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Stop Procrastinating: 3 Ways to Get Started on Your Greatest Impact Activity

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Written by Mike Schultz
President, RAIN Group

Everyone is a periodic procrastinator. Twenty percent of people are chronic procrastinators.1

Why?

We all have something we want to do or know we need to do, but it seems difficult, so we avoid it.

Often, that seemingly difficult task is the same activity that would provide you the greatest feeling of accomplishment, productivity, and return on your efforts. It's your Greatest Impact Activity.

Greatest Impact Activity (GIA): The one activity that, should you do it consistently at high quality, will get you the greatest eventual return on your time investment.


Sure, completing another smaller task or two might give you a short-term reward. Focusing on your GIA, however, will help you achieve the most success long-term.

Getting started on hard tasks is tough, but once you start, it's much easier to keep going.

To ignite your proactivity, we've identified three catalysts that can help you get started on your GIA, even when it's difficult:

3 Ways to Get Started on Your GIA

  1. Begin Your Day with Your GIA and Calendar It

    It's great to talk about the activities that will have the biggest impact on your success, but how can you ensure you'll really work on them?

    Put them in your calendar.

    When you put something on your calendar, you're more likely to do it.

    Not everything goes on your calendar, only your Investment Activities and your GIA. Calendar these and put your GIA first. Plan to work on it first thing in the morning. In fact, doing so is one of the 5 steps to a successful morning routine.

    As your day moves on, your energy lessens. Focusing becomes more problematic. It's easier to delay working on your more difficult—yet often most impactful—tasks until "later." When your GIA is difficult, attending to it first thing allows you to expend energy on it when energy is strongest.

  2. Use Positive Self-Talk

    "Whether you think you can or you can't, you're right."
    - Henry Ford

    People often associate activities that will create the biggest impact as the most difficult to accomplish.

    Fear of failure and self-doubt wreak havoc on your brain. Fear instantly sabotages your motivation, focus, and productivity.

    When your goals don't seem attainable, working towards them can seem pointless. If you think you can't do something, you won't want to even bother starting.

    We refer to these negative thoughts as self-limiting beliefs: anything you say to yourself that limits you.

    For example, you might say to yourself:

    • I can't get up early to exercise
    • I'm terrible at leading sales meetings
    • I'm not good at big picture strategy and I won't be
    • I can't concentrate with all the distractions
    • If I try it, it won't work
    • I'll never dig out of the pile so I can't be proactive

    To counteract negative self-talk and its detriment to your productivity, talk to yourself positively. If you think you can do something, you're more likely to do it.

     Negative self-talk  Positive self-talk
     I can't get up early to exercise  I can set my alarm tonight one hour earlier to exercise
     I'm terrible at leading sales meetings  I need to learn what a great sales meeting looks like, then I   can learn to lead one
     I'm not good at big picture strategy and I won't be  I'm not good at it yet, but I will learn to get there
     I can't concentrate with all the distractions  If other people can tune out distractions, so can I; I must   research how
     If I try it, it won't work  I tried it and it hasn't worked, but I can learn to make it work
     I'll never dig out of the pile so I can't be proactive  I haven't been able to dig out, but I can do it if I get help to   manage my time and learn to say no

    Your mental toughness drastically improves when you use positive self-talk. By changing how you talk to yourself, tuning out those self-limiting beliefs becomes possible. This allows you to have a successful mindset and be more proactive all-around, even when it comes to getting started on difficult tasks.

  3. Say "3...2...1...Go!"

    People tell themselves they should do certain things all the time, then don't. They even put them in their calendar and…still don't do them. That's because the thinking part of the brain quickly becomes overruled by the feeling part of the brain.

    A neurological study on the impact of rational and emotional decision making on people's behavior found that the "gut reaction" part of your brain must be activated in the right way if you want to do something that would otherwise seem emotionally difficult.2

    Logic isn't enough. You must have the right emotions to get started.

    To get started on your GIA, or anything you want to get started on but find yourself procrastinating, practice Rapid Activation Talk.

    You only have a few seconds to prevent the emotional part of the brain from shutting you (and therefore your attempt to be proactive) down. Rapid Activation Talk is the solution.

    How do you use Rapid Activation Talk?

    Simple. All you need to do is say, "3…2…1…Go!" and immediately get started.

    You have a short amount of time to get started on a task before your brain tells you "that's too hard."

    When you think you should take an action, immediately Count 3 and Go!



It's not easy to get started on difficult tasks, but there are things you can do to combat your procrastination and consistently complete your Greatest Impact Activities. Calendar your Investment activities, start your day with your GIA, use positive self-talk, and say "3…2…1…Go!" to immediately get started on anything.


1 Heather Murphy, "What We Finally Got Around to Learning at the Procrastination Research Conference," The New York Times, July 21, 2017, https://www.nytimes. com/2017/07/21/science/procrastination-research-conference.html.

2 Bechara, Antoine, Hanna Damasio, and Antonio R. Damasio. 2000. "Emotion, Decision Making and the Orbitofrontal Cortex | Cerebral Cortex | Oxford Academic." Cerebral Cortex 10, no. 3 (March): 295-307. https://academic.oup.com/cercor/article/10/3/295/449599.

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