8 Keys to Being a Person of Action
Action is such a simple concept, that it is easy to brush over. The interesting thing is that this simple word may well define one of the most important principles to a life well lived. Nobody ever says at a funeral, “Well, he had really good thoughts, and he put together some interesting notes. Though he didn’t accomplish much, I remember how he planned and thought and struggled to make decisions.” Sounds absurd, right? Instead, we laude a person’s accomplishments. “She had such an impact on the people she mentored.” “He raised a great group of kids, who are doing great things.” “They had such an impact on the community and helped so many of the people.” We talk about what people did. We talk about the ACTION they took!
We are made to act. The well-known bible verse says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The DO is the key part here. We can also look to the less heavenly wisdom of hockey great, Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Thinking about taking a shot gets you nowhere if you do not take the action!
Action is simply doing something, the accomplishment of something over a period of time. People who have a habit of action are known for “getting things done”. We are wired for action. We feel a sense of accomplishment when we complete a task. Action produces satisfaction for most of us.
Possessing a predisposition toward action serves us well. What can I accomplish today? What steps can I take that will help me reach that end goal? Procrastination is the opposite of that action-leaning quality. Which end of the action-procrastination sale do you fall on? That answer may not be quite that simple. For most of us, we take action on the things we like to do, and are more likely to procrastinate on the things we don’t.
Here are 8 Keys to Being a Person of ACTION:
1. Schedule It. Time activating a task is essential. When it is just an item on your list, it just keeps sliding. It becomes real when we actually block time for it. Sometimes just the act of having to put an entry on your schedule makes you evaluate the item’s importance. I often say, “If it isn’t scheduled, it isn’t a real”. By this I mean, there is no real commitment to action unless it is scheduled. I learned early in my work life that, “When you have time”, is a dangerous phrase. There is a task here, but lots of room for interpretation about when. It is always best to ask some questions about the real expectation and truly date-activate the task.
2. Remove Distraction. Action requires decision and thus the quieting of distraction. It is hard to sift through tasks, understand which is a quick To Do, which requires heads-down time, and what is the highest priority, when you are constantly distracted. Carve out undistracted time in your schedule every day to prioritize, even if it is only 15 minutes at the end of the day, as you prepare for tomorrow. Without some dedicated time to organize and think, our whole day can be one of tangents and reactions. While reactions are technically actions, they are often NOT the right ones.
3. Create a Habit. Creating a habit of action makes it easier. For instance, the habit we mentioned of spending 15 minutes a day prioritizing. Or, a habit of keeping an action list that contains all of the actions you accept in every meeting or discussion. Maybe you even carve out a time every day, where you take action on the things that matter the most, not the reactive things, but the things that help you accomplish real life or work goals.
4. Chunk It. Sometimes that task that needs to be done is too big or intimidating, so we don’t do it all. A great way to overcome this is to carve out just a part of the overall task. By splitting things up, we get past the hurdle in our mind to completing it. This works well for me, and sometimes I follow the original plan and end up doing the task in chunks. However, I often find myself just continuing on and pushing through the entire task, because the chunk I started wasn’t so bad after all.
5. Cut Waste. We all have some unproductive time in our schedules, or things we do that someone else could do and probably do better. What is on your plate that either does not really need to be done, or someone else can do it? Benjamin Franklin aptly said, “Never confuse motion with action.” Just because we are busy does not mean we are taking the right action.
6. Eliminate Excuses. Is that thing that keeps standing in the way a real obstacle or an imagined one? We often hold up a barrier that has some validity and use it to hold up an entire task. One way to get past this is to ask, “What CAN we do?”, or “Once we get past that, what is the next step?”. Sometimes that thing that we think is preventing action isn’t as real as we think, or at the very least doesn’t have to hold up the whole task.
7. Change Your Environment. Sometimes changing your surrounding works. I often find that writing is better done not at my desk. For some reason working from a busy restaurant or coffee shop shifts my environment in a way that helps me focus. If you work in an open office, maybe a shift to a conference area or lounge will provide just the change you need. New surroundings sometimes help stimulate action.
8. Repeat. Action gets easier once repeatedly done. Emerson wisely said, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier – not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased.”
Becoming a person of action seems so simple and maybe even obvious, but it is one of those things that has profound results. Your actions today will define who you are tomorrow. What actions will you take today?
Scott Hirschfeld is the President of CTaccess, an Elm Grove IT support company that has been helping small businesses stop focusing on IT and getting back to doing business since 1990. Under his leadership CTaccess provides the business minded approach of larger IT companies with the personalized touch of the smaller ones. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.