Inaction can afflict all of us. It presents itself in our very human desire to put things off. Humans are great at rationalizing inaction and procrastinating.
The problem is, when we procrastinate, nothing happens. Nothing is created. And while individual instances of procrastination can appear innocuous, they have a negative compounding effect. If you’re in the habit of procrastinating, you’re not going to realize your ultimate potential.
You and I have enough time to do most everything we want. But not enough to waste.
Short deadlines + high expectations = The death of inaction
If we’ve got big dreams and aspirations, combining short deadlines with high expectations is the way to realize them. This is true for every aspect of life from money, to physical fitness, to personal development.
For 20+ years as a financial advisor, I’ve been helping people defeat inaction in their financial lives, and create plans for achieving their goals and objectives. I’m honored to be named to Investopedia’s list of the top 100 financial advisors many years running.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Short deadlines + High expectations
- “I’ll start tomorrow” = Human nature
- Priority + Urgency = Full engagement
- 1 + 1 = 2 not x3+y3+z3=k
Let’s get started.
Short deadlines + High expectations
So what do I mean by short deadlines?
It’s important to live with a healthy sense of urgency. Think of it on a continuum; on one end is “inaction,” and on the other is “frantic.” As you move away from “inaction,” you find “acting apathetically,” and as you continue along, you find “acting urgently.”
To act with a healthy sense of urgency, you need the right deadline. To use a sports analogy, put yourself in the third quarter of a football game where you’re trailing by 7 points. It’s not time to panic, but it’s time to get serious. Your deadlines should be challenging without causing stress and anxiety.
What about high expectations?
There’s a wonderful quote from Norman Vincent Peale which encapsulates this idea, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Here are some contemporary thoughts on high expectations from Grant Cardone:
Realistic thinking, small goals, and trivial dreams simply won’t provide you with any motivation – and they’ll land you smack dab in the middle, competing with the masses.
To lead a great life, you’ve got to dream and act big. You do this by giving yourself short deadlines and high expectations. We’re all capable of great things. Make sure you’re pursuing greatness, and not playing small.
“I’ll start tomorrow” = Human nature
We’ve all said this. We’ve all done this. Procrastination is a very human thing.
You know who doesn’t procrastinate? Squirrels. Squirrels don’t wait until the last minute to gather enough food for the winter. Why not? If they do, they’ll die.
For better or worse, we’ve got more options than squirrels. Our superior brains allow us to rationalize our procrastination. We can quickly and effortlessly come up with reasons for starting our new diet tomorrow, or putting off enrolling in our 401(k) until the next quarter.
This rationalizing is damaging in every aspect of life and particularly damaging to our finances. Money has time value. Having a dollar today is more valuable than getting one tomorrow because of our ability to put it to work in service of our goals. It’s better to save and invest for retirement earlier than later. The longer we wait to pursue our financial goals, the harder they become to reach.
Finally, don’t wait to do things until you “feel” like it. You may never. Get started today.
Priority + Urgency = Full engagement
When you’re fully engaged, you’re operating at full power. There are no distractions and you feel like nothing can stop you. Obviously, the more time you can spend fully engaged, the better results you’ll enjoy.
Focusing on your priorities without a deadline is good, but should be reserved for your hobbies. Working urgently at things you don’t enjoy is certainly something we must do in life, but we will not be fully engaged in it.
The “secret sauce” is marrying the pursuit of your priorities with a healthy sense of urgency.
In the early days of Facebook, one of the famous mantras was, “Move fast and break things.” For you and I, a more prudent approach is, Consistent action + Responsible pivoting. As you pursue your goals, you’ll no doubt encounter resistance, which may cause changing course. It’s for this reason that you must consistently engage in planning and revisiting your goals, strategies, and tactics. Taking a thoughtful approach to pivoting will help you avoid acting too quickly or waiting too long.
Honoring your commitments
Full engagement doesn’t mean working 24/7. It’s knowing when it’s time to be working, and when it’s time to not. It’s knowing what your life is supposed to be like and doing what’s required to have it. When it’s time to sleep, you sleep. When it’s time to get up, get up. If having blank space in your calendar is a priority, honor it. On the days when you’ve got back-to-back meetings, honor that.
1 + 1 = 2 not x3+y3+z3=k
You know when you ask a computer to do too many things at once? Despite its awesome processing power, the machine grinds to a halt. Same for us.
When we try to do all of it, we end up grinding to a halt. When we take on too much, it can lead to overwhelm, which can lead to inaction. It’s noble to take on additional work and challenges; but not at the expense of functionality. We must endeavor to find our version of “just right.”
As you’re working to reach your financial goals, you need to find what’s right for you. Everything has to fit into your life. When we try to force square pegs into round holes, they don’t fit. When we try to introduce too many things into our lives and our financial plans, they don’t fit either.
The key is to create a sustainable plan that you’ll execute. More often than not, complexity is the enemy of sustainability. As you’re getting started, favor simple equations over complex ones.
Success demands you give yourself short deadlines and high expectations. Odds are, you won’t strike the proper balance immediately, so give yourself grace and be patient as you’re figuring it out. And most importantly, don’t fall victim to inaction and procrastination.
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