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Give Me One Good Reason | AlmostFit.com

Give Me One Good Reason

Welcome to Almost Fit. Almost Fit focuses on improving your health by eating real food in moderation. This post is about motivation, which is central to accomplishing health, fitness, and life improvement goals. If you enjoy this post, please consider subscribing. It’s free, as always. Thanks.


Last night we had a great evening out. The idea was to get a babysitter for the kids, have dinner with friends, then go to a parenting class, and finally head to a pub for a well-earned drink or two.

Mission accomplished.

However, in the midst of all of that fun, I learned something tremendously useful that I thought Almost Fit readers either a) already do (and I’m clearly in the dark again), or b) might find really useful, as I have.

Get with the program

Our friend K. runs a very successful business, and he has done quite well despite the current economy. That in itself is a feat given that I’ve heard of several of his peers that have gone out of business recently in Oregon, but add to that a full docket of family responsibilities, and I have wondered how he does it all.

As we ate dinner, in passing I described what feels like a slightly new philosophical direction for Leo at ZenHabits.net – one of the few blogs I read every day. Leo has made a few fairly “radical” moves lately, including attempting to eliminate email from his life altogether and bucking the popular productivity trends of heavy long and short-term planning in favor of going with the flow, with a focus on being present. Not exactly common ideas in productivity and motivational circles from my admittedly limited (but interested) experience, but the concept of being present really resonates with me.

In that context, K. described how a seminar he attended has really changed his life toward being present, organized, and effective without a lot of expensive planning tools ruling his every move. His wife also noted that this has made a huge difference for K., so much so that friends have asked what has happened to him lately. [Ed. Note: At this point I’m going to leave out the name of the system until I can get a few more details, but sufficed to say I think the readers that are interested in motivation and productivity may have heard of this. I’ll update the post when I can verify the facts.]

I was intensely interested in this, not only because I’m working on a variety of personal projects that have stalled in some ways (including reviving Almost Fit to a level I’m happy with), but I really believe that the concepts of motivation and organization contribute to success in achieving health goals.

The ideas behind the system are not revolutionary; basically it involves using a log to capture thoughts, and then organizing those ideas at an established time each day. The system relies on using a calendar as a repository for thoughts and actions. As I said, these things are not new; however as part of this system they suggest a series of simple techniques that are all designed to free your mind from the clutter of a fast-paced life.

I need that.

One simple tool

To help organize myself a little better, I do what I think most of us do: I keep lists. Lots of lists. But to be honest, this often fails to be enough to motivate me to actually do the things I’ve written down.

It turns out that this is a common challenge (who knew?). To help make lists more powerful, here was his suggestion:

Rather than just writing down a task that must be done, rephrase the task to include the “why” of the task. This is similar to the concept of “positive phrasing”, but feels more practical (and useful) to me.

For example, rather than writing “do laundry”, or “Rock the laundry” (my version of positive phrasing ;)), I could rephrase it to “wash shirt to feel good at dinner tonight” – and then put that on my calendar. I know it’s a subtle difference, but the idea is to quickly state the reason that I need to do a thing, not just record the idea that it must be done. The trick of course is to keep it simple; it should be one sentence that captures the value of doing that one thing today. The power of that is then compounded when I actually schedule a time for it during the day.

So why bother? Why spend the extra few seconds to write out the reason? Ultimately, there are two key reasons that immediately come to mind: First, it’s so I don’t have to carry that reason around in my head any longer or rework through the reasoning later. My head is chock full of things I really need to purge that float around in there for years on end, and this is a good way to do it. Second, providing a reason not only frees your mind from having to recall the reason later (which for me leaves room to justify procrastination), but forces you to pause, be present, think about and concisely state how important it is to get the task done.

So I decided to try it straight away – no excuses. Here’s how it went.

Testing the technique

Big picture goal: Complete the first draft of my super-secret new book.

Task: Write a rough draft of one chapter of my new book – Today.

A little context: I am currently writing a book, but it’s been slow going. I have the outline formed and the concept is ironed out (it’s evolving as I think it through), but getting to the actual writing has been a real challenge. I know that I’m passionate about the subject, and have been thinking about it for a couple of years now, so it should be coming together. Unfortunately, it is my easiest task to procrastinate.

So, today here’s what I wrote:

“Complete rough draft of one chapter to get one step closer to November completion.”

Maybe its a little cheesy (I can admit I need to practice this idea) but it seems to be working. After I thought about whether I wanted to do this today, whether it was attainable, and WHY it’s important to me, I could let it go and focus on my other tasks without the nagging distractions of uncaptured thought on this subject. Each time I look at that goal I feel a small charge of energy realizing that I have a really, really good reason to work on this today. Since I wrote the reason out, I am essentially telling myself that I’ve already gone through the “why do this” phase and now have little excuse but to just do it. And then by allotting time to do it, I’ve suddenly got a workable, reasoned plan that feels good.

Applying this to exercise and health

I think the practical application of this idea is pretty clear: Probably most of us have written on our daily list “exercise”, but for me that is rarely enough to get me to actually do it. If you want to exercise today, why not write out a very concise reason why, and then schedule it?

Here are a couple of other ideas: Do you want to eat a light dinner? Why not write that down as a task for the day, possibly saying something like, “Eat light tonight to prepare for a DECADENT meal with friends on Saturday”. Or, preserve your sanity with this: “Eat a reasonable sized piece of chocolate to stay satisfied with what I’m eating.”

I am going to keep trying this technique as well as a few others over the coming months, and will report back on the success. I hope it works. I have a lot that I want to get done, and could use a simple (and free) tool or two.

One last thing on motivation

As I mentioned earlier, I’m a big fan of ZenHabits.net. I read it daily, and have recently purchased Leo’s new book, “The Essential Motivation Handbook“. If you are looking for a very straightforward set of ideas on motivating yourself to accomplish your goals while simplifying your life, I highly recommend the book.

I’ll be doing a more indepth review of the book soon (I’m still in the midst of reading it), but I highly recommend it if you are looking for help to get up from the couch and back on track. It is based on many of the articles on Zen Habits as well as Eric Hamm’s site, MotivateThyself.com (Eric is coauthor), and is well worth every penny.

Thanks for reading Almost Fit.

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