Have you ever made a huge declaration about finally doing something you’ve been dreaming of, only to find yourself not in the mood when the time comes to put in the actual work?
If you’re anything like me, it’s probably happened more times than you want to admit.
Each time I gave up on a dream because I didn’t feel like doing it, I’d go through the same vicious cycle—first, I’d feel like a failure because I was unable to muster up the energy and discipline to follow through on my goals. Then, in order to make myself feel better, I’d write it off as just simply not having what it takes.
But thankfully, I finally learned a process that helped me to set goals and actually stick to them. With this new process, I was able to actually show up and get it done. It had nothing to do with energy, desire, or discipline, but everything with what I was thinking.
In order to always follow through on your plans, regardless of how you’re feeling or what’s going on at that moment, you have to decide ahead of time to do what you said you’re going to do.
By deciding ahead of time, you take away any and every opportunity to convince yourself to quit.
Here are the 6 actionable steps to take to effectively decide ahead of time—and consequently change your life by actually getting it done!
How to Decide Ahead of Time:
1. Realize there are two parts of yourself
In order to use this process effectively, you have to first realize there are two parts of yourself.
There’s the Thinker part of you—your mind; your thoughts; your animal brain; your bad wolf. It goes by many different names but it’s the part of you that likes to conserve energy (aka be lazy), likes to avoid scary situations (aka procrastinate), and likes to talk you out of diving into unfamiliar territory (aka give you lots of excuses that seem reasonable and valid at the time).
Then there’s the Watcher part of you—your essence; your being; your soul; your good wolf. This too goes by many different names. It’s the part of you that’s bigger than your mind and your thoughts.
Let’s do an exercise real quick so you can see what I mean.
Think about a beautiful, clear blue sky with a red kite blowing in the wind.
Now, think about yourself thinking about that kite—take one step back, pan out just a little, and imagine your mind holding this imagery, like your brain is a theater, playing that scene on a screen.
The apostle Paul, the wise native american grandfather, and Eckhart Tolle are just a tiny, tiny example of all the people who speak to these two parts of us.
The mind—the thinker, the bad wolf—is the one who can’t be trusted.
The soul—the watcher, the good wolf—is who you want to relinquish control to.
You know your bad wolf is in charge if you often change your plans in the moment because you don’t feel like honoring your scheduled work time.
The bad wolf isn’t necessarily malicious—it’s simply trying to keep you safe by conserving energy, keeping you away from potentially harmful situations, and sticking with what it knows.
However, none of these tactics will allow you to evolve and accomplish things you’re dreaming of.
Your bad wolf runs on willpower, which is extremely limited and finite. Your good wolf runs on your ability to control your thoughts, which is infinite. Letting your good wolf call the shots is when the magic happens.
In order to simplify the Thinker vs. Watcher parts of ourselves, I like to imagine my good wolf as the wise manager—the one who knows what we (the two parts of myself) need to do in order to accomplish these big dreams.
The bad wolf is the unruly client—the one who has a lot of talent and potential, but is irresponsible, lazy, and gives into urges and impulses.
The trick is to never let the unruly client take hold of the wheel, no matter how persuasive and loud she gets, which is covered in the following steps.
2. Eliminate as many decisions as possible
When we leave decision making for real time, we’re subjecting ourselves to decision fatigue. Our minds get exhausted when having to make so many decisions in the moment.
We don’t realize the amount of decisions we have to make each day, but it’s extremely high—what to wear, what to eat, what to do, what to say, what to type in the reply of that email. We can wear out our feeble minds just mere hours into our day!
To combat this, eliminate as many mundane decisions as possible. Pick out your outfit the night before or adopt a uniform. Meal plan for the entire week at one time. Go to the grocery store with a shopping list already made. In fact, you know all those shiny, colorful items lining the checkout line at the store? Those items are intentionally placed there because of decision fatigue. Stores know you’ve exhausted your mind by making tons of decisions during your shopping trip—what to buy, what brand to get, how many to buy, etc., etc.,. They take advantage of that, knowing that decision fatigue will make you more likely to grab the tempting candy and trinkets calling your name.
3. Effectively plan your work sessions
Plan out your work schedule. This is vital. Do not wait for the day of to decide when and what you’re working on.
Fail to plan, plan to fail. That overused cliche is overused for a reason—it’s true!
Start by planning your breaks. Don’t set yourself up for failure by assuming you won’t need a break. Breaks are necessary; they give your mind a chance to restore itself and actually lead to better and more work.
After planning your breaks, schedule in your work time and exactly what you’ll be working on. In order to decide to do something ahead of time, you have to know exactly what it is that’s waiting.
4. Know your limitations
When planning your schedule, make sure you acknowledge your limitations. Don’t plan hours and hours of solid work if you haven’t proven you have the stamina and endurance to work that long.
Your endurance will build up after time, but when first starting this process give yourself grace. Start with small chunks of work time and eventually build your way up.
I find the Pomodoro Technique to be extremely effective—work for a solid 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break.
5. Commit to doing the work
This is where all the magic happens.
Once you get your breaks and work sessions placed on the calendar, you have to decide ahead of time to follow through. This means you’re using your manager brain to tell your unruly client brain that your work session is happening no matter what—when that scheduled work sessions rolls around, it’s not up to the client to decide if she wants to actually sit down. She’s sitting down. She doesn’t get a say. She doesn’t get a chance to plead or argue or complain. She is working. That is that.
And that is deciding ahead of time.
6. Plan for the tantrums
Step 5 is only possible if you know what to expect when you force your unruly client mind to sit down and work—she will throw an epic tantrum.
Expect it and plan for it. As your work session creeps up—the day of, an hour before, minutes before, the time of—she’ll be dreading it. She will whine. She will beg. She will claim she has a headache, is too tired, is too unfocused, or simply doesn’t know what to do.
Expect this. Every. Single. Time. The client mind will always try to argue against doing the work. Realize this, accept this, and you’ve conquered one of the hardest parts.
To deal with the tantrum, let her be. Let her complain and yell and give you all that mind chatter about all the reasons it’s best to skip the work. You’ll be amazed at how easy it will get to let your mind complain, but still take actionable steps towards your goals.
To further increase your ability to work despite your mind’s constant resistance, check out the post Supercharge Your Writing Routine in 10 Minutes With this One Habit.
What are some of the ways your client mind has been running rough shot over you? How are some ways you’ve planned for the tantrums and learned to ignore the chatter? I’d love to hear, so leave your comments below!