How To Stop Researching + Start Taking Action

Want to stop procrastinating, battle perfectionism, and giving up on your dreams? Read on for five tips to finally start taking action towards your goals! #Successful #Habits #Routine #DailyHabits #Mindset #SelfImprovement #PersonalDevelopment #PersonalGrowth #SelfHelp #Routines #Balance #GrowthMindset I can see the tiny ‘like’ notifications piling up under the comment on my Instagram post. 12, 13, 14 likes.

And honestly? I get it. Because the comment is so, so relatable.

Who among us hasn’t done this?

Who hasn’t spent weeks or months researching: 

  • How to launch business
  • The best way to calm your brain down + be more productive
  • Steps to be a better ally
  • How to figure out a budget, once and for all

And then … that’s where it ends. We never actually publish the first blog post or start using our planner or call our senators or open our banking app.

📢 WE’VE ALL DONE IT!! 📢

And, I’d venture, we’ve all felt bad about it.

It sucks to give up on ourselves and our goals. It sucks to witness ourselves productively procrastinate – yet again. It sucks to hide from what we want under the guise of “research” … and know that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Sidenote: If you want help taking action on any of those bullet points, I soooo highly recommend this $100 ecourse bundle.* It’s $21,675 worth of courses that’ll help you take action on, well, just about anything. I bought it and have loved it!

As someone who’s prone to this behavior and has (mostly!) gotten past it – here are my best tips to stop researching + start taking action.

1. Realize that at a certain point, research is procrastination + self-sabotage 😬

#painfulbuttrue. Should we have a basic understanding of hashtags before we start an Instagram account for our businesses? Probably.

Is it a good idea to read a bunch of books about anti-racism? FOR SURE.

Can we benefit from watching Youtube videos about budget spreadsheets and couponing?
I would imagine so!

But there is absolutely a limit to what we can learn from Google or books or Youtube videos. At a certain point, we have to actually do the thing. We have to publish the post, speak up at the city council meeting, call our credit card companies.
Because what we’re doing with our months and months of research? Procrastinating and self-sabotaging in a really impressive, socially-sanctioned way. Click To Tweet

2. Break your goal down into little steps. No, even smaller.

One of my coolest tendencies is to wildly underestimate how long things take and how much work goes into them. V fun!

You, too? This looks like writing a five-point to-do list for a goal that really requires something more like 37 bullet points.

If 37 bullet points sounds overwhelming, make each bullet point comically easy + doable. Make each step so dang easy you won’t avoid taking action and you’ll set yourself up for success.

Super easy, tiny steps ➡️ we’re more likely to complete steps ➡️ easier to stay motivated.

For example:

“Find a mentor” = no
“Spend an hour reaching out to friends and see if they know anyone in my career field of choice” = yes

3. Create outer accountability

The vast majority of us can keep commitments to others, but not to ourselves. We’ll meet deadlines for clients or bosses but blow off the marathon registration or our morning meditation practice.

We can make taking action easier by giving ourselves some outer accountability.

  • Make an appointment or pre-pay because you won’t disappoint your trainer, coach, or therapist by flaking out
  • If you’re taking an online course, take it with a friend and schedule times to chat about it or do the work together
  • Tell your friends on social media that you’re working towards this goal + tell them to ask you about it next time they see you!

4. Track your efforts, not your outcomes

☝️ This should be my first tattoo. A hard truth is that results are a lot slower than we’d like for, well, pretty much everything.

And when we’re taking action – sending pitches, calling our representatives, applying for academic programs – very often the outcome feels like … nothing.

Like, you literally never hear back.

And when it feels like you’re not making progress, it’s super easy to give up, and go back to hiding in research.

Let’s track our efforts instead! How many applications did you send out? How many petitions did you sign? How many times did you gently nudge someone to reconsider their implicit bias?

You can make a literal paper chart on your wall that you fill with gold foil stars to track your efforts! ⬆️ A thing I do and extremely recommend.

5. Celebrate said efforts

The very first online course I ever created – were you here for The Post College Survival Kit? – took months to create. It was $40 and I sold 4 seats – one to someone who clearly bought it as market research.

And you know what? I still took myself out to dinner and toasted the fact that I’d worked really hard and kept my promise to myself.

When you take action towards something you want … when you get out of your own way … when you keep your promises to yourself – YOU CELEBRATE THAT ISH.

I hope this helps you stop researching and start taking action. It’s a hard habit to break! It might take you a minute! But it’s totally possible.

P.S. Don’t forget that amazing $100 ecourse bundle! I bought it myself and FINALLY figured out how to run Facebook ads after 6 months of half-watching Youtube videos and poking around in the Facebook ads manager!

* The first time this bundle was offered, I used it as a fundraiser for Minneapolis organizations and we collectively donated $4,500 dollars. This time, it’s just a good ol’ fashioned “here’s a great sale I think you should know about, I get a cut from any purchases that come through that link.” 😉 The sale runs July 6 – 11th!

Photos by STIL and Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

People Are Allowed To Disagree With Your Choices + You’re Allowed To Make Them Anyway

Are you an approval-chaser? Afraid of disapproval or worried about what people think? Read on for tips to stop being such a people pleaser. #selfhelp #selfdevelopment #peoplepleaser #motivation“Welp, I’m pretty sure I know how this is going to go,” I think grimly as I click the send button.

It’s mid-April and we’re in the midst of a pandemic, sweeping layoffs, and a gathering storm of anxiety.

I’m telling my email list about a live round of my beloved Bank Boost program, a five-week course that helps people earn more money, keep more money, and still enjoy their lives while doing it.

And I’m nauseous because selling people something – even a very reasonably-priced something that will help them mitigate their financial anxieties! – feels weird. At best.

I’m worried people will think I’m being opportunistic – even though I created Bank Boost years before this pandemic and this launch has been planned for months.

I’m worried people will think I’m charging too much – even though my colleagues change 2 – 5 times this for self-paced courses with zero support or accountability.

And you know? That is what some people thought.


Of course, a lot more people joyfully enrolled in Bank Boost, thanked me for offering such a helpful resource during this weird time, and appreciated the accessible price point.

But it’s soooo much easier to remember those few who disagreed with me + my choices.

The official term for this – our brain’s overemphasis on criticism and negative feedback – is negativity bias.

But even if you’ve never heard that term, I bet you’ve experienced your version of this – remembering that your cousin doesn’t like your cheesecake everyone else praises, obsessing over the fact that your neighbor rolled her eyes over your landscaping even if all your friends say it looks great.

I extremely get it! I’m right there with you! But the truth is: People are allowed to disagree with your choices + you're allowed to make them anyway. Click To Tweet

Your mom is allowed to think you look better blonde and you’re allowed to let your natural color grow in.

Your best friend is allowed to think you should stay at your current job and you’re allowed to try your hand at full time freelancing.

Your partner is allowed to think you should finish your degree and you’re allowed to feel just fine being four credits short of a B.A. for the rest of your life.

Strangers on the internet are allowed to think you should do ___, charge ____, and wait till ___ to do it. You’re allowed to make a different choice.

If we wait for every person who’s ever existed to agree with our choices, we will never do anything.

If we wait for, like, FIVE people to agree with all our choices, we’ll still probably never do anything.

The people in our lives aren’t required to agree with every single thing we do. And we’re not required to wait for agreement and approval before taking action.

P.S. Need help with stuff like this when it comes to your business, your goals, your habits, or your money? I’m taking new coaching clients! Click here to learn more.

Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

You’re allowed to take imperfect action in the direction of what you want. Especially now.

Do you struggle with perfection? Want to get over your perfectionism? Read on for a motivation tips and a pep talk you might need. #selfhelp #selfdevelopment #motivation #productivity #goalsetting“But I want it to be custom designed. And I need to change the font. And also maybe I need real headshots?”

It’s 2008 and I’m sitting on a futon in my “garden level” (read: basement) apartment, talking at my then-boyfriend about the blog I want to create.

I, of course, have grand visions for it.

There will be none of this free Blogspot template nonsense for me. If I’m going to do it, I want to do it really, really well and I’m not going to start until everything is 100% the way I want it.

“Sure, Babe,” my web developer boyfriend says in that supportive-but-non-committal way specific to 20-something boyfriends. “I’ll code something for you when I’ve got free time.”

The free time and the custom designed website never really happen. Ultimate frisbee and craft beers consume my boyfriend’s time, reading about how to blog and then not blogging consumes mine.

But one day, after a particularly stressful day at my $16-an-hour ESL teaching job, I come home, grab one of those previously-maligned Blogspot templates, and launch my deeply imperfect blog into the world.

I MEAN LOOK. (2008 Sarah loved this shot glass in Wall, South Dakota.)

And over the last 11 years (!!!) I have very imperfectly made my way towards a successful business I love.

I have published so many typos. I have launched products only four (FOUR!) people bought. I ran my business from a $200 Netbook, a yahoo email address, and coffee shop wifi because I couldn’t afford my own.

It was wildly imperfect and not always comfortable, but it still got me where I wanted to go.

I know that some of us are using this strange time to reassess our goals and what we want out of life.

Maybe you’re trying to learn a new language, or develop a new professional skill set, or build a morning meditation habit.

But this is not an ideal time, we’re all stressed out, so after some fits and starts you give up.
You are allowed to take imperfect action in the direction of what you want. Click To TweetMeditating three days a week is better than meditating zero times a week.

Half-watching a Youtube tutorial on email marketing is better than not watching it at all.

Half-assing DuoLingo Spanish is better than no-assing DuoLingo.

So I guess what I’m saying is:

1. You don’t have to wait for everything to be perfect to take action in the direction of what you want (P.S. There is no perfect time for anything, ever.)

2. Consistent, imperfect action will get you so much further than infrequent, perfect action. 

Photo by Connor McSheffrey on Unsplash

Why You Should Make An ‘If I Absolutely Had To’ List Today

Worried about money? Struggling with relationship problems? Whatever the problem, this list helps me calm down and take control of any situation. #selfdevelopment #selfcare #selfhelp #moneytips #FIRE #budgetingFor the ninth night in a row, it’s 3 am and I’m glaring at my ceiling. Narrowing my eyes at the light fixture I don’t  like and counting my worries like they’re sheep.

Like most of us, my anxieties have multiplied like wet gremlins over the last month. And the equation of ‘feeling constantly worried’ + ‘sleeping poorly’ does not equal, well, anything good.

So I’m returning to an exercise I used during my twenties when life was an exhausting mix of not-right-for-me boyfriends, school debt, a low-paying career, and changing apartments/cities. 

May I present an exercise that makes me feel a million times better in times of uncertainty?

I call this the ‘If I Absolutely Had To’ List.

And – like many things I teach – it falls under the heading “Seems Too Simple To Work But Very Much Does.”

How to make an ‘If I Absolutely Had To’ list

Step 1: At the top of a piece of paper*, write the problem you want to solve or the issue you’re struggling with

Something like:

I’m worried I don’t have enough in savings to get through this pandemic.

I’m worried my relationship will fall apart because we’re together so much and we’re fighting constantly.

We have to put our house on the market and who’s going to want to buy a house during a pandemic?!

You get the idea. One issue – just one! – at the top of the page.

Step 2: Brainstorm 50 different ways you could deal with this problem – including solutions you really don’t want to pursue, but could if you absolutely had to

When you’re listing ways to deal with a chosen problem, you’ll find that the first 5 – 10 ideas you come up with are probably pleasant and sensible.

If you’re unemployed + worried about money, the first few items on your list might look like: 

  • Reach out to previous clients and see if they have any work
  • Update my LinkedIn profile
  • Email people in my professional network and see if they have any leads
  • Look for contract or freelance work
  • Keep calling the unemployment office, even if I have to be on hold for two hours

See? Normal!

But the magic happens when you force your brain to start thinking of all the things you could theoretically do to solve this problem. Including things you realllllly don’t want to do (but could if you absolutely had to.)

And, obviously, the “I really don’t want to but I could” portion of these lists will vary widely from person to person. One person’s “I really don’t want to do this” is another person’s day-to-day reality. Because privilege.

If you’re worried about money, your ‘If I Absolutely Had To’ list might look like: 

  • Start taking freelance contracts doing that thing I know how to do but don’t enjoy
  • Sell my plasma
  • Sell my eggs/sperm
  • Cancel cable and start watching library dvds
  • Get a job at a grocery store even though I’m really nervous about COVID-19
  • Sell the family china set or silverware
  • Get a roommate
  • Move back in with my parents
  • Split wifi with my neighbor even though I might not be able to stream movies
  • Cancel my wifi altogether
  • Get out of my car lease and become a 1-car family / figure out bike commuting / buy a cheaper car with cash
  • Sell my iphone 11 and buy a $200 Android

These are things you probably extremely don’t want to do! Who wants their Netflix to stall out because the neighbor just started a Zoom call? Nobody, that’s who.
Forcing your brain to acknowledge that there are many, MANY ways you could deal with a problem is one of the most calming, empowering things you can do. Click To Tweet

Knowing that there are solutions to your problem will help you sleep at night. 

It will give you the strength to make tough decisions because you’ll know that, no matter what, you can get through this. It might even prevent you from spiraling into self-doubt and anxiety!

What’s stressing you out these days? If you’re being super honest with yourself, are there ways you could solve that problem if you absolutely had to?

* Annoying and slow as it may be, I’d recommend writing this list on actual paper, with your actual hand. When we write things by hand, we’re digging new neural pathways and the deeper the neural pathway, the easier it is to have a thought again.
When you write out 50 potential solutions to your problem by hand, it’s going to be a lot easier for your brain to remember that all is not lost! There are so many ways you can deal with this issue!

3 Things I Tell Almost Every Coaching Client

Looking for advice from a life coach? Or self-development tips? Tap through and read 3 personal development tips that apply to almost everyone. #motivation #productivity #selfhelp #selfdevelopment
I stare at the pink, arrow-shaped post-it note on my laptop that reminds me to look into the camera. Blink, blink.


On the other side of the country, my coaching client is nibbling a piece of whole wheat toast and telling me about her overpacked schedule.

She has two kids, a partner who travels a lot, and a program she’s been trying to create for the last six months.

She’s 10,000 words in but she has no idea what she’s doing. She knows she’s over-complicating things, but her calendar and brain are too full to choose a next step. 

I nod along and then share an insight that’s been super helpful to me and helpful to many of my other clients – regardless of the topic we’re discussing.

She smiles into her own laptop camera in Portland. “Thank you,” she says.  “I really needed to hear that.” 


I’ve been working with 1:1 coaching clients more and more these past few months. We turn on our cameras and drink from our respective coffee cups and chat about all sorts of things: money, online business, goal-setting, self-promotion.

I’ve sent clients links to plugins that will help them stay off Anthropologie.com and scripts for how to tell family members they’re dropping out of grad school.

We’ve talked about how to leave unhealthy romantic relationships and how to fit workouts into a super busy schedule.

More than once my 18-year-old cat has scrambled onto my lap mid-session and yowled directly into the camera. #superprofesh

And even though I coach my clients around many different topics, I find myself saying a few things over and over.

These things have been helpful to the business owner who is launching her first ecourse, the person who’s sick of arguing about money with their partner, and the woman who’s trying to launch her writing career. 

So I thought they might be helpful to you, too.

3 Things I Tell Almost Every Coaching Client

1. You’re doing great. I bet you’re doing better than you’re giving yourself credit for!

Listen: acknowledging that you want to change some aspect of your life or business is terrifying and vulnerable and, honestly, pretty rare.

By admitting that we wish things were different, we’re also admitting that we’re going to have to, like, try.

And trying creates an opportunity to fail.
If we don’t acknowledge that we want things to change, we won’t have to try. And if we don't try, we can’t fail. How convenient! Click To TweetWhen they hire me, my coaching clients are saying “I acknowledge that I want to change this part of my life. I’m willing to admit that I want to change and I’m willing to commit money and time to making this change.”

Just by a) admitting they want to change b) taking an active step in the direction of change, they’re wildly ahead of the curve!

And this doesn’t just apply to people who hire coaches.

If you’ve done any of the following, imagine me shouting across the internet “You’re doing great! I bet you’re doing better than you’re giving yourself credit for!”

  • Gone to therapy
  • Read a book about an aspect of your life you’d like to change
  • Told a friend that you want ____ to be different
  • Told your pet that you want ____ to be different
  • Taken a tiny step in the direction of what you want
  • Did something scary and uncomfortable you know will get you closer to where you want to go (even if it didn’t bring the results you wanted)

2. Make it easier to be “good” and harder to be “bad”*

I could spend 72 hours straight talking about neural pathways and the power of self-narrative and creating accountability around our goals.

Blah blah what’s the story you’re telling yourself about that blah.

These things are incredibly important and if you learn how to harness them you will be nigh-on unstoppable!

That being said, sometimes you just need to make it easier to be “good” and harder to be “bad.”

To my clients who are struggling to create their first online course?

Make it harder to procrastinate. Book yourself into a hotel, don’t let them give you the wifi password, and go write your course. I wrote the first draft of Habit School in two days on a goat farm in Wisconsin that doesn’t have internet!

To my clients who want to use their phone more mindfully?

Make it harder to get to your dang phone. Get yourself a good ol’ fashioned alarm clock and stop charging your phone next to your bed.

To my clients who are making more regrettable purchases than they’d like?

Make it harder to shop. Delete the Amazon app from your phone and unsubscribe from the Jcrew newsletter, y’all.

To my clients who want to drink more water?

MAKE IT EASIER TO DRINK MORE WATER. Get a cute water bottle that you like drinking from. Bring it  everywhere.

You’re smart. You get the idea.
Whatever it is that you want to change - you can make it easier to make good choices in the direction of change and harder to make choices that move you further from what you say you want. Click To Tweet

* Obviously, giant air quotes here around “good” and “bad” because your inherent value  as a human is not determined by how much you procrastinate or how many times a week you do yoga.

3. You’re allowed to take imperfect action in the direction of what you want

Whether I’m coaching someone about money, social media, online business, or habits – I want to scream from the rooftops: “You don’t have to do this perfectly to see results! Putting in a B+ effort is better than doing nothing!!!!”

If you cancel those subscriptions you’re not using, but you still order Doordash more than is strictly necessary? It’s an imperfect step in the right direction.

You want to post four times a week on Instagram and this week you only posted twice. It’s still better than the zero times a week you were posting before!

You’re trying to build a morning yoga habit and today you “only” did 10 minutes instead of 40? You still did yoga this morning. You still get to add a star to that chart.

It’s unlikely that every step we take towards change is going to be perfect. 

There will be typos in Instagram posts. There will be launches that under-perform, side hustles that fizzle, attempts at financial negotiations that go nowhere. You’ll probably fall off your good habit wagon a few times.
When things don’t go perfectly - that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong or that you should give up. It means you’re human. Click To Tweet

Where To Start When You’re Not Sure Where To Start.

Not sure where to start? Looking for productivity tips, motivation advice, or self-development tips? Tap through for tips on where to start no matter what project or goal you're undertaking. #habits #goalsetting #motivation #productivityWhen she sends me the “I want to burn this place down” gif from Mad Men I know I need to actually call her – rather than send the usual series of heart and strong arm emojis.

“What’s up?” I ask. I know things have been less-than-ideal in my friend’s life for a while now, but I didn’t realize we were talking season 7 Joan Holloway levels of frustration.

“I hate it. All of it. This stupid job. My hair. I hate all the clothes in my closet. You know I love my dog but even walking her is a production of yanking and barking. And I’m never going to pay off all that school debt. I want to do-over card. I want to burn it all down and move somewhere new and be a totally new person.” 

Friend. I GET IT. When we want everything to change, it’s hard to know where to start. When it feels like nothing is quite the way you want it, where do you start when you don’t know where to start? 

I asked my friend if she was venting and wanted me to listen or if she wanted me to put on my coaching hat and give her advice. (<- something I’m working on because often our friends just want us to listen and not give them unsolicited advice!)

She wanted me to give her advice, so I did. And if you’re in the same ‘I want to change but I don’t know where to start’ place, I’m about to give you the same advice!

Where to start when you don’t know where to start

Start with the obvious thing you KNOW will improve your life

Bluuuuugh. Probably not what you were hoping to hear, right? But the totally unsexy truth is that no matter what we’re trying to accomplish or what we’re struggling with, we all benefit from:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Moving our bodies (in a way we don’t hate!) at least a little, every day
  • Seeing or talking to friends regularly
  • Not being constantly dehydrated

“But Sarah! I’m trying to train for a marathon / build a successful freelance career / save up for IVF treatments! I’M NOT INTERESTED IN STARTING WITH ‘DRINK MORE WATER’!”

Friend, I get it. But the truth is: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs isn’t messing around. Until we meet our most basic physical and emotional needs, we’re really going to struggle with stuff like “launch a podcast” or “navigate adopting a child through foster care” or “find a new job.”

Also? When we’re well-rested, hydrated, and supported we have more energy, creativity, and focus to go after what we want.

Sometimes we want to believe that success is magical or special or a mystery - but a surprising amount depends on unsexy things like hours slept, glasses of water consumed, and the number of high five emojis in the text chain. Click To Tweet

Start with something binary

Already got the basics down? I am high-fiving you through the internet! What’s another place to start when you don’t know where to start? The binary behaviors and choices in your life.

Many of the things we want to change in our lives are a little squishy and grey area-y.

We want to stop stalking our ex on social media, but then they show up in a friend’s photos on Facebook and we read all the comments. Does that count?

Or we want to read more. We take a writing class and the professor assigns several books so we read them. Does that count?

Set yourself up for success – and create momentum and motivation for future success – by choosing a binary change. Either you did it or you didn’t.

Either you took your medication or you didn’t.

Either you did your physical therapy exercises or you didn’t. 

Either you sent the networking email or you didn’t.

When we give ourselves black and white, tangible, check-off-able goals, we’re more likely to achieve them.

Start with something that’s semi-public

If you’re already doing the basics and that binary advice doesn’t apply to you, try changing something that’s semi-public.

Why? Because when we do things in a semi-public way we’re creating accountability and creating the identity for ourselves as someone who does _______________.

(And usually those identities are positive and we want to keep them!)

A semi-public change is a change that involves other people or is witnessed by your friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers.

If you and your co-workers eat lunch together every day, and you start bringing lunch, they’ll notice + comment and you’ll feel accountable to keep it up.

If you and your partner get up at the same time every day, they’ll notice if you start drinking a big glass of water before breakfast or stretch while your Poptart is toasting. Accountability, ahoy!

If you get coffee at the same coffee shop every morning, the barista is going to notice if you switch to decaf or tea. You just created accountability, friend!

Change is possible, y’all. I see it every day with my students and coaching clients. I know that starting small might seem silly or ineffective, but I promise you – it’s not.

P.S. Want to know EXACTLY which change to start with? Like: “Do this. Start with this specific ONE thing”? I made you a free, fun, 90-quiz! And I’ll send you tips specific to your quiz results about how to make that change happen! ALSO IT INCLUDES MEMES AND INTERNET ANIMALS WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash