02 Aug The Most Dangerous Word in The World
“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”
Written by: Scott Dinsmore
Average Read Time: 4 minutes
Words are incredibly powerful. There are some that empower us to do our very best and others that can leave us feeling helpless.
Through my own and others’ experiences I have found one to be more dangerous than any other. On that when used once can give you relief, but when used routinely can leave you with the deepest feeling of despair.
This most dangerous word is: Later.
The scary thing is that it seems so harmless at first. There are all kinds of justifications to put things off until tomorrow. A lot of them can feel pretty valid. And even worse, we seem to use this word most for the things that are of greatest importance to us.
I’m talking about the big goals and life changes we’ve had on our mind for years. We know they are not going to be easy, but we also know the payout could be amazing. Yet despite how much they mean to us, we put them off another day. But tomorrow quickly becomes next month or next year and before you know it your Later has become Never.
Most things we put off to later are because the thought of starting them now is intimidating and uncomfortable. But just about everything outside our comfort zone is good for us, so get used to it. If it feels uncomfortable then it’s likely a sign that it’s the right thing.
Later comes in all forms:
I’ll get to it tomorrow (or next year).
I need to be a little older.
Now’s not quite the right time for that idea.
I’ll do it as soon as my family grows up.
Once I graduate I’ll be ready.
When the new year comes, I’ll begin getting healthy again.
I’ll have all day this Saturday, so that’s when I’ll start.
All I need is another few years of experience.
The list goes on as long as your imagination permits…
Most rationalizations as to why you should put your important things off to another day are nothing more than excuses – and expensive ones at that. If we want to experience our most cherished dreams, we must leave Later in the past. The timing will never be perfect.
4 Steps to turn Later into Now
1. We need leverage.
While financial leverage can be dangerous, emotional leverage can be the most powerful tool in personal change. We need a reason to do things. Without a compelling reason, nothing will get done. The right reason provides the leverage to do massive things even with little resources.
Leverage can come from one of two places. You can focus on the wonderful things you’ll experience if you complete your goal (i.e. happiness, personal freedom, finding the love of your life). Or you can focus on the awful things that might happen if you don’t (i.e. loneliness, a heart attack, or the death of a loved one). Positive or negative, discover what will make it an absolute must to accomplish your goal.
I heard a story of a man who tried to quit smoking for years. His friends tried to help. His wife begged. But nothing worked. Then one day his 6-year old daughter came into his office, looked up at him with a scared look on her face and said “daddy I don’t want you to die”. He never smoked another cigarette. That’s leverage. What’s yours? It could be fitting into your wedding dress or being sure you’re alive to teach your grandson math. It’s your call. Just be sure there is major emotion behind it.
2. Do the big things first.
Start the day with your most important tasks. Know what things are going into it. If it’s making a sales call then pick the phone up before you open your computer. If it’s running five miles, then know that if you don’t do it at 6am, it isn’t going to happen. It’s so easy to start the day by opening your computer and checking email and surfing around for a few hours. Great. Are you any closer to something meaningful once you’re done? Likely not.
I didn’t dig into my email until 4pm today and I got mountains done. Knocking your big things out first will feel amazing and will get you on a roll for the rest of the day. Anything you do now is ensuring that it won’t be put off until never.
3. Chunk it down.
Thinking of a long-term goal as a single item to accomplish can be massively overwhelming. But every goal has all kinds of 5-minute or one-hour tasks leading up to it. Take for example writing a book. If you haven’t yet written a word and you look at your goal one day that says “write a book”, the intimidation is going to make it almost impossible to begin. But what if you had, “write the first page” or “write a few chapter titles” as one of your tasks? That can be done in one sitting. All of a sudden you’re a step closer and you’ve got momentum.
“Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year, and drastically underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!”
4. Clear the distractions.
It is so much easier to put big ideas off if you have little meaningless things to fill up the time. Email, TV, video games, surfing the web. We all have our distractions and most of us know when we’re wasting time when we should be focusing on the important. Be honest with yourself. Listen to how you feel. Are you proud to be watching an hour go by as you mindlessly surf the web? Often these tasks aren’t even necessary, and they certainly shouldn’t be your priority.
As Tim Ferriss says: Put a sticky note on your desk, right in front of you, that says “Am I inventing things to avoid the important.”
There is only Now
Have you ever been in your future? I thought not. Nothing actually happens later. When it comes down to it, it’s all about today. That’s what changes tomorrow.
We all have dreams we want to make a reality. And as sure as we’ll continue to dream, there will always be reasons to push them to Later. Don’t fall for it. Don’t wait. Life is too short.
It’s so easy to put things off until tomorrow. Later will not be a better time. At some point, if Later doesn’t become Now, it becomes Never. The longer you wait, the closer never becomes.
It takes your whole life to never do something. But it takes an instant to decide to do it today. Why not get started? All it takes is a good enough reason. Now is where it all happens anyway. Later is nothing more than an excuse for inaction. There is always something you can do today to get you closer to your dreams tomorrow.
When is now a good time to begin?
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
What important things have you been putting off? What compelling reasons can you find to turn Later into Today? Share in the comments section below.
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Other Articles and Books to Help You Along the Way:
Quadruple Your Productivity and Enjoy a Little Life
KatePosted at 00:15h, 04 August
Thanks Scott! Your article came at a perfect
time for me cause there are some important
things I have been putting off the last few weeks!
You are very wise old friend!
ScottPosted at 16:37h, 04 August
@ Kate: So glad it was helpful. Have fun with it! Really appreciate the kinds words too.
Happy reading (and doing!),
Kathy UngrenPosted at 20:25h, 04 August
I am a freelance grant writer, currently with no grant work on my desk. I’ve been putting off just writing draft proposals, researching and tightening budget numbers.
This post is a great reminder to keep at it and not wait until I have a looming deadline.
ScottPosted at 20:40h, 08 August
@ Kathy: It so easy to put something off if it’s not on fire, isn’t it? Realizing that there is usually no better time than right now can be a pretty nice way to get yourself to jump on it. Good luck with those drafts!
Brenda FreemanPosted at 01:17h, 11 August
I always write a list of things I will complete the next day before I go to bed. They are prioritized and the things I least want to do are done first. All plain sailing from there.
I learned a long time ago that “later” never comes.
ScottPosted at 12:19h, 13 September
Right on Brenda. Knowing your plan before the day starts is huge. And doing your hardest biggest things before anything else, especially web surfing and email, is huge.
The Quick Fix to Avoiding Regrets | Reading For Your SuccessPosted at 08:50h, 11 August
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Ian TomlinsonPosted at 03:38h, 23 August
Great post as ever Scott. I’m aware I procrastinate and sometimes need someone else to remind me what this will cost me! I find having inspired people around me also gives me more energy to do things right away too.
ScottPosted at 12:21h, 13 September
Thanks Ian. Being around people with standards higher than your own can be the best motivation and have someone to keep you accountable is huge. Maybe a spouse, friend or even a coach. Makes all the difference.
Thanks for the comment,
EVONPosted at 01:40h, 26 August
Sometimes, I’ve no idea how to motivate myself to do the things that I should do, instead of what I want to do !
It’s been pretty hard for me,
To stick to my scheduel or time-table .
Can you help ? ;(
ScottPosted at 12:27h, 13 September
Thanks for comment Evon. I’d say the first major step is blending what you have to do with what you want to do. Ideally you should be spending your time almost entirely on the things you want to do. Often all this requires is redefining what your tasks mean to you. One example is exercising. Many people don’t want to do it because it’s hard work, but if you redefine it as a way to have more vibrant health, energy and happiness, before long, that will be something you want to do.
Finding your own path and living congruently with your vales and strengths is really want allows you to spend your time doing what you want to do. The Beginner’s Guide to Being Congruent is a great place to start for this: https://liveyourlegend.net/the-beginners-guide-to-being-congruent
As for accomplishing specific tasks. Here is a great system I’ve created from a number of others: Quadruple Your Productivity and Enjoy a Little Life (https://liveyourlegend.net/quadruple-your-productivity-and-enjoy-a-little-life-6-steps-to-getting-things-done).
Also, I’d be happy to discuss some one-on-one coaching options if that’s more your interest. I am happy to help however I can.
Good luck and have fun with it,
EVONPosted at 08:21h, 17 September
Even knowing the benefits of completing my important task,
I still can’t make myself to do it.
By the way,
Thanks for replying me.
It helps a lot.
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SarahPosted at 21:50h, 17 September
Hey there Scott!
I have enjoyed your articles immensely and I just thought you should know about that! Reading them one after another really gives a sense of urgency to the plans that somehow never seem to take shape until someone (that’s you!) points out that all the planning in the world isn’t actually getting anything done!
Just a small note, I really appreciate you putting at the beginning of the article how long it will take to read. When a task is presented in such a manner it makes it so much more accessible and I notice when I note how long things will take on my to-do list they get ticked off so much faster. Just another reason I really look forward to future articles.
Thanks for everything,
ScottPosted at 23:02h, 17 September
Thank you for the praises Sarah. It goes a very long way. I am so glad you find the concepts useful and I really hope they’ve gotten you to take some serious action towards heading down your path and spending time on the truly important.
Good to hear the reading time is helpful as well. I teach speed reading as well and that is something I’ve picked up along the way. I too plan my tasks based on time in my day. Sounds like we’re headed in similar directions!
I really appreciate the contribution. Let’s this be just the beginning.
AndrewPosted at 06:12h, 06 October
I get motivated very easily and I also lose my interest very easily too! My mind works like a sinusoidal wave. When I’m excited and motivated to do alot of things, I will be at my peak.
But when I dont see result, Ill drop like a dead frog!
Thank you for your post Scott, I hope this will be a permanent fix for my inconsistency!
ScottPosted at 10:18h, 08 October
I hope it helps indeed Andrew. That word can dramatically change lives. Let’s make it for the better.
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Irene GaluhPosted at 09:16h, 04 April
I have just found your great blog 🙂
and I love this very first article I read…actually I’ve always made my to do list everyday, but sometimes it’s just very easy for me not to accomplish the list; and there you’re totally right that the most dangerous word in the world is “Later”. I think I must delete that word from my mind…
The result from my bad habit is I always regret after reading my unaccomplished list..but again, I do the same thing the following day, I think it’s just an acute disease..
but I will try your tips 🙂
thanks for the great article, can’t wait to read the others…
BradPosted at 15:32h, 27 April
Great article. Sometimes the first step is the hardest. Distraction is my issue. I’m working it though. Thanks for the good advice.
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DoriaPosted at 15:10h, 08 July
Thank you for the great article with the step by step insructions for fixing an all too common problem. In my case it is complicated by trying to do too many things at once and the tendency to get sidetracked. I must not forget how easy it is for me to procrastinate. Like someone said earlier, I need to remove the word later from my vocabulary.
I have to tell you you are a very wise young man.
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