Do you feel like you are busy all the time, but by the end of the week you are back where you started? Do you end every day feeling exhausted, spinning on a hamster wheel of work, home, obligations and just plain old life? You could be making the mistake of constantly being in motion and feeling like you are making progress, but never actually getting anywhere.
You have probably heard of ‘analysis paralysis’, or overthinking things to the point of becoming ‘paralysed’ in a situation and stopping yourself taking action. This happens when you become stuck in the planning stage, or find yourself endlessly refining your objectives, and never getting any closer to them. You need to recognise when you are just in motion, rather than taking action.
If you want to get fit, then it might feel like you are making progress by joining a gym, but this is just motion, not action. Researching an exercise plan or talking to a personal trainer is motion. To get fit you need to take action by actually jumping on a treadmill, walking into a yoga class or picking up some dumbbells. If you want to lose weight, then reading a diet book or planning out some healthy recipes is motion. Passing up on that cookie or ordering a salad instead of a burger is action.
And at work - planning that new project idea that’s been swimming around in your head for a while is motion. Submitting your proposal to a funder is action. Another example is setting the objectives in your annual appraisal or personal development review. Perhaps you want to increase your confidence in public speaking, so you create an objective to do more presentations. Writing out your slides or practicing speaking in front of a mirror is motion. Stepping in front of an audience and actually delivering a presentation is action. Do more of the latter. It’s the only way you can really improve.
James Clear talks about this in his excellent book ‘Atomic Habits’. James advocates two strategies to move yourself from motion to action:
1. Set a schedule for your actions
For example, if you want to get better at public speaking, take every opportunity to do so. Set yourself a schedule to speak in front of an audience once per month.
2. Pick a date to take action
If you have a task-based objective, such as the example of planning out a new project idea, commit to submitting the project proposal by X date. And don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good.
If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of perpetual motion, you are not alone. I find fear of failure to be a huge blockage to action in my life. So breathe deeply, be brave, have courage. And take action to move yourself forward. You’ll feel better for it.
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