Benjamin Franklin had some prolific quotes about taking action. Here are a few, "Well done is better than well said", and "Words may show a man's wit, but actions his meaning."
We all like to say actions speak louder than words. What is it about actions that we revere and idolize in parables and tropes but that are so hard to quite literally put into “action”. A simple action is arguably the most import - and hardest - thing one can do. Usually, when we’re unintentional we can be pretty poor at putting things into action. With time, maturity, and intention, overthinking actions turns into taking action. Overthinking actions can too often turn into procrastination, fatalistic thinking, and outright pessimistic cynicism. We don't want that.
Here are some simple ways to start doing more, and stewing less.
1. Set yourself up for success.
In order to perform an action, we need to set ourselves up with a great start. Do the hard things in the morning. That task that’s always hanging on in your to-do list. The hard phone call or tough email. Get it out of the way in the morning to clear your mind for the day.
2. Every action has a process. Own it. Do it.
One of our favorite quotes, "To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction." - S Radhakrishnan
This quote is so freakin awesome. I think it’s because it really tells us that the motivation can’t be in the outcome. It can’t be in how others react. It has to be in the process of getting there and that’s only possible through action.
3. Make your steps small at first. Especially when you’re overwhelmed.
You can do anything for 30 seconds. 10 squats before you shower. Sure. 5 minutes of reading a night. That's nothing.
Putting something in motion is often the hardest part. Once moving, it can keep going far longer (and better) than you ever could have imagined.
4. Act in a way that doesn’t hurt you.
You might be thinking I mean something different than what I do. When I say that I mean, act in a way that if you were a third party, standing and observing you, you wouldn’t feel hurt, let down, and disappointed by you. Sounds trivial but next time you act (or don’t) on something, think from that perspective and I bet you’ll have some amazing moments of contemplation and realization. Better intention will follow.
5. Help yourself succeed by giving yourself reminders.
Without them it’s too easy to let small things slip away without notice. A good place to start would be a simple list with 3 things on it:
1. The three most important things in your life at that moment.
2. What you want your main focus to be for the next day, week, and month.
3. A motto, mantra, our quote that you want to remember and repeat to yourself every single day.
If you don’t know what these things are, find them. Now. It is not a waste of time. Everyone should have answers (at least temporary ones) to this list.
6. Ask for accountability from those around you.
Communities of people (friends, family, online forums even) can help keep us on track towards actions and goals. Find those who have your best interest in mind, plus motivation like you do and then work to maintain each other and take actionable steps every day, week, and month. While other people can't make you do anything, they can certainly help lots!
7. Switch off between concentrated work and concentrated rest.
Here’s what I mean by this. Like our post about meditation (found here), about being able to focus for just a few minutes in order to get better at longer meditations without getting overwhelmed, a similar principal is at work here. Set a timer for 5-10 minutes and then build up the time that you can concentrate on a task over the upcoming few weeks. Eventually set the timer for 15, 20, 25 mins, and so on.
Set a timer for those allotted minutes and start, get ahead on, or complete your most important task. You do not need to do anything but that task for that time. Try to get rid of any distractions that would make that time less productive.
Take a break after that time is up and let your mind have a rest. Physically remove yourself from your work space and take a walk, stretch or do anything else for 15 mins. By working in these highly concentrated and focused intervals of time, you’ll start to notice:
1. You get more high-quality work done.
2. You actually increase your periods of concentration, because you aren’t taxing your mind with other distracting loads while you’re trying to do important work.
3. You train yourself to concentrate on one thing at time, rather than overloading your mind and creating stress.
4. You'll start to enjoy periods of relaxation guilt free.
8. Focus on the how, not the what.
Spinning minds are up there with some of the world’s worst things. Don’t let yourself experience that. Immediately shut a spinning mind down. Getting stuck in unhelpful analysis quite literally leads to action paralysis, defeating the whole point of taking action in the first place.
Don’t get us wrong though. We’re not suggesting to act without thinking. Rather, we’re talking about the insidious overthinking that tends to erode confidence and assuredness and prevents any action from being taken whatsoever.
Instead of asking yourself what could go wrong or why you shouldn’t do something, try out these questions instead:
1. What’s one thing I can do now to move my goal slightly ahead?
2. How can I learn from this situation?
3. And then, how do I help myself take action?
By literally writing your answers to these down, this will help remind you to take action on them.
9. No one pays as much attention to you as you think they do.
We don’t mean that in a cynical way. More so we mean, stop letting others’ opinions hold you back from doing anything because others rarely pay as much attention to what you're doing as you think they do. When you think about it, it’s almost a self-centered belief to think that others are sitting around thinking, judging, criticizing you and your actions.
Everyone is busy with their own goals, actions, and responsibilities. They have their own worries and dreams which are taking far more of their headspace than considering you. While at first, this may be a disappointment to us, you’ll soon learn that this is one of the most freeing realizations you could have.
10. Lean into enthusiasm and excitement.
Excitement and enthusiasm are some of the most effective drivers of action. It can flow out of you like water if you’re excited about doing something. Don’t let slight waxes and wanes in that change your guiding principle or make you stop believing.
There are sources of enthusiasm all around us. Let energy and excitement from others fuel you and then give that back to them. Read things and take them in, so you can get ideas that excite you. Pets, friends, kids, are all a great source of positive energy. Music, movement, art, a beautiful day. These can all boost you.
11. While you're at it, don't forget to put the fun in work.
No matter how dull or “not fun” a task may be, that’s why you’re there after all! Go ahead and inject everything with some fun. You bring the the ideas and action. You make something what it is! Lighten up, change your perspective on what you’re doing. It becomes easier to get stuff done when you release the pressure sometimes. So be creative, and have fun!
12. Thank yourself. Celebrate accomplishment.
This is one of the most important things you can give back to yourself. Gratitude.
Take a few minutes at the end of each day to appreciate what you did, the actions that you put in motion and got started on. It’ll do a few things for you: give you motivation to start tomorrow even stronger, over time give you a self-esteem boost (who doesn’t want that!), and radiate positivity to those around you.