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3 tips to get past your blocks

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Do, or do not– you know how it goes.

Right now, it’s 9am. I just finished my Crossfit workout for the day. A few months ago, I did not work out at 9 in the morning. Not a chance. But today I was diligently up at 6:45 because my New York trip prevents me from going at my usual 5pm workout time. And I had to go.

Ask the guys in Victoria on my recent trip down there what my priority was, and they’ll tell you that it was to find a local place to work out before I did my Third Tuesday talk that night. How the hell this happened to me, I can’t say. But the impact is massive.

Ask me if I ever press the snooze button anymore, or if I avoid stuff on my task list– I don’t. It’s crazy. Something has clicked.

Yeah, something has happened to me during the past few months that has transformed how I make decisions. As a result, I believe willpower can be built, that introverts can be changed to extroverts, and procrastinators can be turned into GTD maniacs. Here’s the difference between the two.

1. Stop believing your own bullshit.

The bullshit is the internal dialogue that says “I’ll do this tomorrow” or “I’m too busy.” So let’s make it really simple for ourselves, ok? There is only one thing that isn’t a round-about, convoluted way to say “no.”

It’s to unequivocally say “yes.”

Everything else besides straight-up “Yes I will” is bullshit that eventually lead to “no.” You already know this. If you’re not doing something that needs to get done, it’s because you believe your absurd inner dialogue that thinks that your excuses are valid. But they never are.

Find a way.

2. Develop a willpower practice.

Daily meditation, Crossfit, and many other things have worked for me. You need activities that will push you past the point of discomfort, pain, and fear, and will force you to keep going, even when your mind is screaming to stop. Social pressure helps a lot for this; you can’t just get up and stop meditating if there’s like 5 people around you that will see you leave.

At first, this social pressure is what will actually force you to push past your limits, which is what helps you do it yourself. But you need training, and I’m not sure you can do it alone. So start doing things you feel are uncomfortable– in groups.

3. Create preset if-then responses.

You know what your blocks are, so while you aren’t going through them, you need to program yourself– that’s right, you heard me.

You must submit to something greater than yourself– the schedule if you want, or your past self, but whatever method you use: your procrastination has to be recognized as such and you submit yourself to a pre-conditioned auto-response that begins “it doesn’t matter what I think now, because…”

This is the same as “when I feel the urge for a cigarette, I will eat a carrot stick” but applied to your entire life. Most of your procrastination is habitual, so you need to force your brain out of its usual patterns by creating new ones. Then, when you see yourself breaking into your usual thing, force your new pattern on yourself. Eventually, the new pattern will be stronger.

Conclusion

Whomever you are, no matter how amazing you think you may be, the potential you is a lot better than the current you. But you have to get out of your rut first.

GO.

* Filed by Julien at 10:32 am under training


Hi, I’m Julien Smith. I'm the founder and CEO of Breather.

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16 Responses to “3 tips to get past your blocks”

  1. Tamsen Says:

    Procrastination is the life partner of perfectionism, and therefore one of my enduring challenges. But the brain *can* be trained, just as the body can, but it takes ruthless adherence to a commitment to do so.

    Thoreau puts it well: “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”

  2. David Fendley Says:

    This is just what I needed to hear — thank you.

  3. Serge Lachapelle Says:

    Oh no! Not you!…Don’t tell me you just bought the 7 Habits of efficient this an that book…

    To me that’s total bullshit. I think its all about finding your own rhythm…I remember a book I read where they said you should create your own game remember?

    Rigidity only brings guilt. Who the hell wants to live like a machine. Hell yes I sometimes procrastinate and enjoy it! The hell with the accountants…Bah…Tomorrow!…

    I can hardly wait to read the post in which you start saying that this regimen has killed your creativity and turned you into a task master…

    I dunno, being in business as long as I have, I pretty much tried all those get up an go strategies to become this or that. But in the end, I figured out that I am only happy when I allow myself to be what I really am…

    My 2 cents worth…

  4. Tamsen Says:

    Serge, I disagree. Patterns don’t mean rigidity, at least not necessarily.

    People *need* patterns. They reduce the traffic noise in our heads. If we can make certain aspects of our life routine–purposefully mindless–that frees up vast amounts of space in our brain that would otherwise be actively thinking about doing this, that, or the other thing.

    Physical patterns (like regularly working out) also serve a specific purpose–they help git rid of energy that might otherwise be spent dithering and fidgeting. By providing a productive outlet for that energy, you can free up mind space–and physical energy–to work on those things like creativity and game changing that require mental focus and, frankly, physical effort.

    Patterns help us infuse intention into our actions. They turn mindless activities (procrastination, for instance, in all its forms) that *don’t* serve our goals into mindless activities that *do*. They’re the scaffolding that help support our personal building efforts.

    Yes, used rigidly, they can be prisons. But a pattern that’s become rigid has likely also become disconnected from its original purpose, and is, therefore, out of balance with our needs.

  5. Ray Martin Says:

    Man, do I have a lot of b.s. dialogue. Thanks for calling it out!

    P.S. I’m abbreviating my language in case anyone who’s offended by the Media Hacks podcast won’t write me a nasty-gram! I’m guessing those folks don’t really read your blog…

  6. Kneale Mann Says:

    We all fall victim of confusing activity with progess. I just forwarded this to a client, two colleagues a gave myself a good stiff kick in the ass. Brilliant.

  7. John McLachlan Says:

    Right on, Julien. Now that is a motivational post.

    I think the voice in our heads that sneakily say “take it easy, lots of time” are the biggest killers of moving forward on the important stuff. I think being mindful is critical which is where meditation really helps. I don’t do enough meditation. The exercise part is sure important.

    Having said all that, there is one area that can be tricky, and that is when you get so rigid with the things you “have to do” that you can’t break them once in a while. I think it’s important to be able to NOT go to crossfit occasionally thus breaking your pattern, and you should not feel guilty about it.

    To much rigidity and the feeling that you are failing could be a sign of addiction. I don’t believe any kind of addiction is good, even if its end result is something healthy like fitness (heck, I workout at a fitness company called Endorphin Junkies – so there’s irony given my thoughts on addiction).

    Great post, as usual.

  8. Summer Says:

    I rarely agree with you 100% (and I don’t this time either) but I *always* look forward to reading you posts. You pick up ideas and look at them so clearly. Thank you.

    I need to push myself some – and I agree. Making patterns is good. They guide us and push us. Not everyone needs them (as an Aries I *fight* them tooth and nail but I need some) but I need to refocus. I’m trying to figure out how to procrastinate less (hello twitter & F5) and focus more. This helps me think about how to do that.

    Thank you for this post. And all the other ones. I’m grateful every time I see them in my RSS Feed.

  9. Cindy Stephenson Says:

    Hi Julien,

    Congrats on your award at CEO Reads, and thanks as well for the link love. I enjoy and look forward to your posts. Take care,

    Cindy

  10. Andrea Ross Says:

    Need a fourth tip? Try a dose of cancer and chemotherapy. I’m not done with it yet but it sure has snapped me to attention. Brought my blocks into focus.

    Stay tuned.

  11. Justin Matthews Says:

    I really need to find my own kick in the butt. I know I full of BS and I also know how the procrastination does not help! you have given me something to think about….
    Justin

  12. Josue Diaz Says:

    Excellent insight Julien! Concise, direct and targeted. Much appreciated.

  13. Jeff Sutherland Says:

    CrossFit has had a similar impact on me too. That, as well as being a 100% commission salesman has helped with my procrastination.

  14. Megan Berry Says:

    Hey Julien,

    Nice article, you raise some great points. Procrastination is sooo easy. I have another tip for you — get other people involved. I recently started this exercise challenge thing with my mom and sister where we pledged to work out 6 days a week and for every day we didn’t work out we owed $10. For us — enough to make us think twice about not working out, but not enough to make us shirk from taking this on in the first place. It’s worked pretty amazingly I have to say. (I’m particularly amazed at my mom who’s in her 60s). Anyways, psychological trickery and peer (or family) pressure — works every time ;)

  15. Michał Wolski Says:

    Hello Julien,

    Awesome article. Those tips really help an introvert (which I am, frankly) to get the mindset ready for changes. Also, just a quick thought: there’s a quote that reads: “A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step” (sadly, I don’t remember what the source is) and I thought it can enrich the action of thinking about change and following your tips.
    Just an idea: let’s find or make an extremely aesthetic photograph or drawing, put the quote on it, put it into a frame and hang it in the place we do the workouts. It should serve us by reminding ourselves about our mission and adding some meaning to it, as well.

  16. Rob Hilk Says:

    You can have reasons or you can have results. You simply can’t have both. Love the article. Keep bringing it!

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