I can see the tiny ‘like’ notifications piling up under the comment on my Instagram post. 12, 13, 14 likes.
And honestly? I get it. Because the comment is so, so relatable.
Who among us hasn’t done this?
Who hasn’t spent weeks or months researching:
- How to launch business
- The best way to calm your brain down + be more productive
- Steps to be a better ally
- How to figure out a budget, once and for all
And then … that’s where it ends. We never actually publish the first blog post or start using our planner or call our senators or open our banking app.
? WE’VE ALL DONE IT!! ?
And, I’d venture, we’ve all felt bad about it.
It sucks to give up on ourselves and our goals. It sucks to witness ourselves productively procrastinate – yet again. It sucks to hide from what we want under the guise of “research” … and know that’s exactly what we’re doing.
As someone who’s prone to this behavior and has (mostly!) gotten past it – here are my best tips to stop researching + start taking action.
1. Realize that at a certain point, research is procrastination + self-sabotage ?
#painfulbuttrue. Should we have a basic understanding of hashtags before we start an Instagram account for our businesses? Probably.
Is it a good idea to read a bunch of books about anti-racism? FOR SURE.
Can we benefit from watching Youtube videos about budget spreadsheets and couponing?
I would imagine so!
But there is absolutely a limit to what we can learn from Google or books or Youtube videos. At a certain point, we have to actually do the thing. We have to publish the post, speak up at the city council meeting, call our credit card companies.
Because what we’re doing with our months and months of research? Procrastinating and self-sabotaging in a really impressive, socially-sanctioned way. Click To Tweet
2. Break your goal down into little steps. No, even smaller.
One of my coolest tendencies is to wildly underestimate how long things take and how much work goes into them. V fun!
You, too? This looks like writing a five-point to-do list for a goal that really requires something more like 37 bullet points.
If 37 bullet points sounds overwhelming, make each bullet point comically easy + doable. Make each step so dang easy you won’t avoid taking action and you’ll set yourself up for success.
Super easy, tiny steps ➡️ we’re more likely to complete steps ➡️ easier to stay motivated.
“Find a mentor” = no
“Spend an hour reaching out to friends and see if they know anyone in my career field of choice” = yes
3. Create outer accountability
The vast majority of us can keep commitments to others, but not to ourselves. We’ll meet deadlines for clients or bosses but blow off the marathon registration or our morning meditation practice.
We can make taking action easier by giving ourselves some outer accountability.
- Make an appointment or pre-pay because you won’t disappoint your trainer, coach, or therapist by flaking out
- If you’re taking an online course, take it with a friend and schedule times to chat about it or do the work together
- Tell your friends on social media that you’re working towards this goal + tell them to ask you about it next time they see you!
4. Track your efforts, not your outcomes
☝️ This should be my first tattoo. A hard truth is that results are a lot slower than we’d like for, well, pretty much everything.
And when we’re taking action – sending pitches, calling our representatives, applying for academic programs – very often the outcome feels like … nothing.
Like, you literally never hear back.
And when it feels like you’re not making progress, it’s super easy to give up, and go back to hiding in research.
Let’s track our efforts instead! How many applications did you send out? How many petitions did you sign? How many times did you gently nudge someone to reconsider their implicit bias?
You can make a literal paper chart on your wall that you fill with gold foil stars to track your efforts! ⬆️ A thing I do and extremely recommend.
5. Celebrate said efforts
The very first online course I ever created – were you here for The Post College Survival Kit? – took months to create. It was $40 and I sold 4 seats – one to someone who clearly bought it as market research.
And you know what? I still took myself out to dinner and toasted the fact that I’d worked really hard and kept my promise to myself.
When you take action towards something you want … when you get out of your own way … when you keep your promises to yourself – YOU CELEBRATE THAT ISH.
I hope this helps you stop researching and start taking action. It’s a hard habit to break! It might take you a minute! But it’s totally possible.
Photos by STIL and Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash
Hey Sarah! You give very sound advice in this post… I’m super guilty of over-researching and procrastinating generally. I love what you said about not breaking down your to do list enough – I just recently learned on my own that being SUPER specific about the things I put on there magically makes it much easier to do them! What I need to work on more is celebrating efforts and not results. I get so easily discouraged when I focus on results and they don’t look the way I want. I am 100% going to buy some stickers and make a chart to track my efforts, as soon as I spend 2-3 hours researching which kinds of stickers are the most motivating…
Thanks for all the work you’ve put into this blog. I really love it.
– Megan @ Cultivate Happiness Now