass of water.
- While you are drinking your glass of water, start writing a list of what you accomplished during the block of work you just completed. As an adult human being, you should never require another human being to hold you accountable for your activity and your results. You need to hold yourself accountable to doing more work than anyone would ever be willing to expect of you. Tracking your activity and your results is a good way to maintain that accountability.
- At the end of each day, review your activity and your results. How much time did you spend working and what did you accomplish? Review the decisions you made about the work you chose to do, as well as the time you wasted by allowing your attention to drift away to distractions. As you start imposing the discipline of greater activity on yourself, your results are going to be uneven, with some super-productive days and some that just seem wasted. Your awareness of their respective outcomes will allow you to make adjustments over time.
- Recognize that the reward for activity is built into the sense of accomplishment that comes from doing your work. If you “reward” yourself by burning in the same patterns of distraction that prevent you from giving yourself over to the most important things in your life, it’ll work just about as well as celebrating a 30-minute workout by wolfing down half a dozen Krispy Kremes.
Do Good Work:
- Be honest with yourself about your level of activity.
- Commit to increasing your activity and the amount of work you accomplish each day.
- Review your results each day and hold yourself accountable for producing more and better results, so no one else will ever have to make you work.
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