Turn Any Problem Into An Action Plan In 4 Easy Steps

Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough. – Og Mandino

I’d love to be always determined as well, you know!

I’ve been analyzing the past few years of my life and I came to the conclusion that my productivity and my success were always going hand in had with my daily motivation. I’m a disciplined person overall and I can force myself to work long hours every day. In fact that’s what I’ve been doing for the past years since I’ve got my first paid job.

Life goes on and so do our goals. I always wanted to become an independent professional, but I could never find the inner strength to sit down after work and dedicate some hours to develop my own business. The temptation to lay on my couch and relax while watching my favorite TV show was too big. My social environment wasn’t helping either: everyone was in the same situation as me and they called it a “normal life”. Which is not wrong, if you ask me. Having a stable, well-paid job is a privilege nowadays. But we always want more.

I’d lie if I’d say that I wasn’t doing ANYTHING in order to achieve my dream. I was trying to find the strength to work on my goals after work whenever I could. That wasn’t bringing any results though, except that it made me ask myself several important questions. In fact, that was the first important thing I’ve learned about procrastination:

1. The first step is about accepting that there’s an actual problem

It was Monday night. I’ve decided to accept my friend’s offer to write an article for his newspaper. He said that it could be a good starter for me – if I succeed, I could reach thousands of people. It was a topic I knew pretty well and the whole deal was about doing a little additional research and compiling my knowledge on a easy-to read and engaging way. The only problem was that I was feeling tired and empty inside. I was simply sitting in front of my PC screen, checking my cell phone from time to time. Not that I was waiting for someone specific to message me, it’s just I wasn’t feeling like I was focused or inspired enough to start writing.

After a hour of wasted time, I’ve realized that I’m waiting for a miracle. I’m waiting for the inspiration to come in out of nowhere and do the job for me. And that’s not how success comes to people’s lives. That’s not how motivation comes. So the first step to overcome procrastination was to reveal the problem. There are many ways to do that; I’ve used the simplest one (in my opinion) which was about being honest with myself and writing down the problems I was facing:

a. I’m feeling down and tired.

b. I don’t feel too excited about the things I need to do.

2. You can only start fixing something after you’ve figured out the cause of the problem

Now that these problems were finally revealed, the time came to look for their roots. Why? Because knowing that I’m not motivated wasn’t pointing me to a solution. I’ve stated that I have problem and that was a big step ahead. That wasn’t enough, though. I’ve associated the problem with someone else, while the main reason was in me.

Therefore the step #2 was made when I’ve assumed the responsibility for the problems I was facing. I’ve decided that the main issue wasn’t in my time-consuming job, my lack of creativity or the rain, pattering against the window of my apartment. I’ve tried to re-write the two statements in a way they’d bring a solution, and I came up with this:

a. I don’t know how to stay motivated.

b. I don’t know how to start feeling excited about the things I need to do.

3. You’ll find the answer once the question was asked

As soon as I did that, all of the sudden, I felt like something changed in me.

It wasn’t a “miracle” or a revelation, but suddenly I felt way more awake and motivated. The “I don’t know” part sounded like something which can be solved. It means that there IS a solution, it’s just I don’t know about it yet. For example, we cannot change the day/night cycle, but we can learn how to keep our homes illuminated at any time of the day.

The next step, therefore, was to replace the passive statements with active questions:

a. How do I stay motivated?

b. How do I start feeling excited about the things I need to do?

4. Once the question was asked, let yourself find the answer

What I did helped me to realize that the problem wasn’t in my environment or my personal traits. It was merely in my lack of knowledge. The solution was clear: “Alex, stop forcing yourself to do the things you don’t want to do. Stop feeling down about your inability to do things the right way.”

I didn’t have a problem anymore. Instead, I had an action plan:

1. Go to the library and study related materials;

2. Contact the most productive people from my environment and ask them specific questions about the tools they use to stay motivated.

3. Go to bed early and do the writing tomorrow morning before work.

What about you? What methods do you use to turn your problems into action plans?