“We often say yes to little requests because we are not clear enough about what we need to be doing instead.”
~ James Clear, “Atomic Habits”
When it comes to demands on our precious time, it is a-okay to think twice before saying the magic three-letter word: “yes.”
But sometimes, as perhaps you have discovered, it is rather difficult to say no when we don’t have a concrete reason for doing so.
In his book, “Atomic Habits; An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones,” author James Clear explains that a significant reason people struggle to develop the habits necessary to achieve whatever is they want to, is because they lack clarity about the specifics of when and how they are going to do what needs to get done.
I see this an awful lot: a person may be fairly clear about what they want to achieve, but try as they might, they can’t seem to develop the habits necessary to do the work (or take the rest, as the case may be), day in and day out. So when a demand on their time comes along – or yet another distraction presents itself (e.g. social media/the phone) – it can be tough not to give in.
“Many people think they lack motivation, when what they really lack is clarity.”
– James Clear, “Atomic Habits”
“It is not always obvious when and where to take action,” continues Clear. “Some people spend their entire lives waiting for the right time to make an improvement.”
“Implementation Intention” to the rescue!
“An implementation intention” explains Clear, “is a plan you make beforehand about when and where to act. That is, how you intend to implement a particular habit.”
“Hundreds of studies have shown that implementation intentions are effective for sticking to our goals,” the author continues. “People who make a specific plan for when and where they will perform a new habit are more likely to follow through.”
“Once an implementation intention has been set,” says Clear, “you don’t have to wait for inspiration to strike. Do I write a chapter today or not? Do I meditate this morning or at lunch? When the moment of action occurs, there is no need to make a decision. Simply follow your predetermined plan.”
As a personal example, when I was in Paris recently, the purpose of my trip was partly to work on a screenplay and partly to enjoy the city (and stay at a swanky hotel!). Since I often combine work and travel, I knew I needed a plan in place, so that I would stay on track with my writing and enjoy exploring. I decided ahead of time that I would write for 3 hours in the morning – for five out of the eight days. And since I had already developed the daily morning writing habit after years of practice at home, I was easily able to accomplish what I set out to…in a city teeming with infinite distractions.
Another benefit, of course, to setting an implementation intention is that it helps us say no to whatever distraction or demand on our time that will derail us from our intended task (even if that task is lying in the hammock & reading a book!).
“Being specific about what you want and how you will achieve it helps you say no to things that derail progress, distract your attention, and pull you off course,” explains Clear. “We often say yes to little requests because we are not clear enough about what we need to be doing instead.”
“When your dreams are vague,” the author continues, “it’s easy to rationalize little exceptions all day long and never get around to the specific things you need to do to succeed.”
Wise words indeed. As such, it is imperative to get crystal clear on what our goals are, what we are going to have to do to achieve them, and, most importantly, what habits we need to develop to do so.
You may know WHAT small but significant changes you need to make in your daily routine – now you just need to make them. But even if you don’t know exactly what your goal or dream is, making a daily habit of carving out the time to figure it out might be prudent (hammocks are very conducive to this sort of activity).As easy as it is to allow ourselves to be distracted – and say yes to demands on our time because we have no concrete reason to say no – the long-term costs can be very high indeed. Click To Tweet
Hope you are enjoying summer! It is sand dollar collecting season here 🙂
Maryanne Pope is the author of “A Widow’s Awakening.” She also writes screenplays, playscripts and blogs. She is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and a co-founder of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. To receive Maryanne’s blog, “Weekly Words of Wisdom,” please subscribe here.