If there’s one thing that I know about life after 60 it’s that you can do anything you set your mind to. In my case, spring is here and it’s time for me to dust off my sneakers and get back in shape.
There’s only one problem. I have zero motivation to get started. Like most of you, I know what is good for me, but, I often lack the discipline to begin.
Fortunately, I have a secret weapon. I can trick myself into getting almost anything done, in just one minute a day. I’ll explain exactly what I mean, but, first, let’s look at what’s wrong with the conventional wisdom when it comes to getting more done.
Most people, even so-called productivity experts, rely on motivation, goal setting and discipline to get more done. They think that if we want something badly enough, and proclaim it loudly enough, we will find a way to make it happen. In other words, they argue that we act on our desires.
But, is that true? How many people do you know who accomplish their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and save money?
We have built an entire set of cultural traditions around the idea that setting big goals and sharing them with our friends will lead to success. It doesn’t. If anything, the idea that we can will ourselves into action accomplishes the opposite. The more we fail at our big goals, the less motivated we become to try again.
As for the social aspect of goal setting, entrepreneur Derek Sivers says that, according to several psychological studies, “Telling someone your goal makes it less likely to happen.” So much for declaring our New Year’s resolutions to the world!
So, if we don’t become what we think, is the opposite true? Do our thoughts and beliefs come from our actions? Aristotle certainly thought so when he said:
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
Many psychologists would agree with Aristotle. They argue that we have an inherent need to justify our own actions. As we act in the world, our brains are busy coming up with all kinds of explanations for our behaviors. These explanations become integrated into our personalities. So, in a very real way, we are what we do.
Ok, enough of the academic stuff, let’s look at how we can apply this to getting more done…
If you want to accomplish big goals – establish small habits and increase your commitment slowly. It’s that simple. Let’s look at a few real-world examples.
When I decided to get in shape for the summer, I didn’t immediately lace up my shoes and go for a 30-minute run. Instead, I went for a 1-minute walk, starting at exactly 7am. Tomorrow, I will walk for 2 minutes and so on, until, in a month, I am walking 30 minutes a day. Then, in month 2, I will jog for 1 minute and walk for the remaining 29. By the middle of month 3, I will be running for 15 minutes and jogging for 15.
Now, if this seems too slow for you, think about the last time that you went for a 30-minute run. I rest my case. This process may be slow, but, that’s why it works. There’s also nothing magical about 1 minute. If you want to increase your commitment in 2-minute increments, that’s fine too.
The important thing is to start with an action that is so small that it almost seems ridiculous.
I used getting in shape as an example, but, there really are no limits to what you can accomplish with this technique. Want to write your first book? Can you find a minute to get started? I’m sure you can.
If you have been waiting for the perfect time to start planning for your “side hustle” project, why not use this “start small” technique to get started? Surely, you can spare a minute today to get on the road to your dream life after 60.
Have you used this technique, or a similar technique, before? What results did you see? Do you agree that you can do anything you set your mind to after 60? What other productivity tips do you have to share? Please join the conversation.