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Summary:

“Action days” — days where you and some friends agree to check in with one another hourly to keep tabs on each others’ progress — are a great way to motivate yourself and keep yourself accountable. Here are some suggestions as to how you could use them.

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Stever Robbins, the Get-It-Done Guy, has a great new book out entitled 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More. One of the concepts I love from the book is the idea of “action days,” which he says originally came from Thomas Leonard of the life coaching community.

He explains action days like this. “You and a few friends get a conference line. You agree to check in at a certain time each hour. For example, right on the hour. At each check-in, someone (you?) reads the attendance list. Each person briefly reports what they’ve done in the last hour. Then they promise what they’ll do in the next hour. Once everyone has reported, you get off the phone and go for it!”

The “action days” concept could work even without using a conference line; all the participants could simply post their updates via Twitter, Facebook or email, or you could even host a regular action day on your website and have corresponding blog posts where participants add their updates within the comments.

Overall, it’s just a great, all-around way of getting and staying on track, and here are just a few ideas for ways you might use action days in your business.

Action Days to Overcome Procrastination

Action days are especially helpful for overcoming procrastination, so if you’ve been avoiding certain projects, this might be a good solution for making progress on things like updating your website, organizing your office, or hiring a new assistant.

Some jobs we tend to avoid more than others, but that doesn’t mean they are any less important, and using a “shot-in-the-arm” approach like this might be the perfect cure for procrastination.

Action Days for Accountability

I’m a big advocate for accountability partnerships, but one thing I know for sure is that finding a good and consistent accountability partner might not always be the easiest task. Schedules, working styles, differences in priorities, and even time zones can interfere with even the best of intentions when it comes to forming a reliable partnership, making it hard to stay on track and defeating the purpose of having an accountability partner.

Action days could make for a perfect substitute to a longer term accountability partnership or could at least be a great way to shake things up and add occasional insight and interest to your current accountability system.

Send out Twitter or Facebook posts, or even email a group of colleagues or friends to arrange an action day for the group, and again, this would be the perfect way to encourage everyone to get a jump-start on projects they’ve been avoiding. Set up a specific day and hourly check-in time, and you could even have everyone commit to the projects they plan to tackle. Then, when the day comes around, get to work on your individual commitments to see how much progress you could make on your projects.

Action Days for Weekly Progress

Certainly, having even an occasional (say, monthly) action day could be quite helpful, but imagine if you had one per week! I’ve found in past experiments with my own productivity and schedule that even the shortest and most concentrated blocks of time can have a huge impact on what I’m able to get done. I’ve even seen that I can get way more done working one concentrated day per week on a project than five where I jump from project to project, so action days could actually result in the bulk of the work you get done in a given week.

If you’d like to test the waters with weekly action days, find a few others who might be interested and set a specific day and check-in times (for example, Wednesdays are weekly action days with on-the-hour check-ins). Then send out email, Twitter, or Facebook reminders the day before the action day each week.

However you set them up, whether you work in regular or one-off groups, action days can be a great strategy for getting started on large or less appealing projects, and they can be a good addition to your current system for getting things done and warding off procrastination.

As an added note, Stever Robbins organizes occasional action days through his website if you’d like to experiment with the concept, and you can check also out a podcast episode where he explains how he uses action days.

What other strategies do you use to get started on big projects and avoid procrastination?

Photo by Flickr user wwarby, licensed under CC 2.0

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  1. Peter G. James Sinclair Thursday, November 25, 2010

    We all need help along the way and thank you Amber for reminding us about this with such a great action and accountability concept, but isn’t it great to know that…

    ’You can start, the very minute you decide to begin.’

    First the decision, then the action. Your mind is a powerful force that controls every single thing that you do with your life. So take charge. Harness it. Train it. Feed it. For the pearls of wisdom are available to those who are willing to search. In all your affairs, always decide to decide. Indecision will kill any dream and destroy any desire. So think first. That way you have begun. Then act. That way you have continued. Your entire life can be transformed in a split second. Do this by turning your back on the past, projecting yourself into the future and by thinking good thoughts in the here and now.

  2. Assuming you can be sincere with yourself, tracking time in Excel and then calculating how much time you have spent on various activities during the day can be a big help. The objective should be to reduce that time with every passing day. For instance when you start a new activity for the first time you may take more than 60 minutes to complete it due to various distractions and lack of focus. You should know that you can decrease this time. The next time you try you make it within 60 minutes and as you proceed it becomes a sort of a game, a challenge. Although this “action days” activity can be productive too.

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