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How to Be Productive When You’re Impulsive AF
Being impulsive comes with a long list of pros and cons. On one hand, it makes you fun and unpredictable, the person people turn to to liven things up. On the other hand, it’s tough for you to stay focused on one thing for too long. So, how do you stay productive when you’re impulsive AF?
Regardless of what you want to be doing, there are times when you will have to plant some roots and get some stuff done.
But this doesn’t mean that the fun has to end.
And it definitely doesn’t mean that you should stifle that unpredictable bug you have – that’s your genius, don’t ever lose that.
It’s about understanding that it’s in your nature to get carried away by amazing new ideas as they come to you. To want to act on them. Right. That. Second.
And it’s about finding a way to let that part of your essence flourish while still knocking stuff off your to-do list.
So let’s start by taking a look at why you’re impulsive in the first place.
You’re Impulsive – It’s In Your Nature
First and foremost, I want to point out that it’s completely possible to be impulsive and still be an incredibly productive person.
Case in point? Me.
I’m an incredibly impulsive person. I can’t plan my editorial calendar out more than a month in advance. And a lot of what I plan during that month will change.
And that’s because I’ve learned to trust my gut and listen to what it’s saying.
But at the same time, these last minute changes don’t completely derail everything that I’ve been working towards.
I still #getshitdone.
By being very intentional with my goals and what I hope to achieve, even if I may not know exactly what it will look like at the end.
And this all comes back to my personality type.
I base a lot of my time management ideology around the strengths and weaknesses of each Myers Briggs personality type.
And I’m not going to rehash that all here. I’ve written a massive article on that already, which you can read here.
Today, I want to elaborate on just one part of it: Being impulsive is directly related to how you process information and how you make decisions. These are 2 of the 4 components that the Myers Briggs looks at.
So let’s break each of these down a little further.
How You Process Information
The Myers Briggs separates how you process information into 2 different groups.
The first are the Sensors (S), and these people process information by using their 5 senses to take in everything that’s going on around them right here and right now.
The second are the Intuitors (N), and these people process information by seeing patterns and making connections and then putting the pieces together to see how it will all come together in the future.
So, in other words, Sensors live in the here and now, while Intuitors are always thinking about the future.
And when it comes to being impulsive, Sensors are generally the first to be afflicted.
Intuitors are usually too busy dreaming about the future to act impulsively in the moment. They can be impulsive with their big ideas – one coming right after another – but they rarely act on something the moment they think of it.
That’s what Sensors do. We have an idea and want to jump in right this very second.
Intuitors can sit there and give you a whole list of things they would like to do. And Sensors will look at them dumbfounded as to why they aren’t doing anything about it.
But Intuitors are taking the time to see how it all fits into their idea of the future.
While the Sensors have already worked out the details.
And these details are great – the details should never be ignored. But it’s never a good idea to start working on something without considering how it fits into the bigger picture. And whether it’s the best thing for you right now.
How You Make Decisions
So if being impulsive is rooted in how you process information, then it’s manifested in how you make decisions.
And the Myers Briggs separates how you make decisions into two different groups as well.
The first are the Thinkers (T), and these people tend to make decisions based on logical reasoning, looking at the cold hard facts.
The second are the Feelers (F), and these people tend to make decisions based on the emotional ramifications of that decisions, and how that decision will affect everyone involved.
In other words, Thinkers think things through, coming to a logical decision, whereas Feelers do what feels right, going by their gut reaction.
Because of this, Feelers are usually a lot more impulsive than Thinkers.
And this makes sense because those gut reactions are typically pretty impulsive. You may have completely planned something out, and then decide to change it because it just feels like the right thing to do.
To Thinkers, this makes absolutely no sense. Why would you make changes to a solid plan based on what your gut is telling you?
But as a Feeler, I know from experience that when my gut’s telling me to do something, it generally pans out pretty well.
I mean, not always, if my 20’s are any indication.
But now that I understand myself and how I function, I trust my gut a lot more. And it’s helped me tremendously as an entrepreneur.
I think that if I spent all my time stressing over analytics and whether I was making the right decisions, I never would actually make any decisions. But that’s how I am, and rather than fight it, I embrace it.
Putting Them Both Together
So now that we have that straight, the next thing that we need to do is put them both together.
If you’re an Intuitive Thinker, you probably think things through, considering how everything plays into the big picture, rarely making impulsive decisions.
If you’re an Intuitive Feeler, you might make those impulsive changes to your long-term plans when it feels right – or you might always get a rush of new ideas based on your emotional reaction to things – but you never really act on them right away.
If you’re a Sensing Thinker, you probably get a lot of great ideas in the moment that you want to act on, but you take the time to analyze them and think them through.
But, if you’re a Sensing Feeler, you are probably pretty impulsive. You think of things in the moment and act on them because they feel right.
I get it. I’m a Sensing Feeler.
But being this way does not have to stop you from finishing your projects. And it doesn’t have to mean that you’re constantly being pulled in a million directions.
There are a few different things you can do to stop being so impulsive all the time, while still living in the moment and trusting that amazing gut of yours.
The first thing that you need to do to keep yourself in check when you’re impulsive is to make sure that what you’re working on is always SMART.
This stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Sensitive. I’m just going to give you a crash course on them here, but read this post if you want a better understanding of SMART goals.
The point of SMART goals isn’t to come up with a bunch of new goals and tasks. It’s to look at your current goals and to-do list and rework things so that they’re SMART.
S – You need your goals and tasks to be specific so you know exactly what you’re doing. As a Sensor you’re a details person, so use that to your advantage.
M – You also need to make sure they are measurable so you can say without a doubt when you have achieved the goal or completed the task (“answer 10 emails” instead of just “answer emails”).
A – You need to make sure it’s something you can actually achieve or whether it’s framed in a way that you have control over whether you can achieve it (“ask for a response in emails” instead of “get people to respond to emails”).
R – You also need to make sure that it’s relevant to what’s going on in your life right now. Something may sound fantastic and you can’t wait to dive in, but if it doesn’t make sense for what you want to achieve right now, then put it on the back burner until it does.
T – And finally, it has to be time sensitive. Don’t just decide you’re going to work on something. Decide how long it’s going to take and when you expect it to be done. This will hold you accountable (“spend an hour today answering emails” instead of “answer emails”).
The purpose of SMART goals is to make sure that you understand why you’re working on something. Keeping this in mind will help prevent you from moving onto something else before you finish. It will also help ensure that the steps within each goal are the right steps to be taking rather than just busy work.
Focus on Short Term Goals
Another problem that Sensing Feelers face is that it’s difficult for them to do any long-term planning.
It’s difficult for us to know where we see ourselves in 5 years. That’s just too vague. Hell, I don’t even know where I see myself next month.
In order for us to be able to see the future, we need to have concrete steps in place on how we’ll get there. Without that roadmap, it’s simply a dream rather than a goal.
So, in order to curb your impulses, you need to set short-term goals.
Then, focus on meeting these short-term goals rather than some abstract long-term objective that isn’t even real to you.
And meeting these short-term goals will keep you motivated to stay on track.
It will also help that long-term goal become more of a reality, which will start to feel pretty damn good the closer you get to it. And I know you won’t be able to understand that until you start to see it for yourself, so you’re just going to have to trust me on this one.
Put It On Blast
The last thing that you can do to keep yourself in check when you’re impulsive is to announce your plans to someone else. This way, you’ll feel obligated to see it through.
And I’m not talking about letting someone know who won’t care whether you finish it or not. Or someone who will let it slide if you don’t see it through.
I’m talking about putting it out there to people who will expect to see the finished product.
When I decide to start a project, I put that shit on blast.
I email my list.
I put it up on social media.
Apparently announcing it to 25,000 people is what it takes for me to stay on track. But hey, whatever works, right?
And, yes, telling a bunch of people that you’re going to do something can be pretty scary.
But honestly, if the things you do aren’t a little scary, then you’re probably not doing them right in the first place.
Use your impulsive nature and push the boundaries.
It’ll be completely worth it in the end.
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Thanks for the great, in-depth post on being an impulsive person. I’m definitely a sensing feeler too. And like you, I love to plan, yet I change it a lot. I’m looking at a list that I made to be completed by November 1st and only half is checked off, but I’ve done way, way more stuff than that for my blog/website Pen and Parent. I’m going to have to try your smart goals for myself. I teach them sometimes to my students when they start one of my classes, but I forget that they can apply to me as well. Thanks for the great reminder!
You’re welcome! Allowing yourself that flexibility is so important!!