Lost in procrastination? Here's how to stop sharpening your axe

heather thatcher stress management expert

by Heather Thatcher

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I feel that I need to explain my title. 

Have you ever heard of the quote by Abraham Lincoln where he said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”?

It’s a great quote and talks about an excellent way to ensure our success. 

Instead of just setting a goal and plowing forward, hoping that everything lines up just right so that we can achieve it, he is suggesting that we spend more time thinking out our plan of action.

But this, my dear friend, is where so many of us get stuck sharpening our axe waiting for the right time, the right circumstances, or for when we’ll feel ready.

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I really enjoy planning. Getting my planner out and fancy markers and stickers bring me a lot of joy. And now that I’ve gone digital I still enjoy playing around with colors on my planner app and with my to-do lists.

I could spend hours thinking things through for my business, for my life and creating detailed plans with to-do lists and timelines.

As I’m sure you can relate, I’m also guilty of having these beautiful, grand plans with lofty goals…and that’s where they stay.

As plans.

But I keep coming back to my list, revamping it, rethinking it and setting up new timelines and deadlines.

According to Abraham Lincoln, I’m still in the axe sharpening phase. I haven’t even considered starting to chop down that tree.

Like I said before, `

Taking that first step is where many of us get stuck, though.

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I was having a conversation with one of my Mindset Reboot graduates about starting her own online business to start impacting lots of people’s lives. 

She had finished the Mindset Reboot course a while ago and has grand plans for how she’s going to create a nutritional program for women struggling with a condition called PCOS which makes it VERY challenging to maintain a healthy weight due to hormonal imbalances. She wanted to show these women that they don’t have to struggle with food anymore. Wonderful, right?

But since finishing the program, she’s done nothing but dream about her business idea. She wants to get started creating a social media presence, setting up a website, starting a podcast, and learning more about how to market her business locally. But that’s where it all ends.

She is experiencing what is commonly known as analysis paralysis.

She knows WHAT she needs to do and HOW to make that happen.

But the end goal seems too overwhelming, the to-do lists are too long and intimidating, and the fear of the unknown was keeping her stuck.

What if she tried to do this and failed?

What would her family think of her?

What if she received negative feedback, or couldn’t answer questions?

What if she succeeded? How would her life change?

All of this thinking, overthinking and planning just made everything seem impossible.

We need those big scary goals to push us and drive us to grow. But if we let that fear take hold, we will keep staying busy and feel that we’re making progress because we’re working towards that goal. But the activities that we’re dedicating our time to aren’t moving us closer to achieving that goal.

They’re just a distraction to keep us from acknowledging and healing that fear.

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This is where the Mindset Reboot Framework can help (which is the driving framework behind pillar four of the Ultimate Life Survival Guide). 

Start by acknowledging that there’s fear here or some other challenging emotion that is keeping you stuck, unable to take action towards your goal.

Then, take a step back and look at the situation from your inner mindful observer that we talked about last week. 

Notice what’s contributing to these emotions. What past experiences have created this story where you feel the fear or whatever it is? What is your inner critic saying to you in your negative self-talk?

After you’ve understood the fear, now you can release it and start to take that first step. 

Releasing it is crucial. Without it you risk creating overwhelm by looking at all that you have to do to achieve your goal. 

Just focus on that first step, trusting that the rest of the steps will fall into place under your feet when you’re ready to take them.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to break our goal and to-do list down into the next “one thing.”

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Let’s say your goal was to run a marathon.

What is the one thing that you need to have accomplished in a year to be able to run that marathon successfully?

You’d probably have built up your endurance and strength to the point that you’re successfully running long enough to endure a full marathon.

Okay, so what’s the one thing that you need in 6 months so that in one year you’ll be ready to run a marathon?

You’ll have figured out the training schedule that is going to allow you to build up that endurance.

Now, what is the one thing that you need to do at three months? One month? One week?

Today?

Well, today you can go out and get some running shoes. That’s where you need to start. 

Sure, the grand plan for the marathon will need more than just you going out and getting a pair of running shoes.

But you have to start somewhere, and you have to start there.

Breaking down the process in this way by thinking about just one thing helps us sharpen our axe. Then when it comes time to take action on that one thing, we won’t be scared or overwhelmed do to it. 

Because it’s just buying a pair of shoes, not running a whole marathon.

Think of one goal that you’ve been wanting to achieve for a while but keep procrastinating. Break it down using this process until you get to the point where you know the one thing that you need to do today to move forward on your goal.

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For my Mindset Reboot student, that was to play around with branding for her business to come up with a social media name and set up those accounts.

She didn’t have to figure out content or write anything or take any photos or decide anything else for her business.

She just had to get started by coming up with a name for her social media. Simple and easy.

Your action step for today is to think of one thing that you can do in the next 24 hours that will move you closer to your goal, and then follow me on Instagram or join our free Facebook Group and let us know what your one thing is going to be!

You can find me on Instagram @TheUltimateLifeSurvivalGuide and the Facebook group at heatherthatcher.com/facebook

Think of one thing that you need to do in the next 24 hours to move you closer to your goal, and then reach out on Instagram or in our Facebook group for some encouragement and accountability.

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