What’s the one thing you’re always procrastinating?
The one thing you dread doing.
The thing that keeps you up at night.
The thing that you try to push into the recesses of your mind, and yet always finds a way back.
Maybe it’s that work project that you can’t ever seem to finish.
Or the project that you can’t get off the ground.
The raise you’ve been meaning to ask the boss for.
The job which you absolutely hate but can’t bring yourself to quit.
The book you want to write.
The book you’ve written, which doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
That side project which you think could change your life, but is languishing.
That one fight you have with your partner over and over again which is bringing your relationship down.
Those 10 pounds you want to lose.
The diet that you just can’t bring yourself to stick with.
The bad habit that you are tired of but can’t seem to kick.
That conversation that you really need to have with a family member.
The health issue which is constantly bothering you and doesn’t seem to get better.
There might be a lot of things.
Maybe it’s all of the above.
But I promise you that there is one thing which you can point to and say: This is it. This is the thing that’s driving me nuts. This is the thing I can’t NOT do.
Here’s what I want you to do.
Find the thing.
(If you have a lot on your mind, it might take a while to sort through all of the things. But if you just sit down for an hour and make a list, I bet it will scream at you.)
Once you find the thing, think about it hard, because you only have two choices now: do it, or bury it.
There is no “I’ll do it later”.
There is no “it’s too hard”.
There is no “I’m too busy”.
Or bury it.
And if you decide to bury it, make your peace with it. This is a thing that is never going to happen. And besides, it was never that important anyway.
Bury it, move on, and then find the thing that is important.
Now make a to-do list.
Put that thing on it.
Don’t add anything else.
Now this is important. If it’s a big thing, figure out how to split it apart.
If it’s going to take you a year to do, you need to break it down so that you can work on some portion of it every day. (You can go ahead make more to-do lists if you have to, but each should have just one thing on them — your goal for today, for this week, and for this month.)
Every day when you wake up, attack that thing. Beat it into submission. Go to bed thinking about it.
Work on your thing until it’s done.
Find time every day to work on it.
If you can’t find the time, beg, borrow, and steal it.
Get up earlier. Watch less TV. Have one drink instead of three and end your night out early. Take turns watching the kids. Use your lunch break.
Spend as much time on it every day as you can, but never less than an hour. Better two, or four.
If you keep getting distracted, go nuclear until you’re back on track.
Lock yourself in a room, and turn off the internet.
Delete Facebook and Twitter and all the other social and news apps from your phone.
(If you really can’t find the time then go back to step one. You can either do it, or bury it. There are no other options.)
Time yourself to make sure that you’re spending an hour or more on it every day. If you skip a day, make it up the next day. But never, ever build up debt. Pay it off right away. (And weekends don’t count as time off. You’re still on the hook.)
Don’t half-ass it. This thing is too important. You deserve better.
Even if you hate it, or don’t want to do it, or get stuck half-way through, don’t take shortcuts. Make sure to do it right, and well.
Treat it like it’s the most important thing you’ll do in your life. Treat it like it’s the one thing you’ll be remembered for.
Take more time if you have to. Don’t rush it. No one ever said it had to be finished by tomorrow.
Whenever you’re tempted to add something else to your to-do list, don’t do it.
(I’m not talking about day to day stuff by the way. You have to do that stuff. You can’t ignore your job, or your partner, or your kids, or your health. But if you come up with something new which is going to get in way of the thing you have to do, you only have three choices: kill it, put it on the back burner, or say no to the new thing. But be warned: back burner often means death to things which are supposedly important.)
When it’s done — and I promise you it will be, and probably sooner than you think — take some time to reflect on it.
Take a day, or a week. Feel proud. Tell someone that you care about what you did. Have a party.
And then get to work on your next thing.
Also published on Medium.