how to focus

3 Ways to Focus on Taking Action

One of the hardest things I try to do is read a good book. After a few pages, I get an idea and put the down to start working.

If there’s something to be done, it burns a hole in my head until I take action.

As a child, sitting around and thinking about things never appealed to me  — it frustrated me beyond belief. In college, I was always the one sleeping twelve hours a night during finals — because I had finished all of my papers and studying days in advance. As an adult, I often receive comments like, “How do you get so much done in one day?”

I used to take that desire for action for granted, not understanding the power it held. Now, I realize just how valuable it can be in creating a fulfilling and wonderful life.

The instinct has been crucial on my quest to an awesome life, guiding me to do what I need to do when I need to do it to achieve a certain goal — with tenacity, purpose, and energy.

Not everyone embraces action so readily, though. When I encounter people who struggle taking action, frustration leaks into my veins. Frustration that their potential isn’t being realized, that their lives aren’t incredibly awesome, that they aren’t as happy as they could be.

If taking action is crucial to success, how can we all become more comfortable enforcing it?

In creating a better, more meaningful life, I find the following tips helpful:

1. Believe you can take action.

That may sound easy, but it’s not. Believe in yourself, and things start changing before your eyes.

Many times, indecision is the fault of insecurity. As Michael de Montaigne once said, “A man who fears suffering is already suffering from what he fears.”

Instead of giving in to fear, I believe I will be successful by:

  • Talking with peers I respect to go over my plan and their thoughts on the project
  • Plotting out possible paths and steps to carry out my ideas
  • Visualizing what steps I will take to achieve my quest

Feeling confident affects my power to make decisions more than anything else. When I feed my belief in myself, things change for the better.

2. Avoid stress by all means.

Having tasks to finish is like walking around pulling a parachute. Why would you do that to yourself?

Struggling to trudge through life pulling the weight of unfinished tasks is no shortcut to happiness. Neither is it necessary. Instead of leaving action for later, taking action in the moment can reduce negative stress by an incredible amount.

  • Think about what parts of your life contribute the most stress to your life.
  • Jot down the steps you need to take to eliminate those stressful items.
  • Visualize yourself taking care of each point, once and for all.

Your stress may not evaporate today, but knowing you will get everything taken care of (and how you will do it) helps lessen the pain today.

A clear to-do list and a clean conscious feels like a deep breath of fresh air. A life full of white space has no place for stress.

3. Reduce the steps necessary.

Have you ever read an email various times and put off replying for another day? Do you know how much time you spent reading and re-reading that email every single time?

I cringe at all the time wasted on putting things off for a later date.

I’m keen on efficiency because I know there are ways to do the boring stuff in less time, so I can do more of the awesome stuff with the rest of my day. By focusing on doing things in the moment, I make sure I get more done with less work.

  • By washing the dishes as soon as I finish eating, I avoid having to work harder to scrub them clean tomorrow.
  • By putting my things in the right place from the start, I avoid having to move things around again in the future.
  • By getting my important tasks done in the morning, I avoid having to revisit them time and time again throughout the day.

By freeing up time on mundane tasks like washing the dishes, I make more time for what matters: writing, working, having fun.

I hope these three steps help you do more with less time and achieve greater success in all you strive for.

If you want to embrace action, what can you do today to get a jumpstart on your quest to an awesome life?

Leave your ideas in the comments. I’d love to hear more about taking action in our lives.

22 Responses to 3 Ways to Focus on Taking Action

  1. Aaron Morton says:

    It is interesting you have advised to avoid stress as I have found it to be a necessity to focus on the task at hand and reduce distraction, typically by setting a deadline for the action I am taking. It tends to be the overwhelm of stress that stops people taking action. 

    As with most things relating to human behaviour, going to the extreme end of any spectrum (too much calm can be as bad as too much stress) can cause problems, it is finding that medium level where you have the attitude to handle stress as well as recognise when you are too ‘chilled’.

    Thanks for the article.


    The Confidence Lounge.

  2. Action brings results. It is the only thing that does. Unlike you, when I was a child I loved to just sit around and daydream. Fantasy worlds were fun. But as I got older that trait started to cause problems for me.

    A lack of action became my hallmark. 

    Taking action can be tough for those who are not inclined to it by nature. But it needs to be done regardless. It was only when I made the decision to start “doing” instead of just “dreaming” that things began to change. Hence the topic of my blog.

    In whatever way, we need to move towards action. We need to actually *do* those things that matter to us. Otherwise we’re just wasting our time. Wasting our life.


  3. Dan Erickson says:

    You and I think and act very similarly.  I always try to get things done as I go, which gives me time to continue writing, editing, recording music, blogging, and more.  It’s actually quite easy once one creates the habits needed.

  4. I think that people who are pro-active are those people who generally have more purpose and ambition in life, and wind up being much more successful. A lot of people tend to think you’re taking things a bit far when you make projections like that but it’s the truth.  Except for doing the dishes promptly (I really hate doing dishes) I’m the kind of person that likes to get things out of the way as soon as possible. Interestingly enough, I’m not one of those uber – organized people who walk around with a diary and write stuff for each day.

  5. Cityotter says:

    Trevor, I am and always have been a dreamer.  I come up with great ideas then get paralyzed or just waste my time watching movies, being on facebook or spending hours cruising around the internet.  I feel so sad that i’m wasting my potential.  Do you have any concrete ideas of how you were able to change?  I was to so much but i feel a core of fear holding me back every day and i don’t know how to get rid of it.  Thoughts?

  6. Guest anon says:

    Cityotter, could I please comment on your message too? What you said happens to me a lot. I get paralysed when thinking of what to do next with my life because I try to anaylse if my action will produce success or not. Then I tend to see the possible negative outcome of my actions and thus think that it is probablybnot worth it to take that action because it might just fail and that will mean wasted time for investing effort/time on that action. In the end, even if I have a decent-paying job, I end up being stuck and feeling unfulfilled because I can’t make the first step towards what I really want to do.

    Then I heard a song a couple of times until it made me realize what I needed to to. The song said – Have you seen the things that you wanted to see? Have you done the things that you wanted to do? Unshakle the chains from your hands and feet. It’s time to make a decision. Come into the light, fear is in the mind only.

    What mainly hit for me there is the “it’s time to make a decision” part – that we are creating prisons fir ourselves by not making decisions. I realized that it is really time for me to make a decision. The decision does not have to be the right decision, that it does not have to guarantee to produce successful results. What matters is I need to make that decision and complete it as much as I can. And then I will repeat the process again after I complete my current decision. This way I will end up repeatedly producing. I also decided to stick to starting and finishing only 1 decision at a time. And I openly accept the possibility of my decisions producing failed results. It does not matter, I’ll then just proceed to making my next decision then. Hopefully, a string of failures will eventually produce success.

  7. Hi Cityotter, Guest anon has the right of it. It requires making a decision. A choice. You can continue along the path you now walk, or you can take a step in a different direction . . . and see where it leads you.

    I wish I could give you some simple tips or tricks to get you on the road to action, but I can’t. You sound exactly like me. I was also once trapped in fear and unable to make productive use of my time. 

    But I made a choice.

    I couldn’t do that anymore. I wanted to make something of my life. Lord knows I’d already wasted most of it. Why not make my remaining years something worth living?

    You need to understand that your fears are simply there to show you the way. Not by running from them, but running towards them. They illuminate your weakness. They point you in the right direction.

    Make a choice. Look deep inside and face all those ugly little demons that haunt you. Accept them for what they are. It will hurt, but you need to accept them all the same.

    Then smash them to a pulp.

    Once you make the change . . . once you feel your own power, you will never go back to your old ways. Good luck.


  8. Ben says:

    Wow, I don’t see that as an issue at all that when you get an idea you put it into action immediately! That is something i’m working on developing more.

    A lot of this is coming up with ‘reasons’ why not to do it and bad things that ‘might’ happen in your own mind. Most of the time when i’ve got past those things in my mind and taken action anyway it’s rare that any of the bad things in my head have happened.

    The next action I need to take is deciding on a workout program to start. Did a workout in a martial arts class a few days ago and realized I need to really work on fitness myself, something i’ve been putting off.


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  10. Nate Anglin says:

    I can definitely understand how stress impedes on our ability to take action. It is like a giant weight on our shoulders constantly holding us down. By eliminating that weight we have a much better chance to accomplish what were setting out for. 

  11. This is great insight, thank you both. Fear is an amazing path to follow. For more on this topic, I always rec reading The Flinch by Julien Smith — it’s free on Kindle. Such a great resource for understanding why we feel fear and why it’s mostly BS. :)

  12. Ah, stress… I totally agree with you. It’s definitely very frustrating to deal with stress and turn it into action. Sometimes, though, I find that I write in a journal the list of items that are “stressing me out” — and next to each a list of what I can do to eliminate that stress. I feel incredibly better afterward. Hope it helps!  Thanks, Nate, for your contribution.

  13. This is something I’ve struggled with myself. I recommend watching Tim Ferriss talk about how he overcame it. I implemented his worksheet on how to get over these “bad things might happen” feelings and it worked:

  14. I believe everyone’s process is different, and we should all just follow what works for each of us. My productivity process is different than most people’s (and I’m pretty organized) but some people would be afraid of being run by such a strict system. I have to say, though — my stress reduced considerably by slowly becoming more and more organized.

  15. I agree, especially when you know that getting those small tasks done will free up time to do more of what you enjoy.

  16. Thanks, Aaron. I definitely think that different people react to stress in a variety of ways, and I have always hated stress more than most. I find that while stress “works” for many people, it’s usually not a pleasurable experience. If you could get things done without the “stress of stress” (heh), would you choose that route instead?

  17. Nate Anglin says:

    I love that idea Marcella!!! When I get stressed I’m going to write it down and create a plan to eliminate it. Such a simple solution that packs a powerful punch. Theirs so many thing happening when you do this. Love it, love it, love it.

  18. Christine says:

    Your statement Trevor “I couldn’t do that anymore. I wanted to make something of my life. Lord knows I’d already wasted most of it. Why not make my remaining years something worth living?” Is so spot on to me right now. I spent most of my life “dreaming” about what I wanted to be when I grow up. Although I have known what that is for over 10 years, I kept putting it off, finding reasons to not follow through. I have finally made the crucial steps. I am 51 years old and will be starting college on April 1st. I am finally going to fulfill my dream to become a Web Developer.
    You are never too old to fulfill your dreams.  So long as you are still alive and breathing. Just do it!

  19. Hell yeah Christine! That’s what life is about. It’s about fire and passion. Taking a chance. Doing what you never thought you could do. 

    I’m wishing you luck. It doesn’t sound like you need it though. You’ve got this thing in the bag.


  20. I just used this a few days ago and it saved my day AGAIN. Glad to hear it may help you, too.

  21. HMD says:

    Oh my gosh, I’ve been spending the last few minutes reading some of the various articles here, but this is only the second one to have truly touched me so and, if not completely, has at least sparked in me what I need so desperately. It’s a beautiful article, and the points you’ve made are so great — I can’t wait to breathe in those fresh breaths to come!

    More background: I’m struggling so badly with procrastination this semester, and I’ve only recently had the epiphany that [I know, I know, mega-obvious] it’s doing me more harm than good, that to manipulate myself out of learning [and the amazingness that comes with that] is foolish and nearly insane. Particularly with how amazing and wonderful it is to actually get things DONE [as opposed to not and then feeling guilty about it].

    Any who, points aside, thank you for the great read. I’m already drooling about what my tomorrow can be — and not just in thought, but in actual essence. <3

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