How to Take More Action: 9 Powerful Tips

by Henrik Edberg

How to Take More Action: 10 Powerful Tips

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
Leonardo Da Vinci

To get things done you need to take action. Things seldom happen on their own.

But taking action can be difficult and hard. And so it’s easy to wind up in Lazyville or Procrastinationland a lot. How can you break out of such behaviour and develop a behaviour of taking more action?

Here are 10 tips that you’ll hopefully find useful.

1. Reconnect with the present moment.

This will help you snap out of over thinking and just go and do whatever you want to get done.

This is probably the best tip I have found so far for taking more action since it puts you in a state where you feel little emotional resistance to the work you’ll do. And it puts you in state where the right actions often just seem to flow out of you in a focused but relaxed way and without much effort.

One of the simplest ways to connect with the present moment is just to keep your focus on you breathing for a minute or two. Check out 7 more tips in 8 Ways to Return to the Present Moment.

2. Be accountable to others.

If you tell a bunch of people that you are going to do something then it will be hard to not do it. You don’t want to disappoint them. Or have to face up to them the next time you meet.

If you have a hard time getting going with something get some support. If you for instance workout, do it with a friend to motivate each other to take action – and actually go to the gym – when motivation runs low. Motivating each other and bringing enthusiasm when one of you is feeling low can really help to develop consistency and useful habits.

Think about how you can involve others to help all of you to take more action.

This tip works well. But it can put you in situation where you take action to avoid pain, to avoid judgement. And it can help you create pressure within yourself. Such a state may not always be the best one to be in to take action and perform well. One way to lessen such problems is to use this tip and then when you are about to take action you reconnect with the present moment to quiet negativity within yourself.

3. Be accountable to yourself.

In the long run a more consistent and perhaps healthier way to develop a habit of taking more action is to answer to yourself instead of others. To set your own standards and principles for how you will behave.

The problem with this one is that you are likely to cheat on yourself and rationalize how you don’t need to take action or follow your principles. When the social pressure of having to answer to others isn’t there it’s easy to slip and fall into laziness or procrastination.

But over time you can become more and more consistent with acting according to your own standards. I believe that one of the keys to develop this kind of thinking is to get off a dependence on external validation and be more internally validated. You can read more about that at # 8 in 9 Great Ways to Make Yourself Absolutely Miserable.

If you can develop accountability to your own standards then it can be more consistent than the one you get from relying on being accountable to others. It comes from within so it doesn’t have to rely on other, outer circumstances that may fluctuate.

It is also very useful to help you feel good about yourself and to help you grow. If you rely on being accountable to others and their validation then you may grow but also feel confined by what others expect from you. If you are accountable to yourself then you set your limits wherever you want them.

4. Lighten up.

One way to dissuade yourself from taking action is to take whatever you are about to do too seriously. That makes it feel too big, too difficult and too scary. If you on the other hand relax a bit and lighten up you often realize that those problems and negative feelings are just something you are creating in your own mind. With a lighter state of mind your tasks seems lighter and becomes easier to get started with. Have a look at Lighten Up! for more on this topic.

5. Use a limited to-do list.

A to-do list is a simple and great way to remember what you are about to do. But it’s easy to get overly enthusiastic when writing it and putting in to many items. And then when you look at that big list you feel drained and an urge to procrastinate.

But do you need to do all those things?

Think about what the absolutely most important items on the list are. Just two or three. Then put them on a new to-do list. This list will seem less daunting and I have found that it makes it easier to actually take action and get those things done.

6. Choose instead of should.

Here’s a small but useful tip. You don’t really need to do anything. You always choose what to do. Thinking about things this way removes the “shoulds” and “need tos” that take your personal power away and make you feel like you aren’t in control. When you think that you choose to do whatever you do then you regain the control and power. And it becomes easier to take action.

7. Focus on the how instead of the if’s.

What if’s can really mess with your mind. You can spend days, weeks or years thinking about what may happen if you take action. So instead of letting your mind get lost in what if’s focus on the how. In a situation focus on how you can do something, how you can solve a problem or achieve a goal. Do some research if you need to. Or get support and help from other people.

Focusing on the how puts your mind to better use and creates a positive attitude within rather than a negative and uncertain one. This makes it easier to take action without too much hand wringing and time spent over thinking things.

8. Get enthusiastic.

Enthusiasm is great emotional state to be in to get going and take action. And if you aren’t feeling enthusiastic then that’s OK too. You can pretty much always create enthusiasm within yourself. Check out 4 Powerful Reasons to Up Your Enthusiasm, and How to Do It for tips on how you can do that from both me and you (there are some really good suggestions in the comments section of that article).

9. Start small.

To get from a state where you just feel like sitting on your chair and doing nothing much to one where you take action over and over you can do this: start small.

Getting started with your biggest task or most difficult action may seem too much and land you in Procrastinationland. So instead, start with something that doesn’t seem so hard.

One of my favourites is simply to take a few minutes to clean my desk. After that the next thing doesn’t seem so difficult to get started with since I’m now in a more of a “take action” kind of mode.

What is your best tip for taking more action?

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{ 17 comments }

JONxBLAZE March 20, 2008 at 12:52 am

These are very powerful tips…thank you!

Craig Harper - Motivational Speaker March 20, 2008 at 12:52 pm

#4 – We must lighten up!
Now and then it’s good for us grown-ups to step out of our very serious, analytical, mature, responsible headspace and simply have some fun. For no other reason than the enjoyment it brings. Fun like kids have. Remember that? Especially some of us goal-driven, high-achiever types. In truth, some high-achievers are miserable, boring, intense, pains-in-the-ass. But then again, are you really a high-achiever if you’re not happy (Hmmm)? They’re so busy building their empire and ‘achieving’ that they miss out on the day-to-day joy and fun of life. It’s great to be focused and passionate about building our best life (I am, you are), but if, in the building of that best life there’s not some regular fun, laughing and occasional silliness, then we’re missing the point and following the wrong plan. We plan for the future (of course) but we live in the now. And if the now is constantly devoid of fun, we’re doing something wrong.
Craig

Maria - Never the Same River Twice March 20, 2008 at 3:52 pm

I recently came across a study that shows that betting money on an action really does lead people to greater success. It increases the level of public accountability and causes you pain if you don’t follow through.

Another more fundamental idea is to get clear about what you’re doing and why which lines up with item #6. We generally don’t have problems with productivity when we’re really passionate about our work.

Jennifer March 20, 2008 at 7:21 pm

Well, said Craig! We have to keep our focus on the big picture and make sure we’re not missing out on what’s most important in our present time.

Choosing to wake up enthusiastic about my day and what I’m going to do is so powerful.

One other thing which relates to number 6 is taking 15-30 minutes each morning before getting started to review your life and work goals. During this time, choose the most important things to do to reach those most important goals. I learned this in Time Power by Charles Hobbs – such a life changing book!

Karl Staib - Your Happiness Matters March 21, 2008 at 4:24 am

Reconnect with the present moment is the one that stands out the most. There are many times that I just get caught up in my thoughts instead of just experiencing the situation. An excellent reminder for anyone who wants to take more action at work or in the personal life.

Noa Rose Choose the Present March 21, 2008 at 5:26 am

Reward yourself. Even if you are passionate about your work, you still need to build in some breaks and vacations. It can be as simple as a night out with friends to celebrate a raise or project completion. Celebrate your accomplishments and you will return to work anxious to complete the next task.

Carole Fogarty March 24, 2008 at 12:38 am

Yep, lighten up does it for me. I agree with Craig.

Getting the head and body in the same place at the same time I believe is one of our greatest challenges. Planning for the future yet residing in the now.

The joys of living.

Peace, love and chocolate

Carole Fogarty

Chris Larson March 25, 2008 at 1:58 am

Great list — I often find it hard to take action… I shared you list on http://listdid.com

thanks,
chris

samuel apau danso May 15, 2008 at 5:15 pm

really enligthtened and educated this day.i think i need to start following these steps from now.thank you very much. i need more of those

seevacant June 7, 2008 at 5:41 pm

well I was the dead I’d hoped up to musician, the boys

vandana October 25, 2008 at 3:09 pm

this is simply superb

Gao yong January 23, 2010 at 4:32 pm

My English is so so!??????

Jan Torsvik February 23, 2010 at 10:55 am

Hi Henrik!

Love your stuff as always, great post…

Was wondering what you thing about the following…

Lately I hear of so many people who have this great idea for a online business, a product or service, but they seem to not get themselves, no matter what, to take action and follow through.. To really do what they need to do to produce the results they desire..

What do you thing is the biggest problem? And what could be it’s solution..?

- Jan

Luca B April 21, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Great Post!

Just one thing i wanted to add for step “5. Use a limited to-do list”. I find it very helpful to add an amount of time to spend on each list item. Sometimes i feel like a certain task might take to long and end of putting it off to the end. If you put a set amount of time on each task it doesn’t seem as hard to complete compared to a task that is going to take an undefined amount of time.

- LucaB

Blossom April 23, 2010 at 10:07 am

Great practical advice. I have even included it in my blog post at http://consciousinnerbeauty.typepad.com under the title, ‘Activate Action’

Thanks for the tips!

Blossom

Twilights May 30, 2010 at 11:26 am

Great post. I came to read this from your overthinking post. I couldn’t agree more with what you said. After all, life should be fun. Why make it hard to live? I used to make ridiculously long to-do lists and convinced myself that completing 4 out of 10 (and I wasn’t lazy) called for a celebration! That’s not satisfying or true to my inner self.

I’ll get out, action and all, and just enjoy living. Enough of being a superorganised moron!

Pam July 14, 2010 at 7:18 pm

I just wanted to say thank you for this blog and all of your wonderful tips. I have been struggling with positivity my entire life. A lot of your advice has driven me to a more positive attitude. I am still a work in progress but I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate you sharing your insights with the public. I can’t imagine a better gift than the ability to enjoy the gifts one already has in life. And your wise words have been a huge contribution toward that realization for me. Thank you.

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