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Effective Planning, Implementation, and Overcoming Procrastination

The Perfect Start

My focus at the beginning of each year getting everybody off to the perfect start.

The first part is always about making sure you’re very, very clear on the 3 to 5-year Vision that’s partly for motivation. Think of it as making sure you’ve got the right kind of lighthouse on the hill.

Week Two: Planning Mode

In Week Two, we drop into planning mode and roll up our sleeves. I’m talking about everything from metrics to project order to domino order and all that sort of stuff.

Most would naturally think the planning part ends there, but there’s always one more piece to the puzzle where the rubber hits the road.

It’s the difference between having a plan and actually planning to do the work.

It’s about asking you not just “what’s your plan?”, but about how you’re going to make it happen.

Questions like:

  • When are you going to do the work?
  • Are you going to set aside certain hours?
  • Whose help do you need?
  • Where’s the best place to do it?
  • What tools will you use? How will you track progress?

The Difference Between Revenue Growth and Business Growth

There are always those at the beginning of the year who just get started. Come February, they’re really busy.

When you speak to them, they say something like,

“There’s so much opportunity out there. We’re following the opportunity.”

I understand it, but in many cases, it’s often about revenue. Revenue is important, but growing revenue is not the same as growing a really good business.

If you want to get pure about – and not everyone agrees – if your goal is to create a “true” business, that means you’re creating something that will generate revenue when you’re not there or not at the centre of it.

Sometimes when you decide to convert as many clients or build as much revenue as you can, what’s going on is an unconscious trading of one type of opportunity for another.

You’re prioritising current opportunities over future opportunities.

As a coach, it’s an interesting conversation I often need to have.

“I know you’re generating a lot of revenue and having a really good year right now, but if you put everything else on the back burner and just work on that, at what point are you going to do that work?”

Sometimes saying no to what looks like a good opportunity is the better thing to do.

The Akrasia Effect

I first came across the concept of The Akrasia Effect in an article that was written by James Clear.

It’s an ancient concept, dating back to ancient Greece, describing the psychological dance that occurs when people act against their better judgment.

It’s when you make plans, say they want to do something (e.g., get fit, do more marketing) and also recognise they need to do something, but then revert to the exact opposite of what they should have done.

I don’t know about you, but I know I’ve done it many, many times in my life.

It’s not anything to beat yourself up about though, because it’s the way we’re wired.

When we make plans for ourselves, like setting a goal – and by the way, this applies to your clients taking advice just as much as anything – we’re making plans for our future selves. We envision what we want our lives to be like in the future. We sit here and think, “I want to make this transformation in my business. I want to achieve these goals. I want to put these things in place.”

Then, later when we come to actually have to do the work, we’re in a different headspace. We’re in the now, and our natural drive for instant gratification – to be entertained, to enjoy and not to have to do something that won’t payoff until later – takes over.

Boom. End result, we do other things and that future we envisioned never quite happens as we intended it to.

Overcoming the Akrasia Effect

So, if we know we’re susceptible to this way of behaving, how can it be hotwired?

The issue is that when thinking about the future, it’s easy for our brains to see the value of these actions and the personal benefit. We’re thinking about our future selves and how we can make things better.

However, when the time comes to make a decision to get it done, we’re not making a choice about our future selves; we’re making a choice about what we’re doing right now.

We’re in the moment and, as the research shows, the present self really likes instant gratification.

This is why when you start something, and you feel motivated – “I’ve got this; I’m going to do it.” it all makes sense, yet when you wake up the next day and have to do the work, you find yourself reverting to old patterns. It’s not entirely your fault. It’s because your brain finds it easy to default to valuing immediate gratification over long-term benefit.

How do we address and overcome the Akrasia effect? There are three strategies:

  1. Design Future Actions: Outline specific steps and actions that align with your long-term goals.
  2. Reduce the Friction of Action: Identify the first action that’ll get you started and make it as easy as possible to initiate.
  3. Utilise Implementation Intentions: Make a commitment to yourself or others about how, when, and where you’ll execute your plan.

Reducing Friction of Action

Strategy number 2 is a personal favourite; reduce the friction of starting

Starting is often the hardest part. Even world-famous authors confess to goofing around for a few hours before they finally start writing for the day. For some, like Paulo Coehlo, it’s become an integrated part of their process.

The easier a task is to start, the more likely you are to get into it. Often the reason we procrastinate is not because the work is hard; it’s because starting the work is hard. Once you begin, it’s less painful, so the solution to getting into it is to focus on finding the first action.

I had this conversation with Hermione yesterday about how I’m able to get up to Bootcamp at 4:30am. She wanted to know if I’m just a “morning” person, as she dislikes waking up early.

My honest reply was “I put my foot on the floor, and once I do that, everything else happens on autopilot.”

It didn’t start out like that. In the beginning, I needed to be motivated. Now, I know the one action that will get me out of bed is putting my foot on the floor, and then routine does the hard work and next thing you know, I”m on Coogee Beach and sweating.

Implementation Intentions

The third strategy is implementation intention, and this is less about default programming and more about defining what you’ll do.

It’s about making a commitment to yourself or others that you will accomplish tasks with a specific frequency, in a particular way, and in a visible manner to ensure follow-through and accountability.

Follow these three strategies, combined with a good process for working out what you should be focusing on, and you’ll set yourself, your business and your team for success, overcome procrastination, and achieve your long-term goals, both in business and personal growth.

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