Do you create “perfect” project plans and then find yourself feeling bored when it comes to actually taking action on those plans?
Do you start projects and then stop midway because you underestimated the amount of work the project would actually entail?
Do you ever feel as though you have so many ideas that you feel stuck, not knowing what to do next?
Well, I answer, “yes” to those questions very often! Fortunately, I’ve found ways to counteract those feelings in order to keep moving forward.
(1) Give In and Say Goodbye to Your Project – Organize your project materials and put them away. Let yourself feel as if the project(s) no longer exists. Take an hour and do something frivolous just for you. Then, return to your project and see if you feel any different about it. I often find that I lose energy and motivation when my projects begin to control me. In contrast, when I control the projects—organize them, put them away, decide to let them go for an hour—then I’ve regained control of them. Sometimes, this change in perspective is all I need to push me forward.
(2) Take Micro-Steps – Break a large project into small, achievable steps. Not only will you get more done, you will feel much less stressed! The key to taking these “micro-steps” is creating a plan that outlines how you are going to get from point A to point B despite that looming timeline. For example, Point A may be a blank Word document and Point B may be a 200-page book. While writing Perseverance, I found myself writing in my planner: Write Book. Can you imagine how scary that is to look at? So, rather than recording just Point B, create Point A1 to Point A2, to Point A3, and so on, until you finally reach that elusive Point B. It sounds simple (and it is), but the effects are quite dramatic! [This tip inspired byAby from Simplify101
(3) Join a Supportive Community or Group – Share your progress with an audience. An audience can be a great motivator. Through its help, you will want to move forward and share your success; if not for you, then for your group. You will be accountable to more than just one person—yourself. Of course, you can lie and tell your group that you did more than you actually did, but that will leave you feeling even worse. That’s why I wouldn’t suggest that tactic! When you begin to slip, tell your group and they will help get you back on track. Today, you can start by joining the Power of Less On-line Challenge Community!
(4) Jump In – Start moving forward by allocating a small amount of time to the project. For example, use a timer and set it to 5 minutes. The goal of this exercise is to spend 5 minutes doing one mini-step (ex. Point A1). Those five minutes will fly by, and you will likely want to spend more time on the project. If you want to spend 30 minutes on Mini-Step A1 today, you can break that into six 5-minute sessions, five 6-minute sessions, three 10-minute sessions, or one 30-minute session. See how much flexibility you have? Don’t box yourself in; instead, allow yourself to do mini sessions if you don’t have the mental energy to do the entire 30 minutes in one sitting.
(5) Work Backwards – Think about yourself as if the project is already complete. What have you done? How do you feel? Now use this knowledge to create a path with a known destination. Pretend you are talking to a class of students. How would you explain to them how you got to where you are? Use this explanation to guide yourself from Point A to Point B.
(6) Filter your Ideas – I generate about 50 pieces of scrap paper a day with ideas jotted down on them. These ideas are then left scattered all over my office, and they fill me with negative energy. I feel overwhelmed and unsure about where to start—much less what I’m doing! It’s as if the ideas are all begging for my attention. Put your ideas together and go through them.
- Throw away the ideas that you no longer like or that aren’t really applicable at this point. After you finish this exercise, you’ll likely be left with about 20% of your original ideas.
- Ask yourself which ideas are necessary or applicable to you today (e.g., writing a novel about shoes sounds fun, but can I do it anytime in the near future… no!) so, that one goes into the garbage! Don’t let “fun” cloud your judgement! So the second step is to filter your ideas and get rid of the ideas that may seem great but aren’t realistic anytime soon. At this point, you’ll likely be left with 10-15% of your original ideas.
- Go through your remaining ideas and look for any overlap. Do two of the ideas say the same thing in different words? Do two of the ideas relate to the same project? Put similar ideas together and throw out any duplicates.
- Now, decide what you will do with the remaining ideas. You can create a document on your computer for “ideas” and organize them by category, thus creating your own “idea database,” or you can include the idea in a project on which you are already working (e.g., research on animal communication).
--> The Result: Your ideas are now under control and should create much less mental noise!
(7) Bribe Yourself! – Sometimes we have to give ourselves a little positive reinforcement to get something done! That doesn't make you a bad person – it makes you human.
(8) Re-evaluate – If you try everything and still feel horrible when you think about the project, then simply re-evaluate why you’re doing that project. Think about why you feel awful when you’re working on it. We all have projects like this, so invest some time reflecting on the overall picture and how this project corresponds with it—or not. Allow yourself to let go—let go of “perfect.” Then, you can let go of the yucky feeling associated with “letting go.”