My answers to your questions on motivation & procrastination

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All right, people. Yesterday I told you I was launching “Therapy Week with Ramit,” a week of tough love with my characteristic lack of emotional sympathy paired with insights so piercing they make you reconsider such facts as gravity and euclidean geometry.

I asked you to send me your questions. I got thousands of them, largely ones that made me want to hurl my laptop through my NYC high-rise window. Alas, I have a soft spot for people who want to improve their lives.

So here’s how this week is going to go:

1. I picked out a few of the best questions and answered them below.

2. I’m also hosting a LIVE Ramit’s Therapy Session this afternoon on Twitter. Follow @ramit on Twitter to ask me anything from 4-5pm EST today.

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All right, let’s get started.

QUESTION #1: “How do I maintain motivation?”

emailmotivation1

  emailmotivation2 emailmotivation3

Notice anything in common with these questions? THEY’RE ALL UTTERLY DELUSIONAL! They all ask “how to find motivation,” as if it’s a Where’s Waldo book.

Insight #1: If you’re asking about motivation, you’ve already lost. Motivation is fleeting and undependable. It’s almost like asking, “How do I find inspiration to start a new business?” See how ridiculous that sounds? And yet our entire media uses the word “motivation,” as if you can walk outside, look upwards, and let it rain down on you.

Insight #2: Forget about finding motivation. Build systems instead. I guarantee, if you ask any of those people above, “So you want to do X? What are your next steps?” they would have no idea. Instead of doing the hard work to decide (1) What they want and (2) What it takes to get it, they’re actually taking the lazy way out by waiting for motivation to strike. This infuriates me because it’s all we’ve been taught — and waiting around for motivation gives them an excuse to do nothing. A better approach is to write down the answers to the 2 questions above — even if you’re wrong! — then systematically work down the list.

BAD EXAMPLE: “I want to get fit.” How many millions of Americans say this, then beat themselves up for doing nothing? No, no, no.

GOOD EXAMPLE: IWT readers do it differently: “I want to lose 10lbs.” Better yet, I want you to be specific: “I want to eat 3 healthy meals per week and go to the gym 2x/week for 15 minutes.” (Notice how I’m focusing on the process at first, and starting off conservative: Anyone can eat just 3 healthy meals in a week. And anyone can go to the gym for 15 minutes. Set yourself up to win, you weirdos.) Now make it systematic: On your calendar, set 1 hour on Sundays to buy 3 healthy meals and leave them in your fridge, packed and ready to eat. Also set 3 1-hour slots for the gym (leaving time for travel). Boom. You’re welcome. Hot people, send me your pictures directly to ramit@iwillteachyoutoberich.com.

QUESTION #2: “How do I stop procrastinating?” emailprocrastination1 emailprocrastination2 emailprocrastination4

I can relate. When I wrote my book, my publisher gave me 9 months. It took me 8 months just to get the table of contents done. A couple months ago, I was supposed to have a sales page done at 5pm…but at 8am that day, I looked at what I had written, realized it was a piece of shit, and discarded it and started re-writing at the very last minute.

God, I hate procrastinating. I “know” what I should be doing…yet even if I have time on my calendar, sometimes I still don’t do what I need to do. Good news. Recently, I recorded a video on procrastination with my detailed thoughts. I wasn’t going to release it yet, but this is the perfect time.

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UPDATE: It’s too late to get in on this round of the Finisher’s Formula, but sign up below for my Insider’s List and I will add you to the Finisher’s Formula waitlist.

You’ll be the first to know when I open the course for enrollment in the future.

Some of my insights about following through are only shared on my Insider’s List. So, if you’re not already a member, sign up here, free:

Sign up here for the waitlist for the Finisher’s Formula

P.S. I’m hiring a product developer. If you’ve ever wondered how we do our research to create new courses, I’m hiring one person to let “inside” to help us research future products.

This is not an easy role. You’ll be digging through huge amounts of research (competitive, surveys, emails, and other sources). You’ll be making sense of disparate data to help us create positioning, feature scope, and delivery methods. You should be extremely detail-oriented and willing to do hours of uninterrupted research to answer a single question. If you were coddled as a child, please don’t apply. This role is remote and part-time. Extraordinary candidates will be invited to become full-time employees with IWT. To apply for the product developer role, click here.

P.P.S. Don’t forget, I’m answering questions live today from 4-5PM EST on Twitter. Ask me your toughest questions about productivity, overwhelm, and laziness — or anything else you can think of. I’m @ramit.

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52 Comments

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  1. I needed to read this today. Right this second as ironically I was procrastinating by checking my twitter feed, and stumbled upon this nugget of a post. Thank you.

  2. Here is a great motivator for you. Lose your home, job, savings everything dear to you. Now move in with the worst person you could imagine living with. Trust me, it will motivate the hell out of you to get your life back on track.Now have your “young enough to be my son” Asian father rant on you…and listen to what he says!!! It will eventually all come together. Ramit, I’m not there yet, but I can see the light.. I have not been able to afford any of your training classes. But I read your emails and the free stuff is good enough to be a game changer for anyone to use. I have found my “1k” idea. Earned a little over $1k last month. My product is featured in a national magazine. It’s called persistence.

  3. Oh and Ramit ……thank you!

  4. Did you really just sign off on your email with “Love and light?” Thanks for the best laugh I had all day! :-)

    • Lol. I thought the exact same thing. I also loved that he said “If you were coddled as a child, please don’t apply” on the intern job posting.

    • I thought, oh how sweet, Love and light, from Ramit the Enchanted Fluff Bunny.

  5. Ramit,
    I’m interested in your course on following through. I believe it is a challenge I need to overcome. Please send me more information. My email is alexheidebreicht@gmail.com

    Thank you!

  6. I loved the tough love and look forward to incorporating these things into my daily activities!

  7. Hi Ramit,

    Yes, I’m interested in more info from the Finisher’s Formula. Thanks!

  8. Hi,

    I watched a TEDx talk by Mel Robbins. She made me realize that I will never really feel like it in the moment. For example, I decided that I want to have an AMAZING body but have responsibilities until late evening. So, the only time is 5:30 am before work. Most mornings, I don’t really feel like getting out of bed but, I do because I stopped waiting to feel like it and just started doing what I know will get me what I want.
    I started this by just getting up that early, then doing a circuit (just one, twice a week), and so on. The goal is 40 minutes per day and I figure by running season, I should be running a few kilometers before most people even open their eyes.

    She says; “It’s simple, but not easy”…I think it’s becoming pretty easy… :)

  9. Ramit,

    You are the wind beneath my wings!

  10. Nicole Turnbull Link to this comment

    Hi Ramit, I’d love to learn more about Finishers Formula. My address is nicoleturnbull2@gmail.com.

    Have a great day.

    • I don’t know why people are posting their email addresses, like I’m going to email you individually. Get on my list and you’ll hear from me.

  11. I’d love to get some the material from your Finisher’s Formula Course. Newsthusiast@gmail.com.

  12. i remember when my aunt mary said something that TOTALLY shifted the way i speak about myself. i had just gotten a sweet job and there would be a “windfall of cash” as i called it a few months after i started. it was a sales job. and i said something like “when is something like that really ever going to happen again?” granted, i was 23 and thought my life was nearly over since i was almost 25. she basically said what u just explained in ur video. and i never talked like that again. i choose my words carefully because they are powerful. and they will create my reality.

    am i perfect? no…but i rarely say crazy stuff about myself or who i can become anymore. great insight. i shared this with some ppl bc i thought it was very useful.

    thanks!
    alison

  13. Hi Ramit, really enjoyed this video and the post. I lolled at ‘love and light’!

    I’m keen on the material for Finishers’ Formula – entered my email address in the email field. thank you!

  14. I feared that watching the video might be another form of procrastination. Instead, every one of its four minutes and twenty-four seconds was well-worth my attention. Thank you for this post.

  15. I literally just called myself socially awkward penguin yesterday while talking to a friend about why I haven’t been lead generating. Thanks Ramit.

  16. I am amazed at how simple and practical you make “complex problems” become. This just might have revolutionized my life

  17. Thanks for sharing your brilliant & practical ideas. Blessings.

  18. Great tips Ramit, thank you. My biggest turning point in beginning to conquer procrastination was actually today. In addition to your tips helping, I was listening to a sermon online from Dr. Charles Stanley and he stated that many times those of us who are perfectionists are procrastinators and that some times we will not even start projects for fear of not performing perfectly. The fear of rejection is a powerful precursor to procrastination. Not fearing what others think, performing to the best of our ability, going the extra mile… and when we do fail, getting right back up and keep moving toward the goal. I wrote JUST DO IT !!!on my to do list and with each item I have crossed off, I have small victories all ready today. Looking forward to larger victories. Thanks for the no-nonsense, tough-love approach.

  19. Swapped out the blazer for a cardigan – nice.

  20. Interested in info on Finisher’s Formula

  21. Thanks so much Ramit. I’m not lazy, wasn’t coddled as a child (I’m the eldest of eight) and love to work.
    My challenge is saying “no”, especially when it’s something that is worthwhile and good.
    Your suggestion to “take a few days” to think about what’s being offered/presented/asked of me is a great help in being able to focus on those things that are most important and in not having my energy dissipated.

  22. What I love is that the more I apply IWT strategies after doing the harder mindset change, the more your videos and posts make sense, even though it’s not the first time I hear them from you.

    BTW – I never thought I’d live to see the day where I’d see you wear a cardigan. Surprising. And bold! Totally fits in with my own fashion journey. If you can wear a cardigan and pull it off – even though it’s so different from what we’re used to seeing -, I can be more adventurous too in the fashion department.

    You hit two birds with one stone for me today. Thanks!

  23. I love the tiny step advice. I am going to do something “tiny” today! Thank you.

  24. Last week, I actually had a turning point at which I’d fully realized that I was not putting in as much effort as I could and should. While I wasn’t exactly saying “oh, I’m just lazy”, but I was in fact cutting myself too much slack, using long-gone issues as an excuse. Discomfiting as it is to accept the responsibility, I also felt relief and optimism, because there’s so much untapped potential I can just dive into now that I’ve accepted the fact that I can, physically and psychologically, do more.

    On the topic of procrastination: my biggest problem, up till recent, was actually having too much time – yes, it IS possible! I had quite a big workload, but very few commitments outside of my room and laptop that would constrain my routine: I am 100% in charge of 90% of my time, and of course, most of it was wasted away on Facebook. Then, a week before the deadlines, I would panic, work frantically, and barely manage to hand things in.
    Then I read an article that explained procrastination was in fact based on the brain’s inability to decide which bit of important work to do first, so it focuses attention on the trivial. Tried changing my habits to work around that fact – and it worked! I’ve made a habit of immediately writing down not just the deadline for absolutely everything that needs to be done, but the exact times at which I will be focusing on each step. The point is to not just make a mental note like “yeah, I have to finish that sometime by Tuesday”, but break it down into tasks and allot each task a concrete time slot. Still a bit of trouble following through sometimes, mainly because I’m not used to estimating how long something may take, but my track record – as well as levels of stress and satisfaction – have improved dramatically in the two months I’ve been doing it.
    I understand this may sound completely ridiculous to people with fixed daily working hours – but I thought it may be useful to others who may be attempting to learn how to get additional stuff done on their own time. :)

  25. Definitely interested in the finishers formula! Thanks Ramit!
    itsnadiaalcide@gmail.com

  26. Hi Ramit, I am interested in the finishers formula..please send!
    Thanks

    • Is anyone else mystified by these comments saying they’re interested in FF…instead of reading the instructions on the blog post?

      Who wants to bet they don’t sign up for the course because they “didn’t read the email in time”?

    • Hey Ramit! I know you’re a busy guy, but do me a solid will you, and go ahead and ignore the 1000+ emails you receive a day, stop whatever else you’re doing, copy my email from the comments section here, paste it into your email program, select Arial in 12 point font (my preferred sans serif), summarise the key takeaways in the FF information that you’ll ALSO attach to the email and hit send. Oh and please attach it in SINGLE page pdfs (i.e if it’s in a multi-page pdf format, please open photoshop – or whatever other program you have that might be suitable – I don’t want to be a pain, after all) and separate the pages, as I can only currently read SINGLE pdf pages, due to the defunct scroller on my mouse, which broke in a freak accident involving a rogue bumblebee and a cup of gatorade – but hey, that was just unnecessary detail, wasn’t it. So yeah, if you could just go ahead and do that, that’d be GREAT thanks: unabletotakeinstructions@homtail.com (oh, and if you could just correct that typo when you paste it into your email, that’d be great too, since I can’t even get my own email right.) REALLY interested in FF. kthxbai!

  27. Hi Ramit,

    I liked your three steps on tackling procrastination. I am interested in more information or material on follow-up techniques as mentioned by you.

    Thanks.

    Ajay

  28. Ramit your genius for understanding exactly what we need a kick in the ass for knows no bounds. Thank you.

  29. Is that grey hair? No worries. Makes you look like a younger, Indian version of George Clooney. And he’s hot. That’s all.

  30. Would love some of the free material about following through. Thanks Ramit!

  31. Feeling the love, seeing the light.

  32. I’m started this thing where I promise my self that i only need to do 5mins work. Then when the 5mins is up I usually feel like continuing and I can often work for over an hour no worries.

  33. Eric S. Mueller Link to this comment

    I deal with procrastination by setting my expectations appropriately. I’m not meant to do everything I think about. Some things sound good at the idea stage and die by the execution stage.

    I also realize it doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be done.

    George Patton said something like “A good plan violently executed today is better than a perfect plan next week.”

  34. Thxs for the great tips on avoiding procrastination!

  35. I love the “tiny” suggestion, and have used it on quite a few things (most recently, making sure I do pullups, no matter how many, after a jujitsu class. Already increasing the numbers).

    How, though, do you make sure the step isn’t *too* tiny with something not so easily quantifiable? Say you’re a painter. You’re not going to do an entire painting in a day. Do you count how many brush strokes you take? For me, I’d like to learn 3D modeling/animation. How do I take tiny steps without taking years to introduce myself to it?

    Jut typing this has “motivated” me to dive in. But I want to make sure I don’t just stop, either!

    Thanks for the always helpful posts, Ramit.
    -J

  36. An awesome post. This was definitely something I was looking for.

    Thanks, Ramit.

  37. Hi Ramit! Thank you for your insights!
    It makes a lot of sense in my case:
    1. I have said to myself: “Maybe you are not as good as you think” or “You are not as the enterpreneurs that you admire” and I think a better self-talking could be: “I didn’t know how to focus on something and get the results, but now I know, so let’s star”
    2. The days were going away so fast and I didn’t do anything to change… Why? Because I had not priorities. I did a lot of stuff but it was not the important one to make a real change.
    3. Tiny baby steps allow me not to be overwhelmed by the great vision I would like to accomplish in the future.
    Thanks!

  38. Biggest turning point for me was organization, routine, and reward system.

    The things I used in order to procrastinate was exactly the same things I used to reward myself. So I when I was hardcore studying for exams, I would have 50 min stretches and 10 min breaks, where those 10 min were dedicated to youtube, facebook or whatever the activity I wanted to do was.

    Worked wonders for me because it increased my focus with time limits and stopped me from procrastinating because I would eventually get it anyways.

    But the biggest win for me was certainly creating a routine. I knew that I would cover X every week. If I had bad flow certain days, it was fine, because other days I would be extremely productive. This means that I had the freedom to stop working, yet I knew I was going to get things done.

  39. Why are people posting their email addresses on here? Do you really think Ramit is going to contact you directly? There is a sign-up right below his blog post.

    • Because at the end of the video at 4:12 minutes, Ramit said post your email below.

    • I’m as confused as anyone. At 4:12 in the video, where I say “Enter your email below,” I thought I was pretty clear about the HUMONGOUS box with “Name/Email” directly below the video.

      I feel sorry for the person sitting by their inbox waiting for me to email them individually.

      “When will he write me?”
      “Maybe today?”
      “Maybe he’s eating dinner right now, that’s why he hasn’t emailed me yet.”
      (Refresh)
      “Damn”

  40. Thank you Ramit…I like the phrase “being honest about my priorities, thinking things through and *not using lack of time as excuse* and deciding what ARE my priorities…..thanks..clarity is good. popping over now to check out BJ Fog’s tiny habits course (I think that’s who you said)
    Stay blessed and thanks

  41. What if the reason I’m procrastinating is because I’m watching your video & laughing at your blog comment responses? :) PS: My email is address…. *waiting with bated breath* Jennifer (but you can call me Jen…)

  42. Would love the material on Finisher’s formula/system. Thanks

  43. Hi Ramit,

    I want to get my sister signed up for your emails. She could greatly benefit from a lot of your advice — especially Therapy Week! Can you (or someone) tell me where to send her to sign up? Right now I’m forwarding her your emails after I’m done reading them. I’ve been following you for awhile so I don’t recall how I got on your email list…..it’s a brain tumor thing I guess. Many thanks!

  44. Great insight as always ramit. Thanks

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