3 Words That You Need to Tell Yourself Daily

I was a really messy kid.

Growing up, my parents referred to me as Pig-Pen…often. Yeah, the kid surrounded by a dust cloud from Peanuts.  I had the uncanny ability to make a mess in a matter of seconds, no matter where I was or what I was doing.

I was a walking crime scene, leaving evidence EVERYWHERE: dirty dishes in the sink, change from my pockets on the counter, a movie case left out on the living room floor, or a blanket left unfolded on the couch.

Now, over the years I’ve gotten a bit better, but it wasn’t until recently that I had a breakthrough, thanks to three simple words taught to me by my friend Brett over at Art of Manliness.

Since my epiphany, I’ve applied these words to a few different aspects of my life like building healthy habits, n0t missing a workout, preparing healthy meals, and even paying my bills.

If you can successfully implement this rule consistently, I guarantee that not only will your life improve, but the lives of the people IN your life — roomates, a signifigant other, or your family – will improve as well.

Everybody wins!

This is going to sound WAY too simple to be effective, but trust me.

Are you ready?

“DO IT NOW!”

The epiphany

light bulb epiphany

I tend to leave things out after using them, and put things off until later when I’m “less busy.”  Sound familiar?

It wasn’t until about 10 of these things happened at the same time one night that I realized I needed to make a change.

A few weeks back, I didn’t have any work to do and was looking forward to an evening of playing Batman: Arkham Asylum (I realize I’m late to the party of this one, but fantastic game). Before firing up the game, I walked over to a local restaurant and grabbed a burrito bowl to bring home…burrito bowl and Batman? Win.

I walked in the door, and that’s when I noticed just how bad my “I’ll do it later” behavior had become:

  • I went to grab a fork, but all of my forks were in the sink or dishwasher.
  • After cleaning off a fork and eating, I went to throw my food away, but there was no trash bag in the trash can, as I had taken the trash out earlier that day and failed to put a new liner in.
  • After a few hours of playing Arkham Asylum, I was pretty tired and wanted to read before bed.  I walked into my bedroom and discovered the giant pile of laundry on my bed I had neglected to fold and put away earlier that day.  I was so lazy, I just pushed the clothes to one side of the bed and got in (shut up, you know you’ve done it too!).
  • I opened up my Kindle Paperwhite (to read Jack Reacher #8), and it died after 5 minutes – I’d forgotten to charge it the night before when it gave me a low battery warning.
  • So I woke up on a pile of unfolded laundry (well played, Steve), and wandered into the kitchen to make a smoothie and a cup of green tea.  My blender was  full of water (“soaking”) in the sink from my previous smoothie the evening before…and so were all of my mugs.

Uber fail.

It was at this point in the morning that I said to myself, “Steve, you’re an idiot. And lazy. And an idiot. It’s time to make a change.”

And that’s when I remembered a video from Art of Manliness five months earlier that I had watched but hadn’t really bothered to pay much attention to.

Stop making extra work, fool!

Art of Manliness – Do It Now

After I watched this video and noticed just how much extra work I was making for myself – just how much time I was wasting by putting things off.  Instead, I decided to only deal with something ONCE, and then move on.   Big thanks to my friend Leo Babauta for this tip.

I was doubling the amount of work and brain power required to get things done:

  • If I put my coat on the back of a chair, eventually I have to pick it up and then move it to the closet.  That’s two moves, instead of just one.
  • After eating dinner, putting my dishes in the sink instead of in the dishwasher is two moves: Eventually they’ll have to end up in the dishwasher, why not just do it the first time?
  • Leaving things in the sink to “soak” is two moves. In order to use that item again, I would have to get the soap out and clean it. Why didn’t I  just clean it immediately so that it’s ready for when I needed it again? Too many moves!
  • Reading an email and then reminding myself to respond later (only have to read it again and then respond) is two moves.  Why not just take the time to read once, respond immediately, and move on?  Less work!

“Eventually” is still my responsibility

Long Road

On top of that, I came to the realization that no matter how long I put something off, I still had to deal with it eventually.  And not only that, but I would often have to deal with a LOT of things I put off…all at the same time.

Apathy does not allow us to neglect responsibility: We’re gonna have to deal with it at some point, usually when we’re too tired to deal with it (but have to, like laundry on the bed), or because we’re up against a deadline, (like when our rent is due but we put off buying stamps which we need to mail the damn check in)!

Not only that, but we also are adding the extra mental stress of having that thing having over our head: When we have to walk past the sink full of dishes, look at the half-finished paper that needs to be finished, or see the laundry that needs to be folded, we mentally take on the weight of those things!

No joke, I think I’ve had to file for an extension to file my taxes each of the past four years - not because I was sooooo busy with life (that’s a lie), but because I continually pushed them off until it was too late, making extra work for myself in the process.  In this Simpsons clip, I am definitely Homer, not Ned (“I have a to-do pile!??!?!”). 

Here are some other things that I would put off, only to have to deal with them later or get screwed because I ran out of time:

  • Dumping laundry on my bed to fold later – The same goes for sheets…is there anything worse than wanting to go to bed and then remembering that you still have to put sheets on the bed?
  • Not working out when I’m full of energy, saying “I’ll do it later.”  Suddenly, it’s 11 o’clock and I haven’t worked out yet – then I have to work out at home or not at all, because the gym is already closed.  Damn!
  • Not writing a Nerd Fitness article during the day because there are more fun things online (Twitter! Facebook! This!), and soon it’s midnight and I have to write an article due the next day…Sorry, team Nerd Fitness, I’m definitely getting much better!

The challenge

Evolution

Over the past few weeks, I’ve taken steps to level up my life.

I want you to level up with me.

Take the “Do It Now” challenge.

Stop making extra work for yourself – just remind yourself to freaking DO IT NOW, which accomplishes three crucial things:

  • Less work - Why do more when you can do less and get the same results?
  • It gets done - It’s gonna have to happen eventually, why not now?
  • Less mental stress - Every day spent procrastinating is another day spent worrying about that thing. Do it now, and move on with your life!

When faced with a task, you have a split-second to decide to “Do It Now” rather than put it off til later.  The second you start to waver, it becomes easier and easier to rationalize the lazy behavior.

  • If you are going to work out today – do it immediately upon waking up.  Certainly do it before you sit down on the couch to watch TV after work.  If you wait ’til the end of the day, you’ll be out of willpower and you’ll put it off til tomorrow.  Get off your ass and  go do it now! Like, right now. It only takes 20 minutes.  If you can’t get yourself to believe in 20 minutes, just drop and do 5 push ups. Go for a five minute walk.  The important part is getting started, so put on that hard hat and GO TO WORK!
  • If you’re going to cook meals for this week, cook them all on Sunday.  Get everything done ahead of time, so you don’t have excuses when work gets busy and you get to use the lame “oops, forgot to cook, off to McDonalds!” Excuse. You’re better than that!
  • If you spend all day in your email inbox, stop making more work for yourself.  Read, respond immediately, or archive.   I cover  email productivity in my Guide to Productivity (big props to Jared from AwayFind for the email tips). I guarantee that this one trick alone will save you hours a week.
  • Do the dishes immediately after dinner, or start cleaning while you’re cooking the rest of the meal – put them right to the dishwasher or wash them right away.  When your laundry is done, fold and put away immediately.  If you have mail, open it and deal with it posthaste :)

How to follow through

Field

Yes, I know, easier said than done - we are stubborn creatures of habit, and making these changes can be difficult.  However, change is certainly not impossible.  Here are some tips to make sure you actually follow through with your goals:

  • Reinforce “Do it Now” CONSTANTLY.  I have my post-it notes above my laptop to remind me to just do the damn thing now.  Set a reminder on your calendar to ping you twice a day that just says “Do It Now.”  If you are not constantly reminded up front, you’ll forget and slip right back into old habits.
  • Make it a focal point for the next 30 days.  Don’t try to change anything else while you try “Do it Now.”
  • Make yourself accountable – Put out a ‘lazy’ jar.  Every time you catch yourself putting something off that you should do now, add 5 bucks to the jar (this money gets donated to a charitable cause…or if you’re maniacal, the political party that you oppose).  Conversely, every time you do something now that you would normally put off, give yourself a check mark in a google doc or on a piece of paper!  50 check marks = new pair of pants, video game, or a trip to space  (budget dependent).
  • Make others make you accountable.  Recruit your housemates, significant other, or children.  Ask them to call you out when you’re slacking.  It’ll be a fun game for them to call you out guilt free, and it will make you take personal responsibility for your actions.

Are you with me?  

 Do you have a funny tale that ends with “I can’t believe I was that lazy?”  

What steps are you going to take to make sure that doesn’t happen again?

Leave a comment – I’d love to hear it!

-Steve

PS: Greetings from Florianopolis, Brazil…one of the most beautiful places in the world, full of quite possibly the most beautiful people in the world.  I’m here for just a few days, recovering from the chaotic adventures during Carnival in Rio De Janeiro. It was by far the biggest and craziest party I’ve ever attended.  Tchau!

###

photo source: pigpen, field, evolution, lightbulb, long road

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  • D_chelyst

    Sounds like you need to do one of those pomodoro tomato thingies….work at 1 task for 20-25 minutes, then rest for 5-10.  Rinse, repeat till the work is done.

  • D_chelyst

    You haven’t reached your “I Have Had Enough” moment yet (phrase is Joe Sangl’s, not mine)….things will change one way or another when you do!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicki.guerra Nicki Guerra

    I love this! I definitely need those three words in my head all the time.

  • Melissa Vetten

    I once slept on my couch for TWO NIGHTS because I hadn’t put clean sheets on my bed AND there was a pile of unfolded laundry on my bed!
    Yeah… I can’t believe I was that lazy!

  • http://twitter.com/Veritas1977 Jason

    Here’s the laziest thing I do: I’ll see The Matrix, or another equally awesome movie, on something like TBS and I’ll sit there and watch it. Edited, full of commercials, etc…and I have the DVD not 50 feet away. LAZY. 

  • Hello

    I learned this the day my son was born.

  • Jh

    Ill definitely try this sometime, starting tomorrow!

  • Roguemonkey

    Don’t “bet she would help with accoutability”… Ask her now! ;)

  • Pinupplease

    Love this, pretty much what I’ve been doimg thanks for helpful advice :)

  • Joe Mieden

    This sounds great, but I don’t have time so I guess I’ll do it later…

    Just kidding- this is awesome and was the kick in the pants that I needed. Thanks Steve!

  • http://twitter.com/1Super_Human Rob Finlayson

    this sounds a LOT like me in college. since then i’ve gotten way better… or so i’d thought. until my girlfriend and i moved in together then POOF turns out i leave stuff lying around much more often than i thought!

  • KLM

    As opposed to frazzled from scrambling to make up for things undone?

  • Walter Guerrero

    Hey Man I just want to thank you, I’m from Guayaquil, Ecuador and reading your articles has helped me to built a better version of myself in every aspect possible,so I just wanted to thank you and encourage you to keep going and keep doing this amazing job you make every day

  • Jennifer Shigley

    Want to know something funny? Three words have changed my entire house… No joke. I’m a huge fan of Getting Things Done but am always trying to over complicate it… So I decided… “Jen, stop being like Steve was… Do it now.” So doing it now I am doing. Laundry? done… folded, put away and everything. Dishes… Done AND the dish washer is empty and not because there’s a pile on the counter waiting to go in it! And the kitchen table is clear… oh the list goes on… And I find myself more relaxed and more time TO relax. CRAZY talk, I know. 

    Husband asks me the other day… What are you doing? I reply… “It now.” haha. We are both applying this our little world and it’s making such a difference. 

    Three simple words helped me apply SO many rules of staying organized and keep my world intact. I love it. Love it. LOVE IT! 

    Thank you. And thank you for sharing how things WERE for you… because that is SOOOO how we were last week. Takes 3 weeks to make a habit… so I have a few more weeks to go. This is the longest I’ve gone without a laundry basket full of clean clothes waiting to be folded… I’m loving it. 

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  • http://www.stevekamb.com Steve Kamb

    hahaha, i’m the same way.  Just take the movie out of the DVD case and save yourself 30 minutes? Nope! I’ll watch the crappy TV version.

    Sigh….

    At least you’re not alone in this! 

  • http://www.elitetravel.ge/ Hotels Tbilisi

    Great post

  • http://profiles.google.com/neufeldorama Heather Neufeld

    THe whole “do it now” concept really transformed how I live s well. Funny how just tending to things as they happen, and putting things away and doing what needs to be done to just get it over with frees up so much time and energy for life. Main thing though – when I put things away I know where they are. No more playing “find the thing” :)
    ps-That domo picture made my day…

  • ashley

    So this is completely true. Most people these days are to lazy to do what they need to do.
     Get it done first, before anything else. I am honestly like that sometimes, but mostly because I’m worrying about everything else that I need to do. This is great and I think more people should read it.

  • Rubella

    As Marry Poppins said,  “Well begun is half done.”

  • Rocio Valenzuela

    You are so smart! :D I love your blog. Plus it is the coolest blog I’ve ever seen. After I read your blog the Paleo diet makes a lot of sense. I know nutricionists and everybody say you HAVE to eat bread, but it totally makes sense, we didn’t have bread before and people were just fine!

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  • Mel warman

    I have been lazy, but funny thing I have started to implement some of these things, particularly email. So I will do the 30 day challenge starting today….wish me luck! Especially since I have several years of taxes to do!

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  • tansypants

    I am currently not cooking/doing dishes because I am reading and commenting on this post. I am rationalizing this as an investment.

    Ok. I’m gonna go do it now. Thanks

  • tansypants

    Things I have achieved since reading this post:
    1. Turned up Alestorm to full volume. A prerequisite of getting anything else done.
    2. Cleaned floor
    3. a) Folded laundry (it’s been languishing in the drier for a few days now)
    3. b) Put laundry away
    4. portioned out enormous keto-quiche and put in freezer
    5. Cooked enormous pot of beef satay (can’t portion out as I’m all out of tupperware… I put off bringing it home from work. whoops)
    6. Dishes in dishwasher. (And that spoon that’s still crusty and has been though like 5 times now? I took it out, and scrubbed it, and put it back in again)
    7. Cleaned the plug strainer in the sink (I’m especially proud of this as I ALWAYS put it off)
    And now I’m going to bed.

    Thanks NF. This wouldn’t have happened without you!

  • tansypants

    I thought Howlers were just for Harry Potter?

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  • http://twitter.com/YouEverySecond Nicolas Daudin

    Great post. Never realized about the once thing… It applies to so many of my routines! Thanks for sharing!!

  • http://modernhealthmonk.com/ Alexander Heyne

    Hahaha can’t I dream!?

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  • Eoghan

    I slept on my bed in a sleeping bag for 2 weeks recently because I was always either ‘too busy’ or ‘too tired’ to put on new bedclothes during a particularly hectic stretch..! Do it Now certainly are three words that I need in my life!

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