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- “If your mind can’t see the project through completion, your heart will ask to pause.”
- Use the power of project planning, visualization, and socializing to overcome procrastination and lessen anxiety and overwhelm so you can get REAL momentum towards your biggest goals.
- “Write out the steps that it’s going to take—especially the big steps—to accomplish your different projects, with a timeline for each of them, and then work backwards from that point to create tomorrow’s to-do lists.”
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- This is a MUST WATCH episode about using these three simple brain hacks to stop procrastinating and start DOING your life’s work. It’s time to increase the output that matters, in alignment with your purpose.
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[The following is the full transcript of this episode of The Brendon Show. Please note that this episode, like all TBS episodes, features Brendon speaking extemporaneously–he is unscripted and unedited. Filmed in one take, The Brendon Show has become one of the most viewed unscripted, direct-to-camera self-help series in the history of Youtube. It has also been the #1 Podcast in all of iTunes and is regularly in the top podcasts in Self-Help and Health categories around the globe. Subscribe to the free motivational podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.)
Let’s talk about procrastination and have a conversation about what it means.
Procrastination basically means you are not doing what you know you need to do when you know you need to do it. It’s putting things off because in the short term, it’s easier, it’s more comfortable and it’s more certain.
It’s more pleasurable to be distracted or to indulge yourself in doing something else, than it is to sit down and do the actual work to create the outputs that matter when they are needed.
I know that every single one of us procrastinates. I do too, so it’s okay. The question is: can you set yourself up so you do less of it? I believe you can, so let’s talk about procrastination in this way. There are three brain hacks.
Brain Hack #1:
You’re more likely to do something if you have already prepared and stepped it through. What does that mean? It means, if you don’t want to procrastinate on Monday, Sunday night I want you to sit down and do this simple, little thing: project plan.
I know it’s not sexy. It’s not sexy, and it will change your life forever. The day before the days in which it’s required that you really get stuff done, I want you to sit down and project plan.
I don’t mean to write down your to-do lists tomorrow. That is one element of project planning, but I’m talking about a bigger picture. I want you to be thinking about the big projects that you have coming up.
I want you to write out the steps that it’s going to take—especially the big steps—to accomplish your different projects, with a timeline for each of them, and then work backwards from that point to create tomorrow’s to-do lists.
But here’s what’s funny: if your mind can’t see completion—meaning you don’t know the path, you don’t have clarity to fulfill or complete something—your heart will ask to pause. If your mind can’t see the project through completion, your heart will ask to pause.
Even if you’re the most passionate, dream-oriented, amazing High Performer in the world, you’ll find yourself procrastinating without clarity. No goals, no growth, no clarity, no change.
You might say, “Brendon, I hate myself. I procrastinate and I even know the next three things I should do.”
That’s not enough. Knowing your next three steps is not enough. Your mind needs to see all the steps through to completion. That’s what we call project planning. It’s not super fun, but it’s saying to yourself, “This is the big project. Here are the big key activities that would have to happen to get it done. Here’s a timeline on when those things need to happen.”
Then you take those big activities and break them down into tasks, and ultimately, into daily to-do’s. It’s hard to act when you don’t have a complete picture like that; you’re more likely to procrastinate.
Let me give you an example.
They’ve timed people on how long it takes them to complete a puzzle. Imagine putting together a puzzle with 400 pieces. The fastest, most productive time in which people put puzzles together is during the last 20% of time they have.
If you’ve ever done a puzzle, maybe you’ve walked by it three or four times for a couple weeks, and you don’t do anything but put a few pieces together. But as soon as the picture becomes a little more clear, you hunker down and complete it, don’t you?
That’s what’s going on with procrastination. That’s what procrastination is like. Even if you see the first couple pieces but can’t see where it’s going, your heart will pause. You’ll think, “I’m unsure. I’m scared. I don’t know what to do.”
That’s just how we think. That part of our brain is trying to protect us. That part of our heart that says, “I want to do good, I want to care for other people and do things with excellence,” is all of a sudden compromised when we don’t do the most basic thing, which is project planning.
So if there’s an important project you’ve been procrastinating with, give yourself the greatest gift. Tonight, sit down with your journal and step it all the way out. Even if you have to make it up. Even if you’re like, “I’m not sure these are actually the big activities.”
It’s not about having the perfect project plan, it’s about having one that is completed with at least the knowledge you know now. Then you’re ready and will be thinking, “Let’s get into this and keep making this thing better.” However, your brain won’t get into it if you haven’t project planned it out. So this is a really important step.
What I do to avoid procrastination each week is sitting down every single Sunday to do my Sunday review. I’ll sit down and literally step through the entire week of all the major things on my to-do list and in my email. I’ll think about the bigger projects and I’ll step them all the way through, and guess what? I enter the week more engaged, more joyous and confident, because I know what is going on.
So if you keep procrastinating, I promise it’s because you haven’t stepped that project through yet.
Brain Hack #2:
The second brain hack is related, but a little different and more immediate. You’ll love this one. It’s so basic, but I’m going to test you and see how often you’ve been doing it. It is to visualize. Remember, I said you won’t do something if your brain can’t see it stepped through.
Specifically, what I do to make sure I don’t procrastinate, is to literally visualize and affirm what I’m about to go do. I SEE it in my mind.
If it’s Sunday and I’ve got all these things I need to do tomorrow, I can procrastinate because I’m the only one holding myself accountable. So, how do I avoid that?
I will sit down and visualize the next day for 20-30 minutes that day. I’ll step it through and see myself going into the kitchen, getting my little green tea, going over to the office, sitting down at the computer, opening up that blank page, and happily typing along. I’ll sense and feel those great emotions of doing my calling as a writer. I’ll feel the power and the joy of finishing a great day of writing. I’ll imagine myself going to dinner, getting to sit down with my wife and saying, “Honey, here’s what I did today. I wrote this part of the book.” Let me hear, see, and feel that interaction with her happiness and her joy that I’m doing my path.
Let me imagine myself going to bed that night happy that I did what I’m here to do.
Now I don’t know what your calling is or what you feel like you should be doing, but for me that simple, little activity of just literally walking the entire day through is vital.
And this isn’t just for one thing; I do this with athletes all the time.
I tell them, “I don’t want you to just imagine the fight. I want you to visualize yourself on the way over to the arena. I want you to visualize yourself getting laced up. I want you to visualize yourself on the walk down to the ring, entering the ring, and your first feelings walking around the ring. I want you to tap into that sense that you will have as you are in that fight; that sense that you have when you’re getting beaten in that fight and how you’re going to feel and respond to that.”
Visualization is not just happy-go-lucky. What do you do when there’s a struggle? Visualize how you’d handle that.
For example, what do I do when I get writer’s block?
I’ll see it, and I’ll imagine myself getting back at it, and I’ll see it through. How’s it feel when you win? How’s it feel after the win? How’s it feel at the end of the day? How’s it feel when you finally lay your head onto your pillow and go to bed?
That is a full-day visualization on the things that matter the most for your productivity. And I want you to do that at least either the night before, or the day of, the morning of. I know you might say, “Brendon that’s so basic,” but did you do it last night? Because I’ve found as a high-performance coach, sometimes it is not the big, crazy things. It’s that people aren’t doing the fundamentals.
And they say to me, “Brendon, change my life.” Okay, let’s change your life. Let’s be accountable. Did you do these things last night?
So don’t tell me it’s too basic. This is me challenging and being honest. Did you do these two things last night? If you did give yourself a shout out down below and celebrate yourself, good for you. If you’re not doing this consistently that is why you are consistently procrastinating, my friend.
I know sometimes life change can be so basic and you go, ”Duh! Why haven’t I been doing that?” But those techniques are really important as a coach for me to call out for you.
I know a lot of people who could be so much more effective if they got back to the fundamentals.
Let me share this last one with you.
So first brain hack: project plan the day before. Step it all the way through.
Day before or the morning of, visualize the entire process of the day and you doing it well, even if you meet uncertainty, fear, struggle, and hardship.
The last piece, the other brain hack, don’t forget.
Not only do we need order, not only do we need the creativity and the visualization, but we’re also social animals.
Brain Hack #3:
I want you to socialize your agenda with other people. What does that mean?
A lot of people are trying to lose some weight, or trying to go to the gym. What’s the first advice everyone always gives them because it’s proven by science to work over and over again? Get a workout buddy. Because if you got a workout buddy, you’ll show up.
It’s harder to procrastinate when your name, your integrity, and your relationships are on the line. Tell people about what you have to do in the world. Be socially accountable.
You’d probably be annoyed hanging out with me, because if we went out to dinner, I’d probably tell you ten things I’m going to do tomorrow. And I’m not telling you that because I love to talk about work. I know if I speak it, it will become more real the next day.
If I don’t affirm my plans and share them with other people (and they just remain in my head), I’m just not going to be as productive.
I do know without question, this is a big issue for a lot a people. They’re stay-at-home moms. They’re work-from-home entrepreneurs. They’re the senior leader in their company who does a lot of status things but they don’t themselves get to talk through a lot of things.
I can’t tell you how important it is to speak aloud the reality that you want.
These things you could certainly do on your own, but if you shared these things with other people and you socialize that agenda, all of a sudden you won’t procrastinate because you know that you’ve had it out there. Other people are going to hold you accountable. Or even just more.
Sometimes talking something through makes you even WANT to do it more.
Literally they found in psychological studies, just speaking out your goals makes it more likely you will take consistent action on those goals. You’re literally just speaking it. And they’ve even done it where they took out other people. They just made someone stand in a booth with a microphone and speak out what they were going to do. They were more likely to do that than if they just kept it in their head and didn’t speak it.
“Brendon, I got nobody who believes my dreams.” I’m like, well I bet you have a friend and you could FaceTime them or Skype them and talk through it.
It is so important for you to speak through your dreams than you can probably ever imagine. And a lot of people keep that stuff to themselves because they’re worried about how they’ll look. They fear judgment, pushback or other negative feedback.
So now, imagine all these things colliding on the opposite? You’re worried how you look so you don’t tell anybody, so you’re not socially accountable, and you have no social cheerleading. You’re worried what other people will think, so in your brain you go,”Well if other people are gonna think I’m crazy, why even do this? I mean that’s a risk, so I might look stupid if I do.”
So now your brain goes, “Well why even imagine this for yourself anymore?” Then your brain says, “Well if you can’t imagine it for yourself anymore, why would you even plan it? And if you can’t imagine it, you can’t plan it and other people might think you’re stupid. Why don’t you go find something else to do like Netflix or shopping or hanging out or indulging yourself in some other hobbies that aren’t relevant to what you’re trying to do. A.k.a., let’s procrastinate. Because we’re worried.”
You see how these tie together?
So the brain hacks are to set yourself up so that you have more confidence and routine and structure going in.
These are the three ways as a recap:
Brain Hack #1: Project Plan
Night before, week before, day of, I don’t care. But if you can do it the day before it sets it mentally in your brain and you have a little more confidence in it.
Brain Hack #2: Visualize
Definitely visualize night before or day of all the time. Visualize the process and the completion. What does the completion look like and feel like?
Brain Hack #3: Socialize Your Plan
You’ve got to start sharing your thoughts, your dreams, your agenda, and what you’re going to do with other people. Be accountable to your dreams.
And if you do those three things, your brain will be more optimized and more likely to get in the game and get stuff done.