Yesterday in Paying the Price I said that we can only claim that we really want something if we are prepared to pay the price. This applies whether we want to play a musical instrument, get fit, set up our own business, write a book or even just have a tidy office.
This is closely related to what I said In Willpower and Time Management - I :
“Consistent action to follow one’s long-term goals can only be carried out by constructing a scenario in which it’s easier to do the right thing than the wrong thing.”
In the past I’ve frequently used the analogy of a river and a swamp. In both cases water is just doing what water does, and the difference lies in the surrounding circumstances.
In the same way humans just do what humans do. The difference between success and failure in a productive goal is all in the surroundings.
The reason is because a catch-all system is based on a long list of everything that you have to do. Since the list may be fifty to a hundred items (or more) long it is obviously impossible for it all to be done immediately. So it becomes a list of things over which you are delaying action.
The process you are building into your brain with a catch-all list is therefore:
- Decide to do
- Put on List
- Delay action
A no-list system on the other hand is about immediate action. A no-list system will typically be dealing with five or less tasks at a time.
Therefore the process you are building into your brain with a no-list system is:
- Decide to do
- Put on list
- Take action
You have the impulse to do something, and almost immediately you take action on that impulse. The act of writing it down prevents you from merely drifting. Writing it focuses the mind and ensures that you are taking action purposefully.
The very fact that you have started to take action begins to lay down patterns of action in your brain.
Perhaps the most important pattern is that when you write something on your list you take action on it. Action becomes the natural consequence of writing something down. And writing something down is the natural consequence of deciding to do it.
Another almost equally important pattern is that once you’ve written something down and have started to take action you tend to continue in that action in the future. Every time you continue to take action you reinforce the new pattern.
A third important pattern is that having written actions down in a certain order you have begun to lay this down as a pattern for action in the future.
What has happened is that you have initiated action, reinforced action and laid down a sequence of action. You have in other words constructed the circumstances which will lead you to sticking with the goal.