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Inner Game

3 Ways to Thump Procrastination in the Throat

"Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried." - Unknown

You know, there’s just a whole heap of ways to avoid success in life, but the most sure-fire just might be procrastination.

procrastination pie chartAsk me how I know.

Truth be told, I've come a looooong way, but until the last few years – for most of my life in fact – procrastination’s been a guilty pleasure of mine…

Cramming for exams the night before…
Christmas shopping on Christmas eve…
Letting gift certificates expire unused…
Not calling motivated seller back timely…
Avoiding dealing with my tenants…
Avoiding meeting with contractors…

The reality is, procrastinators sabotage themselves. I mean, duh, right?!  They (we) put roadblocks in their own path. They (we) actually choose a path that hurt their performance. It’s sad, but undeniably true.

Why would we do that?

Most who struggle with procrastination will willingly offer that they just need to manage their time better. But I submit to you that procrastination is not a time management or planning problem at all.

Oh sure, sometimes it can be rooted in a certain amount of disorganization, which is sort of a time management thing. But most often, I believe procrastination is an avoidance behavior springing from either:

  1. Scaredy-cats – of the unknown, of the known, of making mistakes, of looking bad, of just doing something you hate, perfectionism, etc.
  2. Can’t-deciders – just can’t make up your mind; if you don’t actually make a decision, you feel absolved of responsibility for whatever the outcome may be.
  3. Thrill-seekers – “I get a weird rush out of always pushing things off to the last minute.”  Twisted, but true.

But look – I’m no head doctor, nor do I play on one T.V. 

Regardless of your flavor choice or personal motivations for insanely putting things off, I’d like to share a couple of key things with you that I think might help if you can take them to heart, plus a few personal “hacks” I've learned that have really helped me thump procrastination in the Adam’s Apple and might just help you do the same.

So if you too find yourself prone to giving in to avoidance behavior or time-wasting temptations, then lean in close with me here for a minute…

First, Stop Lying and Start Believing

make believeYou need to know that you don’t actually have to be this way.

I mean seriously, if you you’ve been a chronic putter-offer for a while now, may have been silly enough to try and convince yourself that, “Oh, it’s just the way I am.”

To this I say, bull crap.

Procrastinators tell themselves lies, like “I'll feel more like doing this tomorrow.” Or “Oh, I always work best under pressure.”

Reality check: LIE.

In addition, they (we) protect their sense of self by saying “Ah, this isn't important.”

Yes. It is.

Another bit of tom foolery procrastinators tend to indulge is that time pressure somehow makes them more creative. Unfortunately they don’t actually turn out to be more creative; they only feel that way.

Keep drinking that Kool-Aid, kemosabe…

Procrastinators actively look for distractions, particularly ones that don't take a lot of commitment on their part. Like checking e-mail constantly (hand raised)... Or spending hours and hours “learning” about real estate investing (or whatever else) on forums and in Facebook discussions…

All just various ways of kidding ourselves and regulating scary emotions like fear of failure.

You’re better than that. Or at least, you can be. You really can.

But the deal is, you have to start by believing that this is not who you really are. Start picturing yourself as a quick do-er… as an action-taker. Make it part of your morning ritual to tell yourself that you’re not a putter-offer, you’re a do-er.

Basically do whatever you can – whatever you have to – to start aggressively reprogramming your brain. If you can’t really see it in your head and work yourself into actually believing that you can stop this ridiculous pattern of avoidance behavior, then you never will.

You have to believe it first. So work on that.

Hack #1 – Eat the Apple One Bite at a Time (and Take Smaller Bites)

applesHere’s the deal:

I've learned that my brain can be easily overwhelmed by something if it seems to big and ominous. For instance, at one point the following “short” list would have been enough to make me pull my hair out:

  1. Locate and purchase property
  2. Get it done!

Some people look at this list and cringe or run, because they know the reality: There’s a heck of a lot of moving pieces in there – and a whole heap of time and effort. Heck, it’s easier to “get more organized” or catch up on emails or forum surf than it is to actually get started on that little list. 

And after all, tomorrow’s a new day… and I can always get started early to get a jumpstart on things.

Guess what? If this is you, you’re a liar!

There’s a better way. Rather than tackling the big-picture mission and being overwhelmed by it, try making your goal seem much easier by breaking it down into smaller tasks that you can accomplish in, say, 5-10 minutes at a time.

I.E. eat the apple one bite at a time.

So in the example I just gave you, you should break it down into itty-bitty bite-sized tasks, each of which can be completed within 5-10 minutes.

For instance,

  • Login to MLS and sort today’s REO hot sheet
  • Scan through them, circle top 3 sexiest looking leads
  • Pull comps & CMAs
  • Call real estate agents to set appointments
  • Check in with other investors who have properties available
  • Make Offer

I’m not breaking this list down any further than this because you can see how quickly some of these items can be checked off your list.

Now I realize not everyone would benefit from this. But if big picture overwhelm is your Achilles heel, then aim for smaller, easier to digest steps and see if it feels easier to tackle.

Hack #2 – 3 Magical Questions

charlie the unicornNext, if you find yourself stuck in a moment, wrapped up in all-things-avoidance, and tempted to waste time on ANYTHING other than what you know you really need to be doing, try this:

Stop right where you are, pull out a sheet of paper and actually write out your answers to these three magical questions:

  1. Where are you right now?
  2. What do you need to do right now?
  3. How will you feel once you've done it?

I know this may seem a little silly at first, but work with me here. Let’s break this down:

Where are you?

I’m in the den, logged into Facebook, “researching” business on the Facebook wholesaling group…and also cyberstalking the chick who got away from me in high school.

What do you need to do right now?

I need to call five sellers back, and make at least three offers before my head hits the pillow today.

How will you feel after doing it?

I’ll feel empowered. I’ll feel much better about myself, for having made some tangible progress and doing what I really know I need to be doing to move my business forward. I’ll feel more successful.

After you've hand-written all this down, I want you to read it out loud to yourself.

If you do this right (i.e. with clarity, honesty and conviction) then what you’ll end up doing is actually picturing yourself successfully accomplishing what you really want to do. You’ll also be feeding your subconscious mind exactly what it needs to hear to give you that little gas boost you need to get over the hump and actually take action.

The answers to these questions – and the process of hand-writing them down and reading them aloud to yourself – these things should lead you to the inevitable decision that you need to step away from what you’re wasting time on, and motivate you to get started right away.

And if you don’t? Then you might not be as serious about writing your own real estate financial success story as you claim you are.

Hack #3 – Immediate Desires, Ultimate Goals and a Flip Flop

procrastination 2Another handy little procrastination hack I've learned that can help jolt me back on the right track when I’m waste deep in my own cesspool of procraste (just made that word up)…

…Is asking myself to compare my immediate desire to my ultimate goal. Then see how compatible they are, and try my best to mentally flip flop them.

For instance, let’s say you’re Facebooking your life away, then you could pretty easily say that your immediate desire is Facebook. Not saying it’s a good answer… just saying. Now, what’s your ultimate goal juxtapose to that?

  • Making at least an offer a day? (that’s a good one) 
  • Three offers a day? (even better)
  • Taking down at least one $20K deal per month?
  •  ____________________________ (fill in the blank with desired real estate investing pursuit)

Now be honest: How’s that Immediate Desire of yours compare with your Ultimate Goal?

If you’re being honest with yourself at this point, you’re likely starting to feel a little sheepish. You know the deal.

Next step is to intentionally flip flop the two – turn your immediate desire into a long-term thing, and make your long-term goal into an immediate, burning desire. This requires a little self-talk, like:

“Reality check: I can do Facebook anytime later (making it long-term) but what I really want more than anything right now, deep down, is to push myself into winning by making at least three offers today, so I can feel awesome when I land that $20K deal for the month. Heck yeah!”

I know it may sound a little cheesy, and even feel a little uncomfortable or silly. So yeah, heads up, don’t do this in front of people. This is a little Jedi mind trickery only meant for sharing with yourself. Just you and your subconscious mind, having a little pump up together.  Can ya dig it?

It shouldn't be too tough to mind meld yourself away from momentary procrastination and towards doing what really needs to be done – assuming your long-term goal is important enough to you that you can stop stalking your ex on Facebook.

So go ahead and try these little mind hacks out on yourself next time you’re stuck in your own pile of procrastinate. See if it helps.

“You may delay, but time will not.” ― Benjamin Franklin


Do It To It! Immediate Action Steps

Remember, the key to ending procrastination once and for all is to look at the success apple as something you can eat one little bite at a time. Now you do it. Start here:

  • Start believing that you don’t have to be a chronic procrastinator. It’s not “just the way you are”. Work on reprogramming your mind into accepting a new reality – a new version of yourself.
  • Break all of your REI activities into simple, easy to complete action items you can easily check off your list. Be sure that no single item takes longer than 5 or 10 minutes. If it does, break it down even further into even smaller chunks to it doesn't overwhelm you.
  • When you notice you’re stuck, try asking yourself the 3 magical questions, then answering them in writing and aloud to yourself: A) Exactly where are you? B) What do you need to be doing right now? C) How will you feel you've done it?
  • Look at what you’re doing to waste time in terms of where it stacks up on your Immediate Goal vs. Ultimate Goal checklist. Make your desire to reach your ultimate goal so much more important to you than the ultimate goal tips the action scale away from your time-wasting immediate goal. This will change the balance of power… and get you closer to where you want/need to be. 

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