Getting over procrastination

Procrastination subverts us from doing our best work.

It takes on obvious forms like email, Netflix binge watching or internet surfing. But it can also be more subtle like exercising, cooking or even reading.

Some of these things are good but is it the best thing we can be doing right now? Are we intentionally hiding from the things we are most afraid of?

The first step then is to decide.

The next step is to do.

And now that something is done, you can make it better.

Your time is going to be filled with something. The question is, what are you going to fill it with?

Human productivity

Technology continues to grow leaps and bounds. Each day these processes grow more efficiently.

Every ounce of productivity continues to be squeezed out of the system resulting in making stuff faster, cheaper and more accurate to spec.

Except can we get faster than instant? Cheaper than free? More accurate than 100%? What does this cost our culture?

How many hours do we spend moving from 94% accuracy to 95%? Would we have been better off learning something completely new?

It’s easy to see the improvements in the hardware, but human beings are still waiting to make the same jump. It will only happen when we attempt to do things we have never done before–not the same things we did yesterday.

Perception is not the same as reality

We tend to believe that accidents kill more people than disease.

And the number of homicides outnumber suicides.

We also believe that places are more dangerous than they really are.

Driving is likely the most dangerous activity we do on a regular basis and yet we don’t think twice about jumping in and going.

The most dangerous creatures on Earth are not bears and sharks but mosquitoes.

Our perceptions of risks are not the same as reality. We tend to doubt the data before we doubt ourselves.

The cost of waiting

The record industry insisted for things to stay the same.

They had the perfect formula:

In order to produce a record, you needed to be signed, in order to be signed you had to be picked, consumers had the radio to listen to the top hits, but in order to listen to these top hits on your own, you had to buy their records and around and around we go.

It worked for a really long time. They had built a monopoly of scarcity.

Until Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker changed everything.

Overnight, these two 20-year olds flipped the entire music industry upside down by pioneering peer-to-peer file sharing.

The record industry ignored Napster and waited until it was too late.

That is what the internet has done. It has given us the power to connect, to share our best work with the world. The tools that control the means of production are now available for anyone.

The Internet has made the cost of failure almost zero. It has never been easier, faster or cheaper to start a movement. You no longer have to wait to be picked, you just need to decide.

The cost of waiting continues to rise. Every day more blogs are posted, new projects are produced, new art is being made.

This door, this opportunity will not be like this forever. It’s your turn. You get to decide.

What kind of changes am I making?

Frederick Taylor‘s approach: Am I using stopwatches and clipboards to improve processes and efficiencies? Am I faster, cheaper, more accurate today than I was yesterday? Am I waiting to be shown what to do next? Do I use the same time-tested methods I’ve used before? How else can I improve my yields?

The Scientific Method: Is this an ongoing process? Am I forming a hypothesis, testing and measuring, extrapolating data and developing a theory to make an observation?

Johannes Gutenberg’s example: In a time when 96% of the population was illiterate, the printing press was launched. What a terrible time to start a book publishing business. Is this project I’m working on ahead of its time too? Am I anticipating a shift in the market? Am I seeking to make the world a better place by shipping something before anyone is ready? Do people get the joke?

Drip by drip: Am I day by day, little by little, taking small incremental steps to get to where it is I want to go? Am I being productive when no one is watching?

Fail. Fail again. Fail better.: Do I understand that failure is an outcome not a part of my character? Am I making products for everyone or for someone? Do I make customers for my products or do I make products for my customers? Do I understand that failure is an option?

Is this what Artist do?: Am I doing something that has never been done before? Am I trying something that might not work? Am I challenging the status-quo? Is this generous enough? Am I making a giant leap forward? Am I daring to see how high it is I can fly?

Systematic approach: What type of game am I playing? Does someone have to lose in order for me to win?

Asking the right questions: What is this for? Am I polishing or publishing? Am I doing things because they are popular or because they are important? Am I making things better or keeping them the same? Do I choose to see the world as it is or am I cherry picking evidence to reinforce my internal narrative? Is this another form of hiding? How can I get to where it is I want to go? Am I helping someone along the way? How do I make the change I am seeking to make? Is this the best I can do? How does this help me build a culture that we can all be proud of?

The only change that matters is the kind of change that leads to growth.

Ego is the enemy

“I want to prove people wrong.”

Okay, write down all the names of those you want to prove wrong.

After reviewing this list: Which ones don’t want to see you succeed? Which ones are hoping you will fail?

Chances are you probably didn’t identify anyone who is actively working towards your destruction. Someone questioning the choices you make is not in the same as someone who is maliciously planning your demise.

This narrative we have built-in our heads is fake. It is our ego. We create these narratives to make ourselves feel important.

The hard truth is that the world is not conspiring against you. The world doesn’t even know who you are. Life is not a zero-sum game–others don’t have to lose in order for you to win.

So why are we still throwing punches? People disagree with each other all the time, doesn’t mean we have to be disagreeable. The real enemy is within.

The culture of escalation

Are we supposed to be surprised at what someone does when they have a camera pointed at them or what someone says when a mike is shoved in their face?

Every thumbs says I care about this.

The culture of one upping each other is really a race to the bottom. At some point, you hit the floor. In this hole, you can’t be loud enough to be heard, nor big enough to be seen.

You might have gained our attention for a moment but you definitely didn’t earn any trust with a stunt like this. What a wasted opportunity.

How do you want to be remembered?

What kind person do you want to be seen as?

What is something that people have learned from you?

Will you be proud of how they shared your movement with someone else?

Life as an emergency

Regrettably, some people will choose to live a life from one emergency to the next.

As the adage goes, a lack of planning on their part doesn’t constitute an emergency for your part.

Not everything is always going to be fine.

Our energy is better spent when we work with those who are eager to change.

That isn’t everyone but someone.

It’s not your job to put out fires, that’s what firefighters do.

Remember, our time on this Earth is expiring.

Act accordingly.

Busy is not the same as productive

Busy work is any activity that we do to help us pass the time without creating value.

It takes in the form of conference calls, emails, Tweets and Netflix binge watching. At times, this busy work can feel productive but it isn’t. It is another form of hiding.

TPS reports never have and never will change the world. In the end, this false narrative of being “busy” while appearing to be productive, isn’t going to give us the kind of joy and meaning we seek in our lives. Merely existing, getting by and through the day, isn’t enough to fill our cups.

If it is important, productive people find a way to get it done.

The next time someone asks how things are going, I hope you will resist the urge to say you are busy and instead tell them how productive you have been.