One Christmas my father gave me the book 7 habits of highly effective people. At the time I was thirteen and like most thirteen year olds who are slightly bratty, I thought that it was the worst gift ever. Isn’t the opposite of effective, defective? What am I, a blender? Reflecting on it now I think that my Pops had it right. There is nothing better than knowing how to be more strategic because let me tell you, making it is not all about skill. It’s about being smart with your time.
I am the queen of procrastination but not in the usual way. I commit once I’m in the midst of the project but I will always find ways to delay the start. I will catch up on gossip, I will read travel books about Paris, I will shop for Christmas gifts. In recognition of this, I don’t allow any of this monkey business till I’ve put in some work, till I’ve earned my break. I just tell myself to “start somewhere.” So if you’re in a similar bind, here are some ways to end the cycle of postponing the beginning. It’s time to show up.
One. Make lists.
Every single day I start with a list of objectives. Some are banal like “cancel phone plan,” some are fun like “go to Whole Foods,” and others are more serious like “submit paper.” God, I even have a line for checking email, but that’s okay, because it’s so satisfying to cross something off that piece of paper. Even if you don’t get it all done today, that’s okay, the intent was there and tomorrow you just make another list. Eventually you will get sick of seeing the same task every single day and you will finish it, trust.
When my son goes to bed each night, all I want to do is work on my fashion blog, watch Gossip Girl or read a book. Nope, I don’t allow myself to even turn on Tumblr till I’ve made his lunch, filled out the school forms, and emptied the dishwasher. You know why? It’s because all of those things are mandatory and there is no negotiation. So why not finish your duty before fully enjoying your pleasure. Blair and Chuck can wait.
Three. Dig deep.
The one sport I excelled in was swimming. Perhaps as an only child it appealed to my need for independence. Even in a relay, you contribute your lap, but you are alone in the silence of the water. It’s breathtaking. But you know those last four laps or the last four miles in a marathon when all you want to do is have a cupcake, that is when you draw from within. You dig even if you think there is nothing left. If there is one thing I’ve noticed about highly successful people it’s that they don’t even define it as digging deep. It’s just a part of their drive and motivation and to them this practice is like breathing. You don’t want to fold the laundry? Do it anyways. You don’t want to write today? Do it anyways.
Four. Play the long game.
I am a firm believer in perspective, that it will all make sense one day. When we first came to Canada my parents gave me 10 cents everyday to put in a little margarine container. It was my most prized possession. Each day that you strive to be better, to learn and to improve is another coin in the bank. Ever so often when your reality isn’t fully what you’ve imagined, just think of that investment of your time, heart and effort. It is something that can never be taken from you. There are few things more valuable than a positive attitude and gumption. Be your own PR person and re-frame. You always get what you need.