How to Must

Creating when you feel like it is one of the best feelings in the world.

You’ve snagged a great idea, and you feel good. Your notepad is in front of you, and you have time. Your mother loves you, and your best friend still thinks you’re cool.

You’re ready, and you create.

All good. But that was at six o’clock last Sunday two weeks ago.

Now you have bigger plans, and you realize you need to create more — not just when Jupiter aligns with Pluto.

You have a client or a publisher or an agent who needs you to work, and you say ‘absolutely,’ until you realize that you couldn’t care less about doing it. Not just agents, but you. You’re ambitious. We all are.

You want to do well. Your last week’s self told you that you would sit down this morning to work for two hours no matter what with no distractions. And you’re doing what he said. You’re sitting down.

You got up early, and your stomach hurts because you didn’t sleep enough, and your brain’s still spinning because your alarm pulled you out of your dreams with such a tug.

But you just don’t feel like being creative.

You don’t have good ideas at 6.30 in the morning. You had a sly glimpse at your emails when you said you wouldn’t. Now you know you need to send your accountant those records, and it would be a relief to get it done and out of the way. And in any case, you work better in the evenings. You did it once the other week, working in flow into the wee hours.

And you tell yourself that getting out of the house would do you some good anyway, and sitting in a cafe is a much better environment — more conducive to being creative.

And so you obey the new you. Your rules have changed. Ignoring last week’s you makes you wince, but you’re under new leadership now, and that’s that.

Your rules change again later that day, and again, and by the evening, you’ve given yourself so many new regulations in so many new incarnations of yourself that very little has been done indeed.

That’s ok. You have Netflix to watch and a snack in the fridge for a bit of evening comfort.

We look back over the moments when we decided to break our rules, and we realized that none of our excuses had any weight. In other words, we just bullshitted ourselves again.

Ugh. We can be so gullible.

And it’s into the next day.

Constantly changing our rules doesn’t work very well. We lose time, and we don’t produce.

But let’s sit down and think this through. How can we actually set a deal with ourselves that we keep?

How can our wants become ‘musts?’

How can our rules become rules rather than suggestions?

How can we make sure things at the very least get started?

That’s the key thing, isn’t it? Not so much the doing, but starting. The moment just before the start is crucial because it’s the time when we’re at the greatest risk of deciding not to start.

Our rules need to be unbreakable.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. We’re too soft. We’re not at war. People are not at stake. Our survival isn’t pressing enough to make our task a primary one.

And so we must create urgency for ourselves. We can’t just want. We need to MUST.

This is where we enlist the help of our electrical friend — emotion.

We need to link emotion to our rules so that they cannot be bent by soft will.

How to tie emotion to your rules so that stuff gets done:

  • Have someone you report to with your results. Be accountable to some key friend or acquaintance for specific objectives. I do this, and I can assure you it works. The emotion of social shame is what ensures you do what you need to do.
  • Announce your plans publicly and document your progress publicly, such as through a blog or video series. I have not done this, but many have achieved amazing things with it, because of the powerful force at play — not wanting to deal with the negative emotion of letting others down.
  • Have money at stake.Stickk’ is a useful app that you can use together with an accountability partner.

If you fail to hit your objectives, your partner presses a button, and you lose money. Financial loss is now tied to the emotion of social shame. Powerful stuff.

  • Get a real coach. Sometimes we have to accept that we just need to have a real designated coach to kick our arses. With a bit of searching and asking around you can find someone who can help mentor you.

At least to get some momentum going, hire someone online to check in on you. Coach.me can help you for a fee. There may be other apps and platforms that help keep you accountable.

  • Remove your plan B — your safety net. Have a backup plan? Get rid of it. Burn your ships. There’s only a plan A. Put yourself in a position where you can’t afford to fail. This is not for the faint of heart, but it can be effective.

I’ve experienced this by accident a few times when my only option was to make money fast, or I’d be totally screwed.

I would not advise if you have other mouths to feed, however. That’s up to you.

Those are a few ideas. Let us know if you have more.

Time is precious. Focus on less, and make them musts.


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Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com on April 4, 2017.