If it weren't for the last minute, I wouldn't get anything done.
Coming over to my place for dinner? Watch out you don't slip on the floor that was mopped 5 minutes before you arrived.
Travelling with me to Mexico? It's a gamble whether my freshly renewed passport will arrive on time via "super-express-you're-an-idiot-for-waiting-so-long-emergency delivery."
Riding in my car with the "empty" gas tank sign on? You'll thank me for the celebratory slurpee when we roll into the gas station on fumes alone. Just! Made it!
We all procrastinate in one way or another. And every now and then, we somehow convince ourselves that when there's a hill to climb, waiting it out will somehow make it smaller.
Take Victor Hugo, for instance.
It was the summer of 1830, and dude was under extreme pressure from his publisher to write his next book. After years of social galavanting, he finally put the pedal to the medal and wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame in just 6 short months. How did he do it? He got rid of his entire wardrobe and relegated himself to wearing a creepy and extremely hideous shawl until his book was done. Needless to say. No date nights or beers with the bros for Victor.
Why do we make plans, and set goals, only to procrastinate?
Well, one reason is that the human brain values immediate gratification more than future rewards.
It's easy enough to say you want to work out 3x a week, because you're envisioning what life will be like in the future. Come time to put your running shoes on, and all of a sudden, there is a whole list of other fun and relaxing things you'd rather be doing, right this moment.
Bridging the gap between where you are, and where you want to be, is hard. Which is exactly why the ability to delay gratification is one of the best predictors of success in life (if you haven't already, check out The Marshmallow Test and watch as pre-school children try to resist eating a marshmallow right in front of their faces - believe it or not, those who resisted eating it went on to be big shots).
So how do you ditch the procrastination, and start developing the healthy habits you want for your future self?
1. Turn good behaviour into the easier option
Increase the energy, effort and cost of a behaviour you're trying to curb, while reducing the effort required for good behaviour. Make it so that fruit is on the counter, and chips are still at the store. Leave your running shoes at the front door, and your slippers on the top shelf in your 2nd floor bedroom closet. Strategize. And make yourself believe that the good behaviour is less expensive than the bad behaviour.
2. Reduce the friction of getting started
Being in the middle of doing the work is often less painful than being in the middle of procrastinating about it. It's not the work itself that is hard. It's the getting started that's hard. So how do we take the friction out of the kick-off moment? Put every ounce of energy into building a ritual out of the habit you're trying to establish....and don't even worry about the results. Go to the gym at 9 am every Saturday. After a little while, the getting started simply becomes automatic. It's just what you do.
3. Schedule the shit out of your habits
Write it down. Get specific. And ideally, have someone else keep you accountable. Make your "Rollerblading Date with Michelle at 6 pm" as valuable as your "Meeting with Pam from Accounting at 2 pm." Getting your physical activity in your calendar will make you 2-3x more likely to follow-through. True story.
So if you're struggling with procrastination, and wondering how on earth you're going to prioritize your health once and for all, consider dropping off your entire wardrobe at Value Village, draping yourself in that ornamental rug on your dining room floor, and going to town on Kathy Smith step-aerobics in your basement, until you get there. Either that, or book me in for a gym date every Tuesday. I'll pick you up. You may even get a slurpee out of the deal.
Jiro Ono is one of THE best sushi masters of all time.
He owns a Michelin three-starred restaurant in Japan called Sukiyabashi Jiro, and he has dedicated his entire life to the art of making sushi. Think you want to learn from the master? Have patience, my friend! Jiro's apprentices dedicate months at a time to learning each teeny tiny part of the sushi-making process -- how to wring a towel, how to wield a knife, how to scale a fish.....one apprentice took ten years to learn how to cook an egg!
Getting good at something takes practice. But not just repitition. Deliberate practice. And there's a difference.
Deliberate practice is purposeful and systematic with the goal of getting better. Repitition can be mindless and automatic.....unfocused.
Coasting on auto-pilot is the enemy of deliberate practice. And all too often, we assume that because we doing something over and over and over again, we're getting better at it. In reality? We are simply reinforcing a habit....rather than improving it.
I'm a shitty driver. I know this about myself. In fact, just the other day, I was called a "fucking moron!" by a passing driver as I was trying to parallel park downtown. I reverse down busy streets if I've missed my turn. I totally dismiss the four-way stop sign rules (your turn, your turn, your turn......oh fuck it, I want to go). And I once totalled my mom's car. In a parking lot.
I drive every single day. Excellent practice, right? Not a chance. I'm just as shitty a driver today, as I was 10 years ago. Because I don't deliberately practice, with the intention of getting better.
Same thing goes for sex. You could have sex three times a week for a year, and still only be "ok" at it by Christmas, if you're doing the same one-two punch routine every time you hit the sheets.
Practice does not necessarily mean progress.
And guys, people are having' a heyday with their fitness, practicing their hearts out, without any real progress.
Want to level up? Here's the secret:
If we are ever going to improve upon ourselves, we need to be open and willing to take note of our shortcomings. We need proof of where we stand (I could do 10 push-ups yesterday. Today I did 11!).
And ideally, we need someone else to give us the skinny on where we're at.....because let's be honest, when no one's watching, we tend to bend the truth in our own favour.
Having a coach in your life (whether it be your boyfriend, your best friend, your personal trainer, or your 4-year old daughter), is essential to making progress....not only because a coach will help you find ways to improve, but because they will hold you accountable to delivering your A-game every day. There's no cheating when someone is looking over your shoulder.
What I love about my job is pushing people to new levels. It's witnessing 5 more lbs on the bar, 5 seconds longer in that squat hold, and a comment like, "thanks for the workout today....if it were up to me, I wouldn't have been here."
And I witnessed it over and over again at Fit Fest yesterday....an incredibly inspiring group of people who were willing to try something new, rather than just "same-old same-old" it all the way home.
What does your fitness game look like? Is it time to shake things up? Is it time to bring some intentionality to your routine? Is it time to take an honest look at where you're at, and level up?
If the answer is yes, I offer my humble opinion.
Seek feedback. And look for someone to be your personal Jiro Ono.
"Never mistake activity for achievement." — John Wooden
The year is 2001. Carrie Bradshaw is my idol. "Drops of Jupiter" is my favourite song. And I'm gearing up to spend $27 000 on an English degree.
I loved University. I read Shakespeare. Virginia Woolf. And Jack Kerouac. I wrote a thousand essays at 2 in the morning.
Did I learn how to function on 12 cups of coffee and 3 hours of sleep? Sure did.
Did it prepare me for my chosen career path? Hell no.
And therein lies the rub, my friends (ok, so the Shakespare comes in handy every now and then). So often, we spend a shit-load of time preparing for life to happen. But very little time actually living it.
I've always admired people who live life by the seat of their pants. People who say "Screw it! I'm just gonna do it." People who kick procrastination to the curb, and take the first step -- even if it seems outlandish.
Because if there's one thing successful people all have in common, it's that they all started before they felt ready.
Exactly one year ago, I quit my job as a Librarian to become a Personal Trainer. And let me tell you, the best advice I ever got, was to get certified as fast as possible, and just get coaching. I wasn't used to operating under the dive-in-head-first mentality....but I embraced it with everything I had. And it worked! Way better than I could have ever imagined.
And so I think about how much time we all spend over-preparing vs. producing. I think about how much time we all spend getting ready vs. actually achieving.
And guys? Let's be honest. Fitness is one of biggest ways we delay action. How often do we allow preparation to become procrastination when it comes to working out?!
I'll go tomorrow when: I'm more well rested. I've eaten breakfast. I've had a chance to wash my favourite gym shorts. I've convinced my buddy Geoff to come with me. I've done my physio. I've nailed a few laps around the block.
We convince ourselves that we need to get it all "just so" before we do the thing.
And why do we do that? If I had to wager a guess, I'd say it's because we are trying to delay failure. We can't fail if we don't try. But if we don't try, we also can't succeed.
Having the balls to take action, will get you a long way. As naive and nerve-wracking as it is. Because whether you're trying to start a business, write a book, or lose weight.....who you are, what you have, and what you know right now is good enough to get going.
Tucking yourself tightly under the covers so nothing can get you.
Skipping the bottom two stairs.
Having a strict dressing order you thoughtlessly adhere to -- underwear, pants, shirt, socks, jacket.
We all have weird habits. And oddly enough, we all have habits we didn't even TRY to form.
So why, then, is it so hard to tackle the good stuff? Meditating. Drinking more water. Getting 8 hours of shut-eye. Working out.
Why do we fail at the juicy lifestyle habits.....and yet buckle our seat-belt when we're moving the car a mere 5 feet?
Well, here's the glue, my friends, that will stick those good habits to the "done and done" column:
1. Hit the specifics
Who, what, when, where, and why. Set a goal, and then Sherlock Holmes the shit out of it. Get specific, and make a plan.
True story: Researchers found that people are 3x more likely to exercise if they make a specific plan for when and where they will actually do it. Put it in your calendar, and get yourself psyched to play "Pickle Ball with Geoff."
2. Rinse and repeat
New habits are haaaaaarrrrrd to form. And the biggest reason WHY they're so hard to form? They require effort. They require conscious choice. They require you to make a decision. Over time.....and only over time.......a new habit becomes routine....and at that point, the process is more or less mindless and automatic.
So here's the thing. You need to be consistent. You need to repeat that behaviour over and over and OVER again. And eventually.....and we're talking an average of 66 days.....that behaviour will become a true blue habit that you no longer have to think about.
3. Choose the 2-bite brownie
We all get gung-ho at times. "I am NEVER eating fast food again!" 2 weeks later? You're hitting the drive-thru incognito, pretending like you forgot about that bold proclamation....."cheeseburger with extra pickles please."
All too often, we make the mistake of biting off more than we can chew. Setting the bar waaaayyyyy to high. And then act surprised when we don't stick the landing.
Focus on small. Focus on manageable. And allow yourself to build that momentum.
Start with nailing one workout a week. A 9:30 pm bedtime on Sundays. A freshly-squeezed lemonade for this Friday's happy-hour.
Be consistent. Then build from there.
Health and happiness are not short-term projects. They are a way of life. And if you use the right strategies, and put in the work, you will see tangible results. Results just as tangible as consistently stopping the microwave 1-second before it beeps, so that you can pretend you're defusing a bomb.
I've got your back.