• Harirai Khalsa

How to be slightly closer to a robot

When you introduce a new system or routine into your life, business, creative practice, whatever it is, it usually feels exciting. You're finally going to do the thing, achieve the dream, be the person. It's great.

And then almost immediately after that initial high things suddenly take a turn. You get sick and miss a couple days of your exercise routine. Or you're not even sick, but you miss them anyway because you just really, really don't want to. Or somebody calls you just as you were about to do the thing and you end up talking for a while and now you're out of time, oops. Or you're only on your third blog post of your brand new blog and you've already run out of things to say.

Progress sucks, amirite?

Most of us know in our heads that the exciting high of a new thing is not going to last for the rest of our lives. But it still feels uniquely devastating every time we lose motivation on a thing we were so thrilled about just days earlier.

"What," (wonders the brain of a totally hypothetical person who definitely isn't me) "is even the point of going on with this thing if this is how it's gonna be?"

There is no easy solution to this, which makes sense since the problem is specifically that it feels hard. But there are ways to set yourself up for success so that as hard and terrible as the task feels, it's still slightly easier to do it than to not.

The trick I want to talk about today has three parts.

1. Decide exactly where and when your thing is going to happen each day/week/month/interval of choice.

2. When in doubt, do the thing.

3. Find the time before you cancel.

As an example, I write this email you're reading right now from the same coffee shop every Saturday morning. This means that when Saturday morning rolls around, I know exactly where I'm supposed to be when I get out of bed, and I know exactly what's supposed to happen when I get there. So now it becomes harder to slack on the task because I can't claim that I "didn't have time" or that it "got away from me." I only have one job on Saturday mornings. If I can't complete it, the only reason is that I'm actively deviating from the plan.

Of course, I'm great at actively deviating from the plan, so this is where part two comes in. There are days when I think to myself: "I'm bored of that coffee shop, maybe I should go somewhere else today."

Or: "Why not save the $3 and just work from home?"

Or even: "I'm sure it's fine if I just do it on Sunday, all weekend days are basically all the same."

On the surface there is nothing objectively wrong with other coffee shops or working from home or Sunday mornings as a concept. But when you're just establishing a new routine, it's misleading to only focus on the goal. The routine itself IS the goal. You can't develop a habit without doing something a whole bunch of times. So I have this rule to remind myself that the consistency is more important than anything else, even if maybe sometimes I would actually rather work from home today. Too bad. Get to that coffee shop.

But no matter how consistent you are, there will always be times when something comes up and you can't stick to your routine. That's why it's important to make sure you also have a plan to roll with the punches without letting it get you off track for all time. One way to do this is to make a rule that you have to find the new time BEFORE you cancel the old one.

Let's say there's a special event happening one Saturday and I know I really want to go but I also know that it will overlap with my normal Saturday morning email time. Before I decide that I'm going to change plans and go to the event, I have to find a new time in my schedule when I'm going to write my weekly email. This makes sure that I'm not just assuming I'll make it up at some point, only to discover later that I was promising myself future time I didn't actually have.

Maybe I have to do it Friday evening instead, and I'm not going to go to that movie I had planned. Maybe I'll do it on Sunday, which means I don't have the day free. Or maybe I'll still do it on Saturday, but I'll set an alarm to get up earlier to make it happen. Doesn't matter how you accomplish it, the point is that you have to know where you're pulling the time from before you give it away. Because just giving it up entirely is the only option that is not an option.

As with so many things in life, these three rules are simple, but not easy. They won't make it any more fun to put on your running shoes when the last thing you want to do is go for a run. But they can help override the part of you that is resisting so that like it or not, the thing you said you were going to do still gets done. And that's all that really matters.

What are your tricks to make sure you do the thing when you just don't want to?

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