ATTN: Stop Putting Off Your Great Work

ATTN: Stop Putting Off Your Great Work

Almost daily, no matter how hard you try, this happens like clockwork:

You sit down to do that important work you want to do. You know, the dream that’s going to change your life. That project that’s going to change everything.

It’s your magnum opus. It’s your legacy work. It’s you: blazing a new trail, setting a new trend.

And then, something happens… email strikes. Then Twitter. Facebook. Google Plus. Your iPhone. The Dog needs you. The dishes are dirty and the sink’s piled up.

So your great work gets put on hold. Sits on the sidelines like a second team player, waiting for another day. It gets filed away in the attic of your mind for later.

Well, I have a question for you:

How often does later ever come?

I’m guessing the answer is probably somewhere in the vicinity of not very damn often. Am I right?

But that still doesn’t change the fact that your dream, your vision, is burning a hole in the back of your mind. No matter how much you put it off, it continues to smolder like hot coals in the night.

While you may be able to ignore it temporarily, it never goes away.

So the question remains… how do you stop putting it off?

Most of us procrastinate on our great work, and then beat ourselves up about it. A vicious rotation of distraction and guilt ensues.

The first step, then, is this: Acknowledge that it’s not easy.

Great work is never effortless. It requires deliberate focus and attention. It’s hard to get started on it because you care so much.

You don’t want it to fail. You don’t want it to not reach its full potential. You want it to be glorious and amazing and world-changing.

Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? Because of its awesome nature, you must respect that your life’s work is not going to be a low-key Sunday morning drive. Give yourself some credit and realize that most people don’t even consider what their trailblazing work will be, let alone embark fully committed to the journey of actualizing it.

What you need to ensure your great work gets done

If you want to undertake this quest, you need two things:

  1. A daily kick in the ass.
  2. Someone to answer to.

Pain and pleasure based rewards don’t work. At least not for me. I see through their facade and my mind immediately goes to work launching an attack to dismantle its flimsy veneer.

A much more effective approach is to give yourself a firm (metaphorical) kick in the ass on a daily basis. Why are you doing this? Why does it matter? Why does it matter now?

While you’re at it, pair that up with someone to answer to. Tell someone that you respect that you’re going to deliver something to them at a certain time, and tell them to hold you to it. Maybe it’s just three pages of your book to a coworker by 3pm. Or it might be something more intense like a product prototype by the end of the week.

Commit, then submit fully flawed and raw.

The final step: making your trailblazing work inevitable

If you truly want to make great work happen daily, without much thought, you need to surround yourself with other trailblazers. You need a community dedicated to supporting you at all costs and seeing your vision through.

It’s up to you to create that.

However, if you’d like to see how we do things (we think we’re creating a pretty badass community here, if we don’t mind saying so), join us for an exclusive live event on getting paid to be who you are:

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Comment & Add Your Voice

darlenecary May 17, 2012 at 10:47 am

Jonathan – I like how you incorporated personal responsibility into each step, even finding an outside source for accountability!  Do you think men and women approach this differently?
 
The image in the post is a real turn-off.  Maybe that was the idea; an image that conjures up self-loathing for not getting off our butts!

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cara_stein May 17, 2012 at 1:34 pm

 @darlenecary Really? I thought it was hilarious! Like, even sumo wrestlers get tired sometimes (and want to sit on their green couches in their combat boots. Or maybe they were just too tired to take them off.)

andydrish May 17, 2012 at 11:39 am

hey 

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andydrish May 17, 2012 at 11:52 am

hey jonathan – i struggle with this too and have been studying the crap out of it lately.  Some NLP mind tricks have been really helpful.  The pain/pleasure stuff has worked for me in the past.  But a few key things have to be in place:
 – I must have someone i respect hold me accountable (like a coach)
 – The negative consequence must be SUPER powerful (my last consequence was donating a significant amount of money to the Westboro Baptist Church if I missed my goal) – The goals must be short term stuff.  (I think 2 weeks or less is the best timeframe to manufacture  and sustain this sense of urgency. Anything longer dwindles.)

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KyleWilliams May 17, 2012 at 1:40 pm

I do agree that a daily kick in the ass is something we all need. However as far as accountability goes I think it’s great to just communicate often with several people in your closest circle of supporters that somehow depend on your success. They might be waiting on a joint project with you or they might just be emotionally involved in your success and happiness. You wouldn’t want to let them down would you?
 
Other than that it’s good to make a daily habit of reading or watching watching something that’s purely just creatively inspirational, affirm to yourself that you can do that, and then move forward.

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justinharmons May 17, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Great post man! This really hits home. There are so many ideas running through my head on a daily basis and all I need to do is sit down and write. The problem is the other things that get in the way some necessary and some just excuses. This leads to putting off working on it and if you go too long you will find yourself lost, wondering why it never worked, knowing full well it was because you didn’t put forth the effort. Keep moving forward!

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KatParsons May 18, 2012 at 9:11 am

love this post and how accepting it is of the struggle- that helps me!
 

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Theuns May 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Hi Jonathan
 
What a great post, This is a problem that 99% of online people sit with
I was sitting with the same problem till My Friend Gavin Mountfert 
Show me who to over come this problem with a Tool that he Create
“The Results Machine ” and look what i did give to the people at 
work today…
 
A man who dares to waste one  hour of time has not discovered the value of life.
~Charles Darwin~
 
Regards 
Theuns 
 

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Jeff - Digital Nomad Journey May 31, 2012 at 10:58 am

So true. Too many excuses crop up on a daily basis, distracting us from doing something important.
This is close to a post I just wrote: http://www.digitalnomadjourney.com/death-the-ultimate-motivator/
 
The point is “later”, may never come!!!

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JJarzebowski June 6, 2012 at 6:07 pm

So true, I was putting of creating my own blog for soooo long. In the end I have found the stregth to go for it and just start it ( http://www.SMileStep.pl ) but man, it wasn’t easy. Procrastination is a b**ch. 
The thing is that every one of us needs something else. Whether it is pain a pleasure or daily kick in the ass. Each one of us needs to find something.

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steveh781 June 6, 2012 at 10:13 pm

This is a complicated topic because procrastination can come from several sources. Sometimes it is holding us back from doing what we should. Other times it is wisely telling us that it isn’t time yet. I’ve experienced both.
 
There are things I look back on and wish I hadn’t put them off so long. And there are also things that, with more wisdom, I look back and see why it wasn’t the right time. And when it was the right time it finally just flowed out even though attempts to force it earlier failed.
 
So it’s important to try to distinguish which case you’re dealing with, which isn’t easy.

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steveh781 June 6, 2012 at 10:18 pm

This is a complicated topic because procrastination can come from several sources. Sometimes it is holding us back from doing what we should. Other times it is wisely telling us that it isn’t time yet. I’ve experienced both.
 
There are things I look back on and wish I hadn’t put them off so long. And there are also things that, with more wisdom, I look back and see why it wasn’t the right time. And when it was the right time it finally just flowed out even though attempts to force it earlier failed.
 
So it’s important to try to distinguish which case you’re dealing with, which isn’t easy.
 

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steveh781 June 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm

a

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Steve - Public Speaking Secrets June 7, 2012 at 3:44 pm

This is a complicated topic because procrastination can come from several sources. Sometimes it is holding us back from doing what we should. Other times it is wisely telling us that it isn’t time yet. I’ve experienced both.
 
There are things I look back on and wish I hadn’t put them off so long. And there are also things that, with more wisdom, I look back and see why it wasn’t the right time. And when it was the right time it finally just flowed out even though attempts to force it earlier failed.
 
So it’s important to try to distinguish which case you’re dealing with, which isn’t easy.

Reply

patrick March 1, 2013 at 6:25 am

Love stuff like this if for no other reason than to move the rock one more inch. I like it for the same reason runners read magazines about running. The whole point is to keep your purposeful work at the forefront of your mind.

As for the image….hahahahahahaha!

Jonathan, you get a cyber fistbump.

Pat
@pgallagher6

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Amanda@ Spiritual Sweat April 24, 2013 at 6:30 pm

This really helped me today. The distraction-guilt cycle is something I’ve been trapping myself in lately. And you’re right, it is because I care SO MUCH. Thanks for an awesome post.

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Don May 4, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Jonathan, you have a gift; but clearly one you have built yourself.

I used to think commitment meant writing every day for hours even when what I wrote was garbage.
But now I think that commitment is not just about giving time, its more like base jumping; you put all your weight forward and then there is no going back.
Quality post, sincere thanks.
By the way, I also think that Pat hit the nail on the head with his comments.
Don

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darlenecary May 17, 2012 at 6:10 pm

 @cara_stein Shows how powerful images can be!

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