How to Turn “I Really Should…” Into Action

There’s a good chance you’ve had a moment in your life (or perhaps many of them) when you’ve said, “Yeah…I really should [insert thing you really should do]…”

I know. We all have a list a mile long of things that need to be done, and then there’s that whole life thing that tends to get in the way and muck up all our beautiful intentions. We have these things that we think we should be doing, and yet they don’t seem to be happening. So what can be done about that?

Here are some ideas on how to turn “I really should…” into action items that actually get done:

Since it usually feels like there are a million things to do, knowing what’s most important can help get it done. When too many things come across our plate, oftentimes the result is doing nothing.

If the things you think you should do are all floating around in your head, write them down. Sometimes it’s easier to prioritize when you can visually see what you want to get done. Then, look at the list and choose the thing that is most important. Usually, things on the “I really should” list are not things that have an imposed deadline, which is why you might be milling about when it comes to doing them. Pick the thing that would help you move ahead toward your goals the quickest.

For example, I frequently hear people say, “Oh yeah, I really should get business cards…” after they’ve been in several situations where someone has asked them for one. If you’re losing out on potential opportunities, I’d say that’s a fairly high priority.

Another example might be a project that is weighing on you, causing you stress or constant brain energy, such as going through important papers or organizing your work space. If taking care of that would free you up to be more productive, that’s a priority.

Break it up
If your “should” task is a big one, break it up in to smaller pieces. What happens when we feel overwhelmed by a giant task? You got it – usually, nothing. When a big goal becomes a series of small tasks, it’s much easier to see it as attainable.

I’m a big fan of writing things down because of the reason I gave above – for me, it helps to map things out clearly. It’s also easier for me to see if I’ve forgotten something. I write the big goal at the top, and then I write down all the things I need to do to make that happen. I don’t worry about the order at first, I just write them down. I can put them into order later. The key is to move through it quickly so it doesn’t take a lot of time (because who has that), and so if I’m trying to ensure that it’s in chronological order that can slow me down.

Once you have it written out, go back to the prioritize step and start with the small task that needs to be done first.

Reframe the “should”
If the “should” feels like something you want to do but aren’t really doing, it might be because it’s not something that excites you (like cleaning your work space). If the action doesn’t motivate you, reframe the action to highlight what the result will be.

Using the work space example: the result would be a work space that feels less stressful and more inviting. So instead of saying, “I should really clean my work space” (yuck), try saying “I’m making my work space open and inviting” (yay!). I don’t know, to me that sounds like a lot more fun…

If you want that “should” to become an action and you don’t have the time or skill set to make it happen, delegate! Ask yourself what’s worse, asking for and investing in help or not getting it done?

If you’re someone who has trouble asking for help, decide what the payoff is for you. If you don’t ask for help, what do you get? The satisfaction of doing it yourself? But wait, you don’t have the time or the skill set, so actually you’re not going to be doing it yourself, are you…?! In all seriousness, this can be very difficult for people, even painful. If this is the case, remind yourself of how exciting it would be to move forward because what you needed in order to do that will be done.

If you’re worried about the money side of delegating, figure out what you’re potentially losing by not having the task done. If you’re thinking of doing whatever it is by yourself because of money, make a good estimate of how long it would take you to do it yourself and divide that into how much it would cost you to pay someone else to do it. When people do this, they often find that they are spending a ridiculous amount of time and effort on something that could have been done much quicker – and they’d be paying themselves less than minimum wage to do it.

Also keep in mind that delegating allows you to be doing something else at the same time, so your time could actually be worth double what it normally is.

When you’re able to accomplish things that have been hanging around for a while, it feels good! If you’re doing something to move yourself forward every day, even if it’s something little, that still means progress. Remember part of Newton’s Law: a body in motion tends to stay in motion, so keep going and have fun getting things done!

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