In the last year or so, I started to revise all of my previous actions. Why i marvelously succeeded at some projects (in business or in my personal life) and failed miserably at others. I realized that all the failed ones had common denominators, as did the ones that succeeded.
Every project, whether personal or in business, always starts with an idea. It doesn’t matter where you get it, under the shower, walking on your favorite forest road, watching a movie or simply reading a good book. We get millions of them a day. Some are good, some are bad, some are brilliant. But they are just that – ideas. An idea will never complete itself, you’re the one who’s going to have to do that part. The problem is, that we usually fail at completion. Why? Well here’s what I’ve figured out about myself so far:
Your mind is for having ideas, not holding on to them. David Allen
1. I get scared.
You’re probably wondering about the statement I just made. Well yes, I am 26 years old and I get scared. When I get an idea that I believe could make a difference in this world, I write it down and start thinking about it. What do I need, to realize it? What resources? Where will I get them? How will I organize everything. After making a “brain dump” I look at the piece of paper I just wrote on and when I see the million things that need to be done, I get scared. Scared, if I can do this, scared if it’s even possible, scared if I can handle all the responsibility for it. And then there are only 2 options. I “man up” and give my best to making the idea happen, or I “chicken out” and leave the idea be just that – an idea (until I find the courage to realize it).
I constantly remind myself that if I believe in the work I’m doing, everything will be ok. And usually it is. There are a few steps I take, before engaging into action:
– Make a “brain dump” – Write down everything, from first steps, goals, task management, deadlines and possible challenges along the way. This makes my head lighter, so I don’t have a cluster of information in my head – instead it’s written down and I know I can check it anytime I want to
– Write down step by step tasks – Make a plan on how to reach your goal, but divide the path into small tasks. If you make the steps too big or too difficult, there’s a big chance you’ll fail at it (either get scared, forget details or it will just big too big for you). It’s better to make them smaller, do them one step at a time and complete them. This ways there’s a smaller chance for mistakes.
– Don’t take things personal – Some days everything will go as planned and other days will be like all hell broke loose. Don’t panic. There’s no need to. This doesn’t mean the Universe turned on you, it just means that it’s a bad day. Don’t lose your focus. Do the best you can and make sure you don’t give up. One bad day doesn’t mean your idea isn’t good or that it won’t succeed, it just means that today is a day to do things a bit differently.
2. I get lost in the way
I figured out that in some projects I get overwhelmed by the experience and in the middle of the project I realize that I have no idea what just happened. Things aren’t going the way that they’re supposed to, I’m running behind deadlines and I feel lost. This is where I take an afternoon off and check what happened and where was my point of “wtf just happened”. This doesn’t only happen in business, it happens in our personal lives, too. I revisit the steps I took, see if I did everything that I could and mark down the mistakes I’ve made. Then I make a strategic plan (again I make a brain dump) on how I’m going to fix the situation. And then I just start doing all the tasks I’ve written down. I figured that being busy doesn’t mean you’re productive. It’s better to take a day off, rethink the situation, refocus on your goal, and come back with fersh energy. As I’ve written in the article last week, my life became easier since I’ve started using tools for organizing my work routine. The situation I’ve just described happens less times than before, but it still does (I’m working on minimizing the number of times I get lost).
3. I get distracted
It’s so funny how easily we get distracted. I don’t know about you, but distractions are a wonderful excuse for not doing the things you’re supposed to be doing. Emails, txts, phone calls are all distractions that are keeping you away from your goal. I used to write back in seconds, because everything was so urgent. I realized that my inbox was always full because I was always answering everyone about everything. If it is necessary, they’ll call, they won’t write an email. If something has to be done now, they’ll even come personally to you. And nothing is so urgent that it can’t wait for five minutes.
Many times I found myself checking the news feed on my FB page or Twitter, instead of writing an article or researching to get closer for my goal. Or I let 3 hours go by just because I was answering emails. So I forbid myself to use my social networks and I check my emails for only 1 hour a day (yes, there are days where I check it more often, but usually that hour is more than enough and all the clients are still happy :)). I try to put my phone away from me, so I don’t get distracted by txts, whatsapps or anything else. And you know what, when I clear all the cluster away, I get productive. When my mind is free from the outside distractions, things just get done.
Don’t deny it, don’t even try to. We all find them. I’m not in the mood today. I’ll do it later, because now I have to do this or that. I can’t do it, because I am scared. Everyone can do whatever they’d like to. The problem is in our head and brains. Mel Robbins stated in her book Stop sayin’ you’re fine*, that when something occurs in our mind, we have exactly 5 seconds to turn that thought into action, or our brain will find an excuse for not doing it. We are wired to not do things, to not change things and we’ll always find an excuse for not doing it. Every single on of us. It’s not that we’re lazy, we just feel more comfortable when we don’t have to do things. And we are also masters of excuses. Just ask yourself why you haven’t exercised today or ate healthy, or didn’t call your mom, even though you promised her you would? Excuses, they’re everywhere.
I make them to. Will never deny that. But I really try and do the things I have to do. Sometimes I would rather run 10 miles (not that I do ;)) than write an email to a customer I have to turn down or ask someone for help, but hey… Every time i turn an excuse into action, things get done and I feel better and accomplished.
I’m still getting to know myself. What keeps my going, what stops me from succeeding. Every day is a new opportunity to learn and improve myself. I try to make the most of it. By not letting myself get distracted, following my plan and the tasks I’ve written down, turning excuses into actions, ideas aren’t just ideas, they become reality.
See you next time.
*I really highly recommend you to read this book. By following the “rules” you’ll turn your life upside down, it’ll be better than ever.