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  • Writer's pictureLola Sofi'

CHECK IT OFF

Updated: May 24, 2022

It’s time to make it happen.

Have you ever found yourself saying “maybe later,” or “next time,” or how about, “I’ll do it when...”?


Well, I have, and I was not happy about it. Mainly because “later” would almost certainly turn into “next time,” which would unfortunately manifest into “never.”


I clearly remember a time when “maybe later” became my default answer to anything I desired to do but thought it may be too challenging for me at the moment. You wanna go to the gym? Maybe later.


My default answer also came in handy when I wanted to hang out with Procrastination for the day. I really need to find the source of that terrible odor coming from the refrigerator. Aaa. Maybe later. I wanna finish my show (crunch crunch).


But then, I realized I had a real problem when my default answer became a handicap to my dream and morphed into “next time.” Ooh. It’s been six months already and I haven’t followed up on even one of these client leads. Oh well. Next time, I guess…when I’m ready.

Wait…what?


When did I start allowing potential job prospects to sit dormant until they expired? Worst yet, when did it become okay for me to just shrug it off and waste an opportunity to grow?


This, my friend, was a wake-up call, sounding the alarm that these four little words—maybe later and next time—had become the “four letter words” of my life.


I had betrayed my sense of drive and determination, postponing today’s aspirations for maybe later, and settling for next time when opportunities passed. It wasn’t long before I found myself plunging into “Never Never” land, spiraling deep into defeat, saying things like, I’ll never get in shape, or I never get any breaks.


Now, let me be clear. There is a place for maybe later and next time. Used correctly, both can provide the proper context for maximizing your priorities or managing the effects of disappointment.


But for me, I used those four little words to my disadvantage, usually to cover up my feelings of apathy, indifference, or insecurity, and not to offer appropriate framework for my situations.


In other words, … I used them like I used butter and salt on my brussel sprouts…to make my excuses more palatable.


That is, until I decided to break up with Procrastination and put an end to this cycle of putting off until tomorrow what I could have completed today, right now, in fact.


It was time for me to make it happen.


Action is the foundational key to all success. -- Pablo Picasso

Now, I wish I could say, and just like that, … I became a human doing machine, running around conquering every one of the million tasks placed on my “To Do” list, but that’s not my story.


I can tell you, however, the three things that worked for me.


#1. Know your WHY and your WHY NOW


I became familiar with the term “know your why” when I joined WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers.) This was, and still is a crucial component of the program, especially for me, because it required me to delve deep into my subconscious and really look at my motivation for desiring change.


The first step was getting organized and prioritizing the things I wanted and/or needed to accomplish. Doing this single action proved essential to circumventing my old system of not getting things done. Once I listed and ranked all of the tasks, I then examined why I wanted to do them, why I needed to take action, and why the task or goal was important to me in the first place.

But while knowing my why was an important part of the equation, I also needed another set of data. In order to shut the door on procrastination, I had to answer, why now.


Take starting a workout regimen, for instance. I remember when I first joined the military more than 30 years ago, I was in pretty great physical shape. Movement wasn’t an issue because it was a built-in part of my daily routine as a soldier. But after my tour of duty and five children later, this routine quickly became a pleasant but distant memory. And although I’ve never considered myself a couch potato, I also was not the most consistent person when it came down to movement anymore. I didn’t feel my best and hadn’t the energy needed to keep up with five growing boys with all of their activities. But I wanted to feel better. I wanted to have more energy. THIS became my why.


In the meantime, I had put on quite a few extra pounds and joined the ranks of the 68 million Americans afflicted with high blood pressure. At first, my doctor prescribed a medication my best friend called “a glorified water pill.” It helped for a while, but then my blood pressure started to climb again. Another trip to my PCP resulted in yet another medication on top of the glorified water pill!


I was mortified! Moreover, I had had enough!


I realized that without a real change in my unhealthy eating habits and inconsistent pattern of movement, I was creating an unhealthy reality for myself, one that could even shorten my time on this earth. THIS became my why now.


This is not to say that everyone’s why now has to be the result of something catastrophic or unwanted and unwelcome news. It could be because you want to learn something new and by actually doing it, you’re learning it. It could be you understand nothing just magically appears. You have to put the work in and plant the seeds if you want to experience the fruit. Maybe you realize that time waits for no one. That you’re tired of sitting on the sidelines of life and you’re ready to get in the game. Or maybe you want to build your self-esteem and feel good about accomplishing something.


There is no right or wrong answer to your why now. Your why now is uniquely your own. Just make sure you don’t neglect this part of the equation because it really does help to springboard your commitments into the land of get-up-and-go.


"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage." -- Dale Carnegie

#2. Be Intentional


On purpose is the name of the game, folks. I’ve learned if I wanted to accomplish anything, I needed to be intentional about it.

I needed to do things on purpose. Not to sit it out, or wait it out, or wait for things to pan out, or wait for someone to help out.

No. I needed to be deliberate about making it happen.


And being deliberate for me meant putting legs to my priority list. It meant setting goals and creating realistic deadlines to get things done. It meant choosing an accountability partner—someone who is loving enough to encourage me to keep going, but just annoying enough to push me to keep moving—in my case, my sister was perfect.


Being intentional meant all of those things. But it also meant something I hadn’t paid attention to since I was a child. It meant getting enough rest. And when I say rest, I mean literally going to bed at a reasonable hour.


You see, I was one of those type of people who believed I didn’t have time for rest. I convinced myself that I could thrive on only four hours of sleep per day, as long as I consumed unlimited amounts of coffee. But the truth was my 6:00 a.m. wake-up required me to gulp at least two 12 oz cups of coffee for me to even be alert, let alone coherent. And forget about being pleasant. That didn’t come until well after my morning shower, sometimes resulting with me painting a fake smile on my face like a circus clown with my ruby red lip stick!

What I failed to see was the toll taken on my body from running on all cylinders for the better part of twenty hours a day. My body needed time to repair itself, to recharge. But getting the minimal amount of sleep meant I could only achieve a minimal amount of good rest, which usually left me drained at the end of the day. I didn’t have the energy to do anything but curl up on the couch with a bag of potato chips.

But oh, what a difference three more hours of sleep makes!


Now that I’ve deliberately dialed back my bedtime, I’ve dialed up my energy level. I awake feeling good, alert—even without the jolt of caffeine—and ready to take on the day. My mood is better; I even smile using my own mouth!

Most of all, I can focus on the tasks at hand, with full steam ahead. And all because I intentionally began to rest.


“An unintentional life accepts everything and does nothing. An intentional life embraces only the things that will add to the mission of significance.” --John C Maxwell

#3. Break up with Perfectionism


What are two things that go together like hot fudge on French vanilla ice cream? Perfectionism and procrastination, that’s what.

And speaking as the former Queen of P&P, I know firsthand that the tendency to want everything perfect sometimes makes it hard to move on or even commit to a project.


Remember back in the day when on a job interview, people would answer the question, what’s your biggest weakness with I’m a perfectionist? This was so the potential employer would view you as the type of person who wouldn’t leave the job until everything was perfect.

Sounds good, right? Wrong.


The biggest problem with that answer is usually time management. Since everything has to be just so, most often, the person falls into the pit of perpetual fixing, and accomplishing nothing.

In other words, you can’t check off anything because you can’t finish anything for fear of the task not being perfect.

It’s been my experience that when I didn’t perform a task to perfection, it usually was left unfinished. To justify, I’d say, “I’ll do it when…” fill in the blank, but in actuality, it meant never. And being surrounded by so many unfinished tasks, or unfulfilled goals took a chunk out of my self-esteem. I didn’t care to start something new because I no longer believed in myself to complete it.

But while researching various quotes I wanted for a speech—I’m a speechwriter by trade— I stumbled across the following words of wisdom:


“Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.”—Harry Truman

Wow! I thought. Is that what I was doing… or in my case, not doing?


The answer, a resounding yes. I was perfectly hiding in a state of inaction and had to free myself of its paralysis.


I had to become comfortable with my limitations, my mistakes, and mishaps. I had to stop worrying about what others thought of me and how they saw my performance. I had to let myself off of the hook and be kind and accepting of myself. I had to focus on my why, my reasons behind my doing, instead of just how perfectly I’m doing it. Most importantly, I had to accept that I am not perfect. No one is, and that’s okay.


Breaking off my unhealthy relationships with Procrastination and Perfectionism was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’ve even dusted off some of the unfinished projects from the Land of the Unforgiven. I’ve recommitted to some; others, I’ve deprioritized or even cancelled.


Final Thoughts

All in all, I can honestly say I’m proud of my new way of thinking, this phenomenal paradigm shift. I pursue my goals head on, and no longer allow the fear of not being perfect to hinder my progress. I organize, prioritize, and finish my tasks today, instead of playing the waiting game. And I no longer take for granted those God given opportunities presented to me; I take hold of them instead and make them happen.

Because of this action-oriented way of thinking, I’ve started more, tackled more, and finished more than I would have ever imagined in recent years, to include starting this blog!


And if like me, you want to do away with the “someday” woes, I invite you to join me in my quest to Check It Off!!

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