Episode 48: September 16, 2008
by Stever Robbins
Today's topic is using the power of action days to make progress. We’ll get to that later.
I want to get things done. Really, I do. But I don't. I started writing this episode 40 minutes ago. Then decided there was a message I just had to send. And bank balances to check. And…
Battling Your Inner Teenager
We all find ways to do any and everything except what we “should” be doing. The best cure for insomnia is trash day. I know they come at 7 a.m. tomorrow, but I don’t want to do it right now. I can sleep a little, first. My taxes? Oh, yes. They’re overdue. I’m working on them. Hey, did I show you that last night I played straight through my new game to level 9806 in one sitting? Isn’t that awesome?
We get distracted. We dither, we putter, we twiddle. We even futz. Fun words, but not so fun when it’s the end of the day and our most important priorities are still at the top of our to-do list. We’re probably just stuck in our teenage years, where we’d do anything except what we were “supposed” to do. Fortunately, except for the mohawk, piercings, angst-ridden music, and sappy poetry I write in my journal, my teenage years are firmly behind me.
But you know what got me to deliver? It was when my parents made me promise. They would insist on a time. “Stever! Take the trash out by 10 tonight.” If I did it, life was good. If I didn’t do it, I’d get the meat hook punishment. And I sure didn’t like that.
These days, the same technique still works. Not the meat hook, but having someone else to be accountable to. When there’s a lot to do and you need to get yourself on track, try an action day.
I first learned about action days from the late Thomas Leonard, who founded the personal coaching field. Here’s how they work.
Putting Action Days in Action
You and a few friends get a conference line. They’re free, they’re everywhere, and they’re wicked useful. You arrange to check in at a certain time each hour. For example, at 13 minutes after the hour.
Every time you check in, you briefly report what you’ve done in the last hour. Then you promise the group what you’ll do in the next hour. Once everyone has reported, you get off the phone and go for it!
Here’s a sample:
Stever: In the last hour, I’ve written 2/3 of a podcast. In the next hour, I will finish the podcast, make some soup for lunch, and write my daily blog post.
Al: I’ve written the executive summary of my report. In the next hour, I’m going to rehearse it for half an hour. If it’s all good, I’ll print the handouts and send them for duplication.
Pat: I sexed my pet frog. It turns out he’s male. In the next hour, I’m going to puree a pineapple, change the oil in my car, and write a love sonnet to my new beau.
This brings up an important point: It’s fun to invite a variety of people. You start to learn about how different some people’s lives can be. But no judgment, please. In an action day, you’re providing accountability for each other. If your friends have weird goals, well, this is your chance to get to know them a little bit better.
And resist the temptation to chat. Keep everyone focused on action. No group therapy here. When Sally says that in the next hour, she’s preparing a memorial service for her recently-deceased pet cockroach, don’t follow up. It’s not your place to question why she feels the need for a memorial service. And you really don’t want to get into why she was emotionally bonded to pet cockroach in the first place.
I use action days to help make serious progress on mid-size projects. I do an action day around the things that are tough for me to start. Some things I’ve done during an action day include: writing a podcast or book chapter, updating a web site, or reading reference material. Action days can also be great for emptying your inbox, replacing those light bulbs you keep putting off, fixing a leaky faucet, and so on.
Joining Stever's Action Days
If you’re interested in being part of an action day, I run them occasionally. You can register to be notified of upcoming action days right here.
This is Stever Robbins. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave voicemail at 866-WRK-LESS.
Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!
- http://www.irs.gov - in case your taxes are late
- http://www.ThomasLeonard.com - Thomas Leonard’s memorial site
- http://www.freeconference.com - free conference call lines
- http://www.SteverRobbins.com/actionday - a form for indicating your interest in being part of an arranged action day