When is the perfect time to start a business, lose weight, start investing, become an artist, travel the world, or create the life you have always wanted?
When you have enough money?
When you have enough time?
When the kids are grown up?
When the economy is just right?
When you’ve taken enough classes?
The truth is: the perfect time to start never comes. If you want to change your life, you have to just do it.
By some strange law of the universe, we tend to fill every unplanned minute of every day with something; leading to the illusion that we don’t have enough minutes in our day. By the same token, we tend to find things to buy with every extra dollar that comes into our pocket; leading to the illusion that we don’t have enough money.
If something is important to you, don’t wait, just do it. Don’t wait until you have enough money, start investing now. Don’t wait until you have extra time, start exercising now. Don’t wait to do something nice for your spouse, do it now.
You Will Adapt
Think back to the last time you had a major shakeup in your life, such as losing a job or having to take an emergency trip somewhere. Did your world fall apart? Probably not.
Think back to the last time you had to come up with emergency money to fix your car or pay for medical expenses. You probably found the money somehow. Why can’t you find the money now?
We’re incredibly resilient creatures capable of adapting ourselves to almost any situation. Why is it that we will always adapt ourselves when our job requires us to work extra hours or come in on the weekend, but we find it hard to carve out extra time for ourselves?
Human beings are strange. We’ll drop money left and right at Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, the movie theatre, and at restaurants; but when it comes time to find an extra $100 a month to invest or start a business, all of a sudden we’re broke. The bottom line is: if it’s important to you, you’ll find the money.
The same goes for our time. We can always seem to find time to watch American Idol, or chat with a friend for hours; but when it comes time to exercise, all of a sudden we’re out of time.
If You Need Something Done, Give it to a Busy Person.
Why is this so true? Some people just seem to find time while others procrastinate.
Leap of Faith
I used to work as an Inflight French Interpreter for Continental Airlines, where I learned a lot about human nature. I heard the same story so often from flight attendants that it became predictable: “When I was hired, I told myself that I’d only fly for two years; and thirty years later, here I am!”
I realized that there were two types of flight attendants: those who loved their job and planned on doing it until they retired, and those who hated it, but couldn’t bring themselves to quit.
I found myself in the latter category after I had been flying for six years. I wanted to get involved with the film industry, but I couldn’t because I was never in one spot for more than a week. I kept telling myself that I would quit when I had saved enough money, or when I had found a job in the film industry.
Every year, I made a little more money, got a little better schedule, and it got a little harder to quit. Unfortunately, I was also a little more unhappy, and didn’t have any more money in savings. I always thought that I was different that those who were miserable but couldn’t quit; but I realized that I was becoming one of them.
The day I left Continental, it took everyone by surprise. I didn’t have a job lined up and I didn’t have anything saved; but I was finally taking control of my life. Within a few months, I had landed my first movie job.
How to Take Action
Do it Early
If it’s important to you, do it early. That means if exercise is important to you, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. If you’re writing a novel, it’s best to have written most of your weekly pages by Tuesday of each week.
The reason is: the later it gets, the more likely you are to be distracted and avoid your task. The best time to get something done is in the morning when everyone else is still half asleep. The later it gets, the more phone calls you get; and after five, the temptation to go hang out with your friends instead of exercising is immense.
For most people, Monday is the most productive day of the week. Each day thereafter gets decreasingly productive until they’re daydreaming their way through Friday.
If you want to get something done, do it early.
Make it a Routine
Once something becomes a habit, it becomes almost effortless. If something isn’t a habit, it takes a lot of energy to bring yourself to do it.
Therefore, it’s best to try to do your important activities at the same time every day in order to make it a habit. If you have to pick a new time for your important task every day, you’ll eventually burn out and just skip it all together.
Learn to Say No
In today’s hyper-information age, it’s easy to let minor emergencies take over your life. Consider how much time you spend answering email, returning phone calls, surfing the web, text-messaging, reading the paper, watching 24-hour cable news, or running errands.
All of these tasks can wait until you have finished your important project for the day. Otherwise, they can easily eat up all of your time until you have finished the day without finishing your project.
Learn to say no to some of these demands on your time. Not all phone calls and emails need an immediate response. The most important thing is that you finish what is important to you.
Just Do It
Don’t wait for the perfect time, because it will never come. Life is imperfect and unpredictable. If you want to do something, you have to just do it before you wake up thirty years later and nothing has changed.