I used to think of myself as a master procrastinator.

Now I get things done.

That includes:

  • writing, recording and producing 100 tracks in one year when I still had a full-time office job with extensive travel around the world;
  • starting a profitable online business with no experience whatsoever in sales, marketing and other icky type activities I still don’t enjoy very much; and
  • teaching live classes at top schools in Paris to help fellow creatives and entrepreneurs build and optimize their websites even though I only created my first website 2 years ago!

In this post, I’m going to share the systems I use to trick myself into action and get things done.

Remember, this comes from a reformed master procrastinator…. I can guarantee you can do this even if you’re a liiiittle bit lazy 🙂

This is an EPIC 18 minute read but I still want you to take action so….

You can download a summary cheat sheet here, read the full post or skip around using the handy little index table below.

16 Practices Split in 4 Categories

1- Keeping Myself Accountable

2- Getting Out Of A Rut

3- Staying Focused On What’s Important

4- Giving Myself a Break

Let me know in the comments if you have some of your own.

1. Keeping Myself Accountable

The idea here is NOT to beat yourself up if you don’t do something. The goal is to help you NOTICE when you’re off track and provide you with a system to correct course as often as possible so that you don’t deviate too much from the general direction you want to go in.

Practice 1: Regular Reviews

What is the practice?

Every evening, I sit down, review my day and plan for the next.

Every week, I sit down, review my week and plan for the next.

Same every month. Same every quarter.

I do this with pen and paper, in a notebook that I carry around with me most of the time.

Why does this practice help me?

It gives me a sense of direction and reminds me to ask myself questions like:

What made me happy today? How can I do more of the same tomorrow?

What made me feel like crap? How can I avoid that tomorrow?

What did I enjoy doing? Who did I enjoy spending time with?

Why did I feel bad about myself? What could I have done differently?

Every day, I learn a little bit more about myself and what makes me tick.

The more I know myself, the better I perform.

Practice 2: Sharing My Experience With Accountability Partners

What is the practice?

Every Monday, I speak with Angelo who is based in Cleveland and once a month, I speak with Matthew who is based in Hong Kong.

Every week and every month, we talk and discuss what’s been working for us and what hasn’t been so great.

We also list our goals for the week or month ahead.

Why does this practice help me?

This is what I get from Angelo and Matthew: empathy, new ideas, outside points of view, support, encouragement, kindness.

They also challenge me when I feel sorry for myself….

But in a really kind and supportive way that I appreciate and that helps me keep going when working on my own gets tough 🙂

Practice 3: Index Card To Focus On Systems Instead Of Goals

What is the practice?

Every month, I decide what habits / activities I need to focus on to be happy and make progress in my personal and professional life.

Not goals, but activities.

For example, instead of focusing on goals like “learn 5 jazz standards on the piano”, I commit to playing the piano 13 times during the month ahead.

I’ll also make a commitment to spend time outside or share a moment with someone.

Then I write down my targets on an index card. What do I want to do this month? How many times?

Throughout the day, as I take action and do what’s important to me, I black out a box.

This is what March 2019 looks like so far.

On the other side of the index card, I have the 3 big reasons why I’m doing what I’m doing for extra motivation when I need it 😉

Why does this practice help me?

Having this index card and updating it every day is really helpful because, if I deviate from the general direction I want to go in, I notice immediately and I can course correct.

Other benefits of the index card that help me get things done:

1- It helps me focus on what I can control, my actions. Systems over goals.

2- Each month I tweak it a little depending on what’s been working or not working and what’s important to me RIGHT NOW. This ensures I keep things fresh and interesting.

3- It’s easy, visual and non-electronic which helps me think clearly.

Practice 4: Having Others Count On Me

What is the practice?

This is the practice of putting myself in situations where someone else is counting on me to do something.

There are lots of different ways to bring people in so that they help me get things done.

For example, I’ll tell my friends I’m working on a new album because I know next time I see them they’ll ask me about it and I’ll feel bad if I’ve got nothing new to tell them.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was struggling for inspiration and on a deadline, I asked people on Facebook and Twitter what they’d like me to write about.

Asking for help to get things done

Why does this practice help me?

Well…. we all know that procrastination comes fairly easily whereas action can be hard BUT….

By bringing people in and telling them about what I’m working on, asking for their help along the way, I make it harder for myself to do nothing!

Why?

Because I will NOT want to disappoint the people who support me.

I will feel COMPELLED to do the best I can and give them good news if they ask about my projects down the line.

When I asked for people’s input online, I knew if I got some answers it would help me find motivation to write and I’d feel obligated to keep them posted on my progress.

Getting help to get things done
Look at that! Not only did it get me out of my slump two weeks ago, asking for help gave me inspiration for today’s post too!

They were so kind in trying to help that I just HAD to publish something, anything.

Funnily enough, it led to a pretty raw and vulnerable post that resonated with many readers. Couldn’t have done it without such helpful and kind feedback 🙂

2. Getting Out Of A Rut

It’s easy to get stuck in your head when you do creative work, especially when you work on your own. The goal here is to get out of your head and into the real world to spur yourself into action.

Practice 5: Going For A Walk With Earphones

What is the practice?

When I’m feeling a little sad and uninspired, not sure what to do next, I like to go out for a walk and listen to a potentially inspirational podcast or audiobook.

Sometimes I have a place to go. Sometimes I just walk around the neighborhood until I’ve had enough.

Some of my favorite podcasts right now:

Podcasts I'm listening to these days
I also listen to a few podcasts about (European) football but that’s another story :p

Why does this practice help me?

It gets me outside of my own little unproductive bubble and exposes me to other people’s ideas.

Their creativity and insights usually helps me see something I hadn’t thought of before and fires me up to explore it when I get back home.

Alternative practice: sit for an hour in a café with a good non-fiction book 🙂

Practice 6: Going For A Walk WITHOUT Earphones

What is the practice?

When I’m feeling overwhelmed and have no clue where to start or how to make progress on a project, I like to go out for a walk WITHOUT listening to anything.

Not even music.

A short walk to the bakery will often do the trick.

Why does this practice help me?

As I walk purposefully to the bakery, without any audio crutches to fall back on and determined to purchase a fresh baguette, my brain starts ordering stuff around in my head.

It usually only takes a few minutes for what’s important to pop out and make the rest completely irrelevant.

Then it’s important I can either get home and get work done quickly OR write stuff down immediately.

Alternative practice: sit for an hour in a café with a good