12 Powerful Ways to Develop the Action Habit

by Henrik Edberg

By Henrik | G+

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.”
Napoleon Hill

What makes dreams into reality?

I believe that perhaps the most important and neglected thing is taking action.

I used to be really bad at it when I was younger.

Back then I usually got stuck.

I got stuck in my dreams about what I wanted to do. I got stuck in analysis paralysis due to my habit of overthinking things. I got stuck in procrastination and fear.

Things have changed a lot since then though. I have added many new habits that help me to take much more action than I used to.

I hope this article will help you to do the same.

1. Get your day off to a great start by doing the most important thing.

I first learned about this about 12 years ago when I used to sell computers. The boss told us that if we took care of the most important task of the day – often one of the more difficult ones too – right away in the morning the rest of the day would be a lot easier and lighter.

He was right about that. When that that first and most important task is done you don’t have to worry about it. It won’t weigh down on your day. You feel good about yourself.

And you’ll have less inner resistance to taking action for the rest of the day.

2. Just take responsibility for your actions and the process.

I love this quote from the ancient Sanskrit Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita:

“To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction.”


Because every time I look at it or remind myself of it I feel a sort of freedom and relief.

This quote reminds me to understand that I cannot control the results of my action. I can’t control how someone reacts to what I say or what I do.

It reminds me that it usually works better for me to stay motivated to keep doing what I do if I do something I really like doing.

Basically, I do what I think is right and that is my responsibility. And then the rest (the possible results), well, that is not up for me to decide about or try to control.

I let it go.

Taking action – and life overall – becomes a so much lighter activity when you only have to take responsibility for doing what you think is right.

3. Don’t feel like doing it? Start small.

Getting the most important thing done first thing in your day and setting yourself up for an action-packed day sounds great in theory.

But in reality you will have unmotivated days. Days when you feel emotionally low or when you are confronted with a having to do something you don’t want to do.

That’s life. But no reason to let that sink your day into inaction and feeling sorry for yourself.

I have found that the best thing for these situations is to start very small. To just write for 1-2 minutes. To lift free weights for just a few repetitions.

To spend 2 minutes with getting started on something that scares me.

After that I have the choice to go do something else. But I seldom do. I just need an easy way to get started and then, when I am in motion, I usually continue taking action for a while longer.

4. Don’t hurt yourself.

This is a powerful motivator for me to grow and to become a better person.

If I don’t do what I deep down think is the right thing to do then I hurt myself and my self-esteem. What I do – or do not do – during my day sends powerful signals back to me about what kind of person I am.

There is no escaping yourself. And there is always a price to pay if you don’t do what you think is the right thing.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you have obey some perfectionist standard. I certainly don’t and that would just end up hurting my self-esteem too.

5. A reminder for focus.

If you don’t remind yourself often about what you need to focus on and why you are doing it then it is easy to let days slip away or to spend too much time on less important things.

I have used many reminder notes for this that over the past years.

This summer I am for example using a small post-it note by the window behind my computer. On it I have written down a few lines about the core-fundamentals I will work on this summer to keep growing my business.

6. Stay accountable to the people in your life.

An accountability buddy can help you to stay on track and to keep taking action towards your goal or dream even when the initial enthusiasm has dissipated.

For example, many of you as readers help me to stay accountable to provide helpful content. I get feedback all the time about if I do things in a helpful or less helpful way. I get a ton of encouragement.

People closer to me in my life help me to stay accountable to for instance not eating too much unhealthy stuff, to working out and to not working too much.

Find someone who wants to get in better shape too. Or start a business online. Motivate each other. Keep each other accountable so you take action and take steps forward each week.

If you have trouble at first with finding someone in real life for that then go looking in forums and on membership websites for people to help and to be helped out by.

7. Cycle fully focused work and fully relaxing rest.

Get your kitchen timer or access the stop-watch function on your cellphone.

Set the timer for 45 minutes. During those minutes just work on your most important task in life right now. Nothing else. No distractions.

After those 45 minutes are up, take a relaxing break. Distract yourself on Facebook if you like. Or step away from your work space and take a short walk, stretch or go for an apple for the next 15 minutes.

By working these fully focused periods of time you’ll get more done and do work of higher quality. You’ll be able to concentrate for a longer time in your day and week and get less tired. You’ll train yourself to focus on one thing at time, instead of getting stuck in your mind between work and relaxation and building up friction and stress within.

And you’ll be able to enjoy your rest periods without a guilty conscience.
45 minutes of work too much? Try 25 minutes instead.

Procrastinating half-way into your 25 minute period? Set the timer for 10 or 5 minutes and build up the time that you can fully focus on the work over the next few weeks and months.

8. Focus more on the how to and less on the what-ifs.

If your mind starts spinning as you are thinking about taking action then in your mind shout: STOP!

Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in the negative spiral of analysis paralysis.

Sure, it is smart to think before you act in many cases but to overthinking things tends to become a way to try to control things you cannot control or to simply stay away from action because you are scared in some way.

After you have said stop to that train of thought open up your mind to what you can do instead of all the things that could go wrong in the worst case scenario.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • What is one small step I can take today to move forward towards my goal or out of this situation?
  • What can I learn from this situation that may seem bleak or negative?
  • What is one hidden opportunity in this situation?

Write down the answers you come up with.

When I ask myself these questions I often come up with a small plan from what to do next too. So if that happens to you then write it down too.

Then take a small step forward. You’ll feel better about yourself and your situation and your worries will decrease.

Not everything will go as you may thought or hoped but you can always course-correct and learn along the way.

9. People don’t care that much about what you do so don’t let that hold you back.

When I was younger I almost always let what people may have thought or said if I did something hold me back and I got stuck in inaction.

It was more of a self-centered than accurate belief.

In reality people have their own things going on in busy lives. They think about the job, kids, a partner, the cat, a vacation, what to have for dinner and they worry about what you and other people may think about them.

You are probably not the main character in other people’s lives. Even if you are that in your own life.

A realization that can be a bit disappointing but something that can also can set you free from self-imposed bonds.

10. Tap into enthusiasm.

When you dream and when you get started with something new in life then the enthusiasm flows like a fountain.

A few weeks later it may have gone down quite a bit. Don’t let that lead you to quitting if you think this is something you want to continue doing.

Tap into enthusiasm in your surroundings instead.

Let the enthusiasm of your accountability buddy flow of over to you and create a flow back to him or her by being enthusiastic about his or her goals and dreams.

Listen to podcasts or audiobooks by inspiring people.

Read blogs, websites and take courses that help you to get a dose of enthusiasm every week.

Bring the enthusiasm of the rest of the world into your life. Let the enthusiasm from friends, children or pets your flow over to you. Listen to music and watch movies that increase your enthusiasm for life.

11. Add the fun.

Some things might not seem that fun to take action on.

Add some music that gives you energy and inspires you on top of the task and it becomes more fun and light to do it.

Or make it into a game where you compete with friend about who can finish something first or do the most amount of something in 30 minutes.

Change your perspective on what you are doing, lighten things up a bit and you can take a lot of action that you may have procrastinated on.

12. Celebrate what you did today.

Take 2 minutes at the end of your day to appreciate and celebrate what you have taken action on today. No matter how small the action may have been.

It will motivate you to get going tomorrow too. It will increase your self-esteem over time.

It will make you feel good about yourself and that feeling will spread to the people in your life too.

Image by Ibrahim Iujaz (license).

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Paul Matthews June 28, 2013 at 4:40 pm

As a long term anxious guy I can really relate to the clutches of fear holding me back. Your post really connected with me, especially #2 and #8. Anxious people have trouble with the journey part of doing anything.

Your reminder to focus more on the process than the goal is a good one. The key is to construct a solid process so you don’t keep busy on the wrong things, a neat little avoidance trick.

Action before achievement makes sense to me – thanks.

Paul Matthews

Henrik Edberg July 1, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Glad you found it helpful, Paul. Thank you for reading!

Chinwags and Tittle-Tattles June 28, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Thank you for this inspiring post Henrik.

I especially would like to adhere to #12 Celebrate what you did today, on a daily basis.

When we are too busy, we forget to tap our shoulder for the littlest accomplishments we manage to squeeze in during the course of the day.

Have a lovely weekend!


Henrik Edberg July 1, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Thank you, I appreciate that!

Vincent N June 28, 2013 at 6:14 pm

I find that the mindset shifts are the most powerful, e.g. 2, 8-10. Those take self-reflection to realize that you need to make a change and I think that’s more of treating the disease itself rather than the symptoms. With that said, #12 would be my most endorsed action-taking method.

Henrik Edberg July 1, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Thank you for sharing your perspective and what has worked the best for you, Vincent!

Kael June 28, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Thank you for the great tips!

I think the allocation of priorities are vital to creating a day of accomplishments! We push things off and the guilt can create too much resistance for the day! @GrowthGuided

Henrik Edberg July 1, 2013 at 1:13 pm

You’re very welcome, Kael!

Christy King June 29, 2013 at 1:52 am

Great post – thanks! I would also mention that related to starting small is breaking big jobs into small discrete tasks. Several summers ago our family (youngest then around 8) built a teeny little “house” in the backyard, though we had no building experience. We learned each new skill, one at a time, and it kept it all from being hopelessly overwhelming. Not only is or little house well built but we all had a great experience working together.

Henrik Edberg July 1, 2013 at 1:14 pm

That’s a great addition, thank you for sharing your house-building experience!

Manny June 29, 2013 at 2:42 am

I found inspiration and motivation to do and act NOW, instead of spending time and effort in random thinking and stupefying analyzes of diverse plans.

More power.

Henrik Edberg July 1, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Awesome to hear, thank you Manny!

Crisbd June 29, 2013 at 11:37 am

Indeed, it won’t get done without you doing it.

But choosing which alternative to follow means you need to overcome your self-sabotage mechanism. It will try and convince you that “this” is the right thing to do when reflection would tell you it is not! It’ll get emotional when it sees you’re no longer being gullible and believing every single thought it gives you…

Yet before all this, there’s a little-known choice you always make, see more at http://www.lifestrategies.net/what-to-do

SJ Scott July 1, 2013 at 6:44 pm


All of these are simply wonderful tips for getting the action habit started. I particularly and fun of number three. The most important thing in taking action is to do it even when you don’t feel like it. I find that often if I start with something small and do a few of the disagreeable things I don’t like, I suddenly find myself energized and ready to start other tasks.

Taking action is something to work on at all times, not only when you feel like it!

Henrik Edberg July 2, 2013 at 4:00 pm

I often do exactly the same in those situations, SJ. And I agree, you cannot always wait until you feel like taking action.

Lorenz July 2, 2013 at 1:47 am

great post! definitely got me to stop procrastinating on my blog post and actually start working again. Thank you for this

Henrik Edberg July 2, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Lorenz, thank you for reading and for your kind words!

Serena July 2, 2013 at 2:28 pm

One of the things I find difficult about taking action is when my day gets started late. It’s the worst – then my whole day is shot and I’m super unmotivated. Any tips for that particular issue?

Henrik Edberg July 2, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Tip #3, starting small works best for me in those situations.

Marie July 2, 2013 at 10:07 pm

I like the focus in the process and northerner end result.

John July 3, 2013 at 10:45 am

I love this post! My favorite is the part about thinking about the what if’s. The what ifs rarely ever happen. What If my dog died? What if a cat hits me on the way to work? What if I lose my job?

All of these crazy possibilities that have a less than one percent chance of happening. Something I learned from the new Superman movie.

“Take the leap, the trust will come later”

Lisa July 3, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Very inspirational. I like #6.

Esmy July 3, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Very inspirational, it is important that we take action because nothing just happen, like the post.

Olu July 3, 2013 at 8:15 pm

I used to struggle really bad with enjoying a day that is not going as planned. Now I focus on staying enthusiastic about my day and my goals in general. #10. Tap into enthusiasm says it better.


Dimpu July 4, 2013 at 1:07 am

Thanks Henrick for your valuable contribution towards the betterment and upliftment of mankind by presenting so many inspirational articles . I thoroughly enjoy reading them and try to absorb and implement these wonderful facts into my personality. God Bless

DT July 4, 2013 at 6:34 am

Nice list. I think #2 summarizes the entire process. Taking responsibility for yourself is basically making the decision to be disciplined. It’s not skill, but discipline that typically separates the winners from the losers.

Barbara July 4, 2013 at 2:10 pm

I thought #10 was interesting, I often struggle to really separate work and rest so completely. Great article.

Keynote Motivational Speaker July 6, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Love the quote from the Gita which is full of inspiration, ‘Try everything with your all your heart and surrender to the result whether it is positive or negative,’ is its essence.

Yasir Pervez July 8, 2013 at 8:30 am

Thank you Henrik for the great tips! specially Tip #4 Don’t hurt yourself.

John July 9, 2013 at 3:08 am

This is great stuff and it works. As someone who helps others create the life they want for themselves, I have sometimes beaten myself up for not being perfect and allowing myself to get stuck in negative patterns. Once we give ourselves permission to be human and to accept ourselves and whatever comes up as normal and stop resisting so much, we can focus on taking action and enjoying the journey. Thanks

Stephen Weber July 11, 2013 at 12:13 am

While I was reading this article I was thinking about how I can take more action in business, especially in regards to actually getting things done from Meetings (I’m a self-admitted meeting geek, as I work for a productivity tool called Less Meeting).

Our software has a lot of functionality that allows others to assign people tasks within meetings, and I think your key points on staying accountable and setting reminders are great tips. Thanks so much!

sean July 11, 2013 at 8:10 pm

I like the #8 advice, it makes me more relax and comportable. We usually do our work too much that we don’t have enough time for ourself. Forget
the time for lunch just to finish the work we started. An idea came to my mind is even how much time we give for work it will never end. Our work will only be ended, when we are dead, To have less stress give appropriate time, and leave the undone for the next day with no hassle. sound false but it’s true.

Braden Talbot July 13, 2013 at 5:53 pm

I have a 30-minute rule:

It takes me about 30 minutes to get into a good creative groove for anything (writing, programming). So I just push through that 30 minute window and I am gold.

Sean July 14, 2013 at 9:42 pm

I like#12 celebrating what you have done for the day, and have motivation for tomorrow, Thank you

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