“It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do.”
It might be the new business you want to start but you’re halfway working through the business plan. It might be the album which you want to launch but you’re still composing the songs. It might be the book which you want to finish writing but you’re still stuck in the late chapters.
If you have been taking action and working on your goals, that’s a big achievement and you should be proud of yourself! Getting started is your first step to realizing your goals. Most people get stuck in the thinking but not doing phase, and that’s not good because your goals won’t magically pop up one day from not taking action.
However, if you have a habit of starting many new things but not finishing them, then that’s something to look into. The whole process from starting something to completing it is a different study itself. If you have ever embarked on a project, you’d know that every goal/project comes with its own set of challenges which are not visible when you first start. For example, maybe your original idea doesn’t turn out how you would like it to be. You meet obstacles which you didn’t anticipate. You underestimated the amount of work that needs to be done. Other commitments or fire emerge that take your focus away.
Here are some Key Points which should be kept in mind, while dealing with this:
1. Be selective in what you embark on
When you start on a project (especially if it’s a big scale one), be sure that this is something you are passionate about and you want to see through. Personally, I don’t start something unless I’m absolutely sure that I’m interested in it. Though there are always some projects where you don’t have any choice. In the past, I embarked on things which I was half-interested in, for example playing cricket, some random project in the office. Eventually, I stopped them mid-way. This resulted in the waste of time and resources which could have been better utilized elsewhere. Because of that, I’m more conscious of how I utilize that time and energy. If you set a high threshold on what you want to do, the completion rate is also higher.
If you aren’t sure that this is something you really want to do, you can dip your feet into the pool first – try it out on a small scale and see if it’s what you’re interested in. For example, if you’re interested in starting a business, read up on it first. If you’re keen to be a writer, try a personal writing or open a blog and start writing or getting some freelance work. Another way is to sit on it for a few weeks. If you keep thinking about it every day for weeks, then you should probably give it a go-ahead.
2. Estimate the resources you need
In companies they do resource planning, where they estimate how much resources are needed for a project. After which, they plan the manpower and investment accordingly. For us, that means doing a quick plan on how much time and effort this idea will take so we can have a bird’s eye view.
It doesn’t have to be exhaustive. Just a quick outline will help. The point is to have something that guides you and helps you to take the decision.
3. Budget your time and energy accordingly
After you create your outline, you would have a realistic idea of how much time and effort is needed to complete it. Plan out your time and resources accordingly and integrate them into your schedule/to-do list. Block out time in your calendar for the project. Give yourself some buffer as well, in the case of contingencies.
A big reason for the loss of enthusiasm or energy is when people underestimate the amount of work needed to bring the goal to life and the dependencies which suck your enthusiasm. I remember, in my college time, I started on a different project which never saw the light of the day. I dived straight in without any plan. I just thought if I kept consistency, it would eventually be finished. I spent countless days and nights just doing without planning, but it never got anywhere after months. In the end, I was getting new ideas on new things to do, and it was time to move on to other projects.
Looking back, the biggest reasons why it was never completed was because (a) I underestimated the work required (b) I was being too hung up on unimportant details (c) dependencies which kill the momentum. That led to unnecessary redoing, which prevented me from moving forward. To this day there are multiple projects still sits incomplete in my laptop. I might get to it in the future, but not now as I’ve many things which I’m more interested in working on.
Good planning of resources helps you plan your energy and expectations. You know you must put in X hours and X work to get the final output, so you’ll manage yourself appropriately to achieve your desired outcome. That’ll lead to a higher project success rate.
4. Quit being a perfectionist
How many of us keep delaying work because we want to get it just right? I’m all for perfectionism and getting the best output, but if your desire for perfectionism is preventing you from getting things done, I think it’s good to challenge it. If you’re stalled at a stage of the project and you keep revising it, again and again, park it for a later stage and move on to a new part. Return to it later and see it with fresh eyes. You might notice that what you were hung up about really isn’t that big of a deal. Also, constantly referring to your outline is also helpful in getting perspective. Your objective is to finish the project, so keep your eyes on the prize.
If your perfectionism is preventing you from even getting started, try these two tips:
* First, break the task into many little steps, then focus on one part at the time. If you still put it off after breaking it down, then break it down even further into mini pieces. Soon, you’ll be left with such a simple task that you’ll be wondering what was keeping you from doing it from before!
* The second tip is to give yourself the permission to do a draft version. Meaning, there’s no need to get it done right the first time. Just creating a draft, even if it’s a crappy one, is better than if you didn’t do anything at all. Get yourself started and things will roll on from there.
5. Commit to it
Once you start, commit to it. Whatever you have planned, do them. Give yourself the option to exit a project if it’s not in line with your vision, but otherwise, hold yourself to your word.
Ask yourself what’s more important to you – Going out to party for the weekend or to work on that business you’ve been meaning to set-up? The former might bring you some temporal gratification, but the latter is what truly gives you satisfaction. The rewards you get from doing the latter are rewards which you’ll continue to reap long afterward.
(The view expressed are by a friend with some pollution from my side)