If you’re a procrastinator, you are so not alone. The reason being, you were designed to procrastinate.
You know that sense of stress, fear, or anxiety you feel when you do something new or challenging? Or maybe it comes in the form of feeling overwhelmed.
Well, procrastination is the behavior that’s supposed to help you deal with that stress. More specifically, it first happens in your brain. A study out of Yale revealed that stress sends signals to your brain, which impairs your prefrontal cortex, the part that dictates your goals and values.
Why? Your brain is designed to reserve your energy for super stressful, life-threatening emergencies. And let’s face it, this role of your brain is outdated and irrelevant to your life today in modern society.
While saving your brain’s conscious decision-making power is great for surviving in the wild, it doesn’t help you achieve your biggest goals and dreams. In fact, it does the opposite and proliferates procrastination.
So, how can you combat your built-in affinity toward procrastination?
One magical formula: Micro-steps + mini-goals.
If you’re wondering why micro-steps and mini-goals actually work, it’s because they’re bite-sized milestones within just enough reach to make you feel accomplished.
Every time you achieve a tiny milestone, your brain gets a hit of dopamine as part of a reward system. Which gives you just enough encouragement to take on your next micro-step.
Robert Maurer, PhD, the author of One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, describes how small steps let you work around your brain’s built-in resistance to new behaviors.
He suggests using the psychology of small steps and micro-commitments to accomplish big things in your life.
Another expert, Robert Cialdini, PhD, who wrote the classic book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, explains the power of commitment and consistency in his second principle of persuasion.
Cialdini’s commitment and consistency principle is based on aligning your outer actions and promises with your inner choices and systems. Put another way, you feel out of sorts when you don’t follow through with a promise, commitment, or decision.
So, here’s how to put this magic formula into tactical terms, so you can make your goals happen quickly.
First, rate your energy level within the five core categories that make up a fully balanced (healthy + active + engaged) retirement lifestyle, including:
This rating system works wonders because it forces you to check in with yourself and your energy level, which is everything. In fact, a study out of the Netherlands found that your vitality level impacts your healthy living index by a chunky 28.4%.
Plus, self-reflection is the number one most important ingredient to taking the right action toward any of your dreams and goals.
With the right self-awareness, you can choose the right behavior, which requires discipline and only a few people do it right. So much so that a study found that even though most people believe they’re self-aware, only 10-15% actually are.
So, rate your energy level, on a scale of 1–5, in the 5 Rings of Retirement to become cognizant of a specific area in your life that needs the most attention right now.
Next, circle one of the five core categories to work on first.
It doesn’t matter if you have several areas that you need to improve. You’ll get to them later. Just focus on paring down and choose one category only.
Simple as that.
Your next step is to jot down at least three goals that you want to accomplish within this single core category. For instance, if you choose “Community,” three example goals might be:
Then, simply circle one goal to tackle first.
Don’t over-analyze or over-think it because, again, you’ll get to all of your goals soon, especially if you continue to follow this magic formula.
Here’s where the micro part comes into play. Next, turn your goal into a mini-goal and write it down. The more specific and detailed, the better.
You can use the SMART goal method to make your goal more Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.
Continuing with our “Community” example, let’s say you circled “Meeting new friends” as your goal. To turn it into a SMART goal, fill in the blanks, which may look like:
After you fill in the SMART goal blanks, turn it into a mini-goal statement, like:
My current “Community” mini-goal is to meet two new friends within the next three weeks, so I can spend time with like-minded people who enjoy similar hobbies, which will be exciting, purposeful, and healthy for me.
Then, just brainstorm and let your ideas flow without restriction or judgment. Write down as many micro-step ideas as you can.
Aim for at least 10, but the more little ways you can think of to achieve your mini-goal, the better.
Here’s where action comes into play. Without allowing yourself to stop and think about it, just commit to taking action on one single micro-step – daily.
If you’re overwhelmed by your micro-step for the day, then it’s too big. Break it down even more.
If you accomplish your goal before all your micro-step ideas are completed, nice work – you’re ready for your next mini-goal, which brings us to your final step.
Accomplish your goal and celebrate it. Then repeat the process.
That’s all there is to it.
Simple doesn’t mean easy, though. The key here is consistency. And don’t overthink it. Instead, act.
By fully committing to knocking out one micro-step every day, and staying consistent, you will be unstoppable.
One day, you’ll look up and be miles closer to your dream life than ever before.
As always, I’m rooting for you.
If you’d like help micro-stepping your way to your most fulfilling goals, book a free 1-on-1 breakthrough session with Cyn to see if you’re a good fit for joining her Rewire My Retirement program.
How will you incorporate micro-steps + mini-goals in your daily life? What’s one of your most important goals that you dream of accomplishing? Have you tried breaking it down? Which parts of your goal have you achieved already? Please share your experience and story with our community!