4 Steps to take action through writing

Greg and I have talked a lot about taking action. You can read lots of books, but if you don’t do anything with the information, you won’t be making real progress - you have to hustle! That’s where the whole idea of HabitCoach came from.

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In our opinion, writing is the most important step to taking action. It doesn’t matter what you use, a notebook or Onenote, but it’s necessary to capture your ideas. It helps you clarify your thoughts, define what you want, set measurable goals, and then prioritize them.

I write almost every day. I write about what I’m grateful for, problems I’m having, ideas that come to mind, and how I feel about different situations. It puts all of my ideas on paper, organizes my thoughts, helps me define what I want, and then prioritize what’s most important to me. It puts me in control of almost all dimensions of my life, because very few things fall through the cracks.

Here are the steps I take to keep myself working on actions that are within my control:

Step 1: I take my notes in my notebook as ideas and thoughts come to mind during the day.

When you write in a notebook, it’s freespace to say whatever you want. I use it as a way to capture all my ideas, thoughts, and concerns. I also write down anything that has distracted me from my work, but that’s better covered in our discussions on Willpower in the Power of Habit.

This keeps my mind clear and focused. I never lose sleep over problems because I’ve cleared my conscience during the day. The loose ends are nearly eliminated because I’ve written them down ahead of time.

For me, writing is a form of proactivity. When I write something down, I ask myself if it is something I have influence and control over, or if it is something that’s out of my control. I prefer to only concern myself with things that are within my control.

Step 2: I condense and categorize my notes.

I generally use 3 categories: Short Term and Long Term Goals, Ideas to think about later, and Decisions I need to make. I write next to my notes, in red: STG, LTG, I, and D. Whatever your acronyms are, or method of categorizing, it will help you keep notes organized.

Step 3: I prioritize the categorized notes based on my plans and goals.

Once a week, I review all of my notes and their categories. I do this when during my weekly planning on Sundays. I look over everything I’ve written in the last week and give it a second review.

I order notes based on what’s most important to me to accomplish. I make big picture plans, break them into projects, and finally “next actions” that take me one step close to completing each project

Step 4: I schedule the days that I need to work on specific projects and have a loose category of “next actions” that can be done whenever a I have a few free moments.

I also do this during my weekly planning. I put all my scheduled activities into Google Calendar and all my tasks into my Moleskine notebook. This step is important to do, because I don’t think it’s enough to just capture your thoughts.

I find it important to schedule fun activities too. It keeps me focused because I know when I will be doing things that are fun to me, like kayaking, motorcycling, hiking, and hanging out with friends.

Free your mind

Taking the time to write down all your thoughts sounds like a lot of work. It’s hard to convey the benefit, because, to me, it’s the peace of mind that I gain from it - it’s a feeling of freedom. You don’t get caught up thinking about your problems because when you do this for a few weeks, you will have all your “problems” under control.

To me, this is an application of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - “Be Proactive.” It’s proactivity, because I’m only working on things that are within my control and influence. Problems outside my influence, are just that - not under my influence. That’s where I gain and keep my peace of minds.

What are your thoughts and ideas on the subject?