How To Get Started on Completing Want-To-Do Tasks

Did you read my previous article on How To Use Video Game Design to Become Productive? If you haven’t, head on over there. Trust me, taking the time to understand why you procrastinate and what exactly you need to look to change will save you hundreds of painful procrastination hours down the road. Because the reasons why we procrastinate aren’t so obvious.

If you have read my article on the MDA Framework and how it applies to productivity, you understand that broken mechanics are the cause of procrastination here. To overcome this, we need to create a measurable, goal-oriented plan, that has clear purpose and control.

Let me use the goal of trying to become healthy as an example.

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Why Starting Want-To-Dos is Difficult

Goal may not be clear

  • What does “getting healthy” mean to you? Finish a marathon? Lose 20 lbs? Be able to go on a beach trip with friends without becoming self conscious?

You don’t know how to achieve something

  • Let’s say that even if you decide that becoming healthy for you means fitting into your highschool jeans again, there are thousands of ways to do this. You can try the keto diet, cross-training, jogging, weight lifting, intermittent eating, meal-prepping, calorie-counting apps, and a combination of the above. But what’s best for you? What will work for you specifically? Figuring out what you need to do, and what advice you need to follow is confusing.

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It takes a long time to achieve

  • This tends to be the main problem. Losing weight is hard because it takes long-term planning. You can’t pull an all-nighter 3 days in a row and get it done. Becoming healthy and staying healthy requires long-term planning and foresight into what will help you stay consistent.

No pressure or panic to work on it

  • If you’re not at a weight you’re comfortable with, chances are you aren’t particularly panicked about having to lose it all in a week either. Being overweight may be incredibly stressful and take up a lot of your mental headspace, but there probably isn’t a particular deadline you need to lose the weight by. If anything, becoming healthy is something you’ve set for yourself and the consequences of not meeting it wouldn’t be anything concrete, but more so feelings of guilt and decreasing confidence.

  • The health consequences of being overweight creep up. No one is going to suddenly get mad at you for gaining weight, as it’s not something that you suddenly are and can quickly stop being. It’s just something you know that you should be working on but there is no time frame for when this needs to be done.

How To Fix Your Mechanics

Set a purpose, and then set a goal

  • Your purpose and your goal should be two different things. If your purpose is to be able to enjoy a day at the beach without feeling shy about your body, your goal might be to able to squat 100 lbs.

  • A purpose is feelings-oriented, and should address your pain point and why you want to change.

  • A goal is something concrete, that a computer could validate (finish a marathon, do 40 push-ups in a row, etc.)

  • Make sure your purpose and your goal are related, and that you are not procrastinating by working on a goal that is unrelated to your purpose.

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Give yourself multiple chances-- you don’t need to start off with the perfect way to go about doing something, you just work towards your goal and do what you can

  • Don’t let the pressure of “wasting your time by not doing the perfect thing to achieve your goal” get in the way from actually starting. Because the reality is that Want-To-Dos are hardly ever concrete and that the schedule you set for yourself will probably not go as exactly as planned. This is because while we have our steps in place, the progress we make getting there is hardly linear.

  • Going back to the video game framework, humans are able to keep a playful attitude towards them because game design mechanics account for failure, and players know that things won’t go as planned the first time. Players are instead encouraged to explore different paths and methods for reaching the goal.

  • The important thing is to keep trying, and when one thing doesn’t work, cross it off your list of options and move forward. If keto doesn’t work, try cutting out dairy. If you can’t cut out dairy, try adding more frozen vegetables into your meals. Experiment and have fun with new or weird niche-y techniques that can help you. Success will come as long as you keep moving forward, and keep envisioning the goals you set for yourself.

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Set your steps and rules

  • Rules: define what you are allowed to do, and what you are NOT allowed to do

    • Example: You are allowed to eat as many fruits as you want. You are allowed to go to the gym for only 10 minutes if you are tired, but you are NOT allowed to skip going.

  • Steps: Organize your steps and plan of action!

    • Go to the gym 3 times a week, and go for 40 minutes each session (includes 10 minutes of stretching)

    • Buy workout clothing you feel good in after every two weeks

Give yourself a pressure mechanism— Pressure makes diamonds! A few things you can try doing:

  • Declare to other people your goals (parents/friends/post on social media)

  • Deadlined goals--when things are timed, we get a bit anxious. This anxiety and stress might be uncomfortable, but it will make us get down to work and get it done. No time for dilly-dallying with the ‘best’ way to do something, it motivates you to just get started

  • Competition with someone you know who has similar goals

  • Hire a coach, because no app is going to move the needle as well as an expert. Ideally you should hire a professional, but consider hiring a friend, sibling, parent, co-worker, or friend of a friend of a friend. Ask around and you’ll definitely find an expert who can help keep you accountable when you begin to fall in a slump. Remember, if this goal is something you want, you will be willing to put in the time, energy, and money, because that’s when you’ll actually pull through and see results.

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I am committed to helping you help yourself, which is why I created special worksheets for you to print out and work on so you can stop feeling lost. These worksheets will help you construct a measurable, goal-oriented plan, that has clear purpose and control. Commit to yourself as I want to commit to you, and I promise that you will reap the benefits of your efforts.

To download the worksheets, sign up with your email below!

It’s natural for the small tasks that comprise Want-To-Do goals to start to feel like Have-To-Do tasks in the short term. But this is an indication of a step forward because it means you’re serious about achieving your goal, and have taken on the responsibility to do so. Long-term goals take time, but I have a solution for when these problems of being unmotivated arise as well. Check out my article on Have-To-Do things, and tricks on How To Fix a Broken System For Have-To-Do Task Completion

Get the Getting Started Guide To Want-To-Dos!

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Sakiko Ohashi