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Lisa Earle McLeod: Create plan to get things done

You find yourself trolling Reddit or online shopping for new Post-it notes before completing that single aggravating task. You know you need to make the client phone call, it’s important for your success, you promised yourself you would do it, but somehow, it falls to the bottom of the list.

People struggle – and often fail – to do the success-producing things they know they should do, but don’t feel like doing.

Perhaps for you it’s avoiding sales calls, or financial reports. For me, it’s technical details. I’ll happily make 50 cold calls before I wade through our Web traffic reports. Perhaps you’ve thought: If only I had more motivation.

As it turns out, motivation is not the problem.

In “The Power to Get Things Done (Whether You Feel Like It or Not), author Chris Cooper writes, “Poor follow-through – failing to do what you realize you could do, have concluded you should, and promised yourself you will do – isn’t exactly your fault.

Cooper, a U.K.-based business consultant and keynote speaker says, “You can legitimately blame it on the design of the human mind. As a human being, you’re simply not wired to naturally do things you don’t feel like doing, even if you truly intend to do them.”

“There are areas where we are in our flow,” says Cooper. Perhaps your flow is being with people or solving technical problems. Your primitive brain is designed to keep you in your flow and out of areas that make you uncomfortable.

In his book, co-authored with Steve Levinson, Ph.D., Cooper provides this example. “Suppose you intelligently decide to spend Thursday afternoon tidying up your desk so you can find things more easily, be more productive and thereby be more successful. It makes sense so you promise yourself you’ll do it. But your good intentions won’t actually require you to tidy up your desk. It won’t even make you feel like tidying up your desk. Unfortunately there’s a good chance that what you feel like doing will drive your behavior more than your intention will.” Which explains why you’re surfing the Web in the middle of a cluttered desk.

“The same impressive mind that’s so beautifully equipped to figure out what we could do and should do to achieve the success we crave doesn’t automatically make us do it,” writes Cooper.

The secret to getting things done (even when you don’t feel like it) is to quit relying on motivation alone. Cooper’s research – read at chriscooper.co.uk – revealed that people are much more successful when they stop relying on personal motivation and put structures in place that force them to act.

For example, perhaps you’re putting off making a client call. Set up a meeting with your boss to review the client’s situation. Having the meeting on the books with your boss will force you to make the client call, less you risk embarrassment of having to tell your boss you didn’t do it. If you’re struggling to tidy up your home, perhaps you need to schedule a party.

I’ve been known to avoid financial reports. So we have a finance review every Friday. I can’t pay my team or myself until I review all the numbers. I’ve never missed a Friday.

Good intentions aren’t enough. On your best day create a system that forces you to follow through on your worst days, whether you feel like it or not.

Visit mcleodandmore.com for sales leadership tips and videos.