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Action Vs Motion: How To Tell If You’re Procrastinating With Over-Planning

Are you actually getting things done, or have you been considering the time that you’re *thinking* and *planning* as taking action?

Well, maybe you’re actually not taking action at all, but really you’re just doing the motions. 

When I heard the difference between these two in “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, I was like… “ooh that’s a good one. I’m the queen of getting stuck motion mode.” 

So what’s the difference between motion and action?

Motion Mode looks like planning, learning, strategizing, and thinking.

Action Mode looks like doing something that will create results.

Both are important for creating intentional goals. But action is going to be the driving force behind your success.

Because without it, you’ll never actually create anything. You can talk and plan as much as you want, but until you get into action, nothing comes from it.

Ideally, you want to start with motion and move to action. But, a lot of us get stuck in the motion zone. That’s the safe zone. When we are in motion, we don’t have to actually do the work. We’re in a place where we can fantasize and create our own reality on how we’re going to achieve our goals, but we’re not faced with the reality of doing it. 

And the worst part about being in this place is that we sort of trick ourselves into feeling accomplished and thinking we’re doing the work, but really we’re procrastinating on the action part.

So, why do we procrastinate with motion?

When it comes to taking action, we have a lot of fears around it. What happens if we take action, and it doesn’t work out? Do we then have to admit that we’re a failure?

There have been lots of times in my life where I haven’t given things 100% of my effort, because a part of me believes that I can always say, “well…maybe it would’ve worked if I gave it my all.” But the thing is, I’d rather leave this planet knowing that I gave my full effort and failed than to not have tried.

Here’s what motion can look like:

  • Creating a business plan, but not starting the business
  • Doing research for an assignment, but not writing it.
  • Talking to people about therapy options, but not making the appointment.
  • Reading articles about health, but not changing your lifestyle.
  • Curating a Pinterest board of recipes, but not cooking them.
  • Studying to become a coach, and then never actually coaching clients.
  • Putting together your ideal workout plan, but not going to the gym.

In order to create the results you want, you have to get into action. Motion isn’t enough.

There seem to be two main groups of people:

  1. Those that like planning and strategizing, but struggle with the action.
  2. Those that like taking action, but don’t like taking the time to strategize.

We need to have the ability to do both to get the kind of results we want.

If all you do is plan, you’ll never create anything. So it’s important to catch yourself if you find that you’re spending most of your time going through the motions.

And while planning helps you to be intentional, it’s helpful if the majority of your time is spent taking action, because that’s what’s going to create the most impact in your life. Especially if you already find yourself in the category of the over-planner type. 

If you’re stuck in motion, here are some ways to start taking action

1. Create a habit stacking plan to make taking action easy

Habit stacking is when you create a sequence of habits, based on a habit that you already have ingrained in your lifestyle. For example, it’s pretty likely that you brush your teeth every morning, so you can pair that habit with tongue scraping. After you finish tongue scraping, you could floss. You create a sequence so that each step triggers you to take the next action.

2. Create a weekly meeting with yourself for your strategizing

Keep your planning and strategizing to a minimum by creating a designated time slot for it each week. A weekly meeting at the beginning of the week can help you figure out how to intentionally navigate the week ahead. You want to spend this time reflecting on what went well, what could’ve been better and what you want to accomplish the next week. What new goal do you have? What do you want to get done this week? What do you have already scheduled? Where can you fit your workouts in? 

Action is fantastic, but it does take some planning to find the time and place for making things happen. An hour-long weekly meeting helps you figure this out, without it sucking up all your time.

3. Time block with your Daily Big 3

Each evening or first thing in the morning, decide on your big three to-dos for the day. And then, schedule those into your calendar so that you can completely focus on them. 

We often make our to-do lists too long, and then we struggle to get into action because it feels overwhelming. Write down a masterlist of all the things you want to get done (you can do this in your weekly meeting!) and choose three for the day. And then, break it down even more if you need to.

Creating the time and place you’re going to get this done is also important. Set the scene, and make it simple on yourself so that taking action is as easy as possible.


What’s one thing you’re going to take action on this week?