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On an episode of The James Altucher Show, performance coach and bestselling author Tony Robbins shared a simple trick that helps him stay productive.
“Whenever I come up with a decision or goal – whenever I make a decision that matters – I immediately take some kind of action that commits me to follow through.”
That action could be as simple as sending an email or scheduling a meeting.
It’s a way of sticking to that decision while he’s still super excited about it, Robbins explained. Otherwise, he might lose momentum and never make any progress toward his goal.
Robbins said he put this tip into action recently, when he was in a meeting about buying a particular company and potentially combining it with another company.
When the meeting time was up, he was being rushed to go to his next appointment – but before he left the first meeting, he made sure to call the company representative and schedule a meeting with him.
“I didn’t leave the meeting without an action item for the future,” Robbins told Altucher.
“When you get in state, when you’re excited about something, you’re ready to do it, you’re inspired, or you got the plan, and then you don’t do something in that moment, you lose your momentum. You end up someplace else. Something distracts you.”
Robbins’ observation about being “in state” – something like being in the zone – closely mirrors Stanford psychologist B.J. Fogg’s observations about motivation.
Fogg uses the term “motivation wave” to describe the inevitable fluctuations in our motivation. The idea is to take advantage of motivation when you do have it, to make good habits easier when you don’t have it.
So if you’re feeling pumped about working out, take some action: Sign up for a fitness class, lay out your workout clothes, and create an upbeat playlist. That way, when you come home tomorrow tired and cranky, all you have to do is change your outfit and head out the door without much thought.
Of course, there’s a chance your plan won’t work out. Maybe you’ll hate the fitness class you signed up for. Maybe the meeting you scheduled will be unproductive.
Robbins emphasized during the podcast episode that the key is to do something – and then tweak the plan if necessary. You can sign up for a different class; you can meet with a different person or company.
“Don’t wait until you have all the answers,” Robbins told Altucher.
This particular observation sounds like it was plucked directly from the design thinkers’ playbook.
Design thinking is a process developed by Stanford engineers that’s used to improve on a specific product or experience. The overarching theme of design thinking is a “bias toward action.”
So even if you’re not 100% ready or informed, you build a prototype and test it out. If something goes wrong, you learn from your mistakes and build another.
As Robbins explained, “You can always change your approach, but if you do nothing [and] you’re waiting, you learn nothing.”