Why you can’t get things done

I’ve had an enemy my entire life. It prevents me from being the person I want to be. From doing the things I want to do. From getting the things I want to get. Likely, it’s your enemy too, and you don’t even know it’s there.

I know I need to exercise. But I can’t get up from the sofa. There is a force keeping me down, telling me I shouldn’t move. It keeps my butt glued to the chair. It tells me it’s ok to skip today. It tells me about those delicious snacks in the fridge.

I know I need to connect with others. But the force consoles me. It tells me that it’s not worth the energy. Just be in your comfy bubble, it says, and take a day for yourself. You will keep on living anyway. You can satisfy your social needs by scrolling down on your phone.

I also know I need to write and create every day. But this force tells me I still have so much time in the future, so today can be a cheat day. It tells me that I deserve to be lazy, because I’ve worked so hard in the past. It tells me that I’m no good, and that nobody wants to read what I write, so there’s no point in even starting.

This force is working its effects on me even this very instant. It’s telling me to stop writing, because it’s so effortful. It told me many times it’d be better to watch a YouTube video. Just now it reminded me to check Amazon for that thing I wanted to get, and to check my phone in case some important notification came and I missed it.

The War of Art gives this force a name. It’s called Resistance.

Once you notice it, you see it everywhere. Resistance is the most pervasive force there is. It hides in all places, from the smallest daily actions to the most life-changing decisions. When you do a pushup, it tells you that you don’t need to go all the way down. When your house is in disorder, it tells you that you can tidy it up tomorrow. When you’re picking a job, it tells you that you should stick to what you already do.

Resistance is cunning, and way smarter than you. If you let it open its mouth, it can convince you of just about anything. It uses complex reasoning, tailored specifically to you, and all to keep you from doing what you need to do. It tells you that you shouldn’t even try because your best work is in the past. It tells you that you can eat that Nutella jar because your aunt bought it, so it doesn’t really “count.” It tells you that you can’t start a new routine today because it’s not Monday, or because it’s not the first of the month. If you were to say these things out loud, people would laugh you out of the room. But Resistance is so convincing, and so alluring, that you believe everything it says.

If you don’t do anything about it, you’ll become Resistance’s puppet. That is our natural state of being. Back in our early days, Resistance was useful. We had to run to hunt, and we had to hunt to eat. We were moving all day just to survive, so Resistance reminded us to rest and eat our sweets. Resistance was balanced out. But now, there is no hunt. Resistance took over.

Thing is, even today, Resistance is useful. Because it’s a compass. If it’s telling you not to do something, likely, that thing is what’s good for you. If you want to know what you should be working on, look at what Resistance is trying to prevent you from doing, and do it.

I know it’s easier said than done. The struggle with Resistance is a lifelong one. You may not defeat it completely, but you can suppress it. How? There are some things Resistance hates. For example:

If you start working on your craft every day at 9 no matter what happens, Resistance is powerless to stop you. If you have no unhealthy food at home, Resistance can’t make you eat it. If you’re used to moving every day, Resistance has a harder time making you lazy. And so on.

I’ve been fighting Resistance for a long time. Likely, you have too. Giving it a name and personifying it helped immensely. Before, I blamed “laziness” or some other property without shape. Now, it has a name and a personality. It’s my enemy, my adversary. And my goal is to defeat it so soundly it won’t ever bother me again.

The Productivity Trap

I have years of experience against it. I know it’s there, and I see it coming. But it’s too strong. I fell for the productivity trap again.

Read more

You Need a Quarterly Review

In this post I’ll tell you what a quarterly review is and why you need one.

Why do I need one?

Most of us are so deeply concerned with running our life on a day-to-day basis that we forget about the long term. What is it that you are trying to achieve, exactly?

Being productive every day feels great, but what are you really working towards? This kind of question should not be relegated to the back burner, it should be something we answer more often than we currently do. At the same time, however, we do still need to run our day-to-day affairs.

Extreme focus on the short term causes long-term blindness. Extreme focus on the long-term causes short-term blindness. We should aim to strike a balance, where we can still run our daily life while also being concerned about where the road is going.

For me, this balance is provided by performing a general review of my life every three months. I will now show you what this review looks like.

Got it. What should I do?

Every review, I answer a series of questions about the three months that passed and the three months that will follow. This allows me to evaluate my performance in the past and make changes in the future, to better align myself with my long-term goals.

This is what some sample questions would look like (click or tap to expand):

Of course, the questions vary from person to person, and I would highly recommend, in fact, you have to take the time to think about them. Coming up with your own questions is very much part of the process of understanding your medium- and long-term self.

I like to make categories first, and then to come up with questions related to such categories. This is why I used a mind map (done with the excellent mind-mapping software MindNode,) as it allows me to visually branch out categories and questions.

Every question about the past three months is paired with a question about the next. This is crucial, as performing a quarterly review without thinking about how one could be better in the future is not that useful.

Make a bunch of questions, and make yourself sit down to answer them every three months. You’ll be surprised at its effectiveness.