Header: Agate painting by Paul Juno.
In this article I will provide you with 7 ways to improve your industriousness. After 6 years of freelance work, extensive traveling, many books and countless of hard-learned lessons, I’ve accumulated some productive mindset tools to get me going forward. I’ve found that bootstrapping is the best way to learn, so I made these tools my own after collecting them from different sources. You will see the sources listed below, so you can investigate the mindset knowledge in depth, and incorporate them in your mindset toolkit.
Procrastination will still be a thing. Times zones and power outages, still gets everything rattle up. But at least I’ve found that with these tools in mind I always get the job done.
First and foremost, your mindset is everything. After reading Tao Te Ching, I radically changed how I view the mind. In particular, when it comes to focus and concentration, I’ve found that this simple way of thinking helps me every time. If you are stuck at something, anything really, leave it be for the time being, and things will slowly start to become more clear. At least clear enough so that you can pick it up again and continue working on it. This is especially powerful if you are stuck at night – go to bed, sleep it off and the next day your mind is probably more ready to take on the task again.
In yoga, you have the same teaching in Tao; “who can bring something to rest? Let the movement continue, and the state of rest will occur by itself.”
A man with a plan, that’s Jordan for you. No, but seriously, this man changed my life in the sense of tracking my movement forward. It’s all about making a plan, any plan, even a terrible one. Because at least you are going somewhere, you are not drifting away your life. That’s your worst enemy if you have dreams and ambitions for yourself. Aim at something and create manageable goals for yourself.
Don’t know what to aim at? Tune in and listen to yourself when you get caught up by something you are doing. Time flies when you are work on something you find meaningful. Think of it as your whole spirit telling you (or rather screaming to you) that it is the right thing to do –exactly because you loose tract of time and space. You can abuse yourself by rationalization and self-serving beliefs; that scrolling on Instagram or playing video games are “meaningful” because you loose track of time and space when you’re doing it. But, notice I said abuse yourself. Deep down you know that the only person you are really hurting with that kind of rationalization, is yourself.
The Do Something Principle is very simple and straightforward. It can become annoying even, because it feels so obvious. But it’s actually really helpful if you learn to apply it on yourself when you feel stuck. Imagine you have a paper or a presentation you need to write and prepare for. You haven’t started yet and the whole thing starts to feel like a giant compulsion (even though you enjoy writing and doing presentations). Here is the key with the Do Something Principle; you are making the task smaller (in your head at least) by saying to yourself that it’s better to do “something” than nothing. Maybe you have to do some research for the paper or presentation, start with browsing on the internet and find useful links and information you can use. Then your mind is slowing going to adapt to the situation, and the process may not feel as compulsive.
Think of it as you leading your mind into the writing/presentation room. Sometimes you have to take detours through other rooms before you feel comfortable entering the actual room you are heading towards. That’s totally normal. You can pick up things on the way, that will help you forward, and suddenly entering the room you’re aiming at feels like the better choice. If not, you can always go back to center and listen to your inner Tao (tool 1).
When I first encountered the successful entrepreneur, Tom Bileyu, I actually thought he talked too much. So, it took me a task to adjust to his line of thinking and speaking. But his overall goal in life, really got me thinking, and has become a way for me to improve my industriousness. As easy as pie (or not); how you feel about yourself when you’re by yourself.
The reason this became his overall goal in life, is because he is plenty successful, but has in truth felt what it’s like to not feel good about yourself when you’re by yourself. It’s really powerful to hear such honesty, and as far as I’m concerned, this is something you want to implement as early as you can in your career. If you pursue something that makes you successful, but you don’t feel good about yourself when you’re totally alone, it’s not sustaining. To feel good about yourself in the company of other people is easy. The real task is what you feel about yourself when you wake up at 3 am and are surrounded by the dragons in you, that you haven’t faced. If you try to aim at goals that makes you feel good about yourself when you’re by yourself, you will absolutely feel an increase of diligence and industriousness. Because your soul aspires for you to feel good about yourself, you just have to understand how the mind works and team up with it. That’s real self-love.
Learning one new thing every day has become very accessible in our modern environment. Today we carry the keys to a library that is infinitely larger than the Great Library of Alexandria during the third and second centuries BCE — in our pockets in the form of smartphones. In some sense maybe too easy, so we can cease to learn anything at all.
But learning new things is vigorous fuel to our industriousness. It sharpens our brains and counter us against our tendency to seek out comfort. When we start to feel comfortable with our work, that should be a warning. Cause that is actually our brain starting to slow down, which in other words means, decreasing our conscientiousness towards our goals. It doesn’t mean that you want to feel uncomfortable with everything you’re doing all the time, balance is key here. But implementing a simple rule of thumb; “learn one new thing every day”, will slowly but steadily increase the amount of work you can handle on a daily basis. At the same time, you will also expand your intellect, which in turn will allow you to face even harder tasks.
High risk, high return. Again easy on paper, much more frightening in real life. But the risk factor is an absolute must to achieve success in any areas of life. Nicholas Christakis, professor of social and natural science at Yale University, have said something along these lines; “There’s no life without risk. We have to accept that, take steps to address it and recognize that no single step is perfect. Everything is shades of grey and degrees of risk, and we have to make decisions about which risks we are willing to tolerate”.
Tune in and ask yourself which risk factors your are willing to tolerate. Acknowledge that every step towards your aim will entail many perils that you’ll have to overcome to get one step closer to your goals. When you set your mind to risk-mode, you will increase the way you work your way through a dangerous storm. And in due course, you will come out of it stronger and better, even if you get burned. You are stronger than you think.
Allowing yourself to strive for excellence in life can probably feel as obscure and complex as life itself, for most of us. Our personas are so tuned into what everyone else is saying and thinking about us, that we forget to actually listen to ourselves. Imagine you have a plan set out and manageable goals to pursue, but excellence is off the table. How on earth will you, in any regard, get close to achieving your goals in a satisfying way? You’ve just removed the way you can track your way forward, and guided yourself into a grey area filled with an uninspiring, gullible sense of mediocre. The majority of people will tell you that’s life, because “we are all here, so it’s fine”. And it is easy to believe, cause what do you know? But no doubt, increasingly with time, your conscience will haunt you and not leave you alone, for giving up on your excellence.
Our minds are wired to wrestle and strive for higher meaning, quality and brilliance, so we don’t really have a choice. That does absolutely not mean excellence is the same for everyone. Diversity of talent is the unique thing about our species, but you have to go out there, figure our what your excellence looks like and strive towards whatever you have inside of you. It requires a whole lot of courage and risk, because you will with that, encounter the immense amount of brilliant geniuses the world holds. That’s the sacrifice you have to make for discovering your talent, and in that your contribution to the world. Imagine yourself being the next Elon Musk. Aim for the sky, it’s your best bet.