Come on, did you really think I would have a typo in my title?
People love to focus on high-level strategies for improving their lives, when often what they really need is a startegy. These are the people who are so fond of making plans, setting goals, conducting SWOT analyses, that they never get around to actually start anything.
I’m all for planning and goal setting, and but so many times what we need is not more detail or greater sophistication, it’s more action.
As George Patton said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” You can’t always foresee the full road ahead, so you have to begin with that first step, which at least lets you see one step further ahead than you could before you started.
I have to confess that I’m writing this post for myself as much as for anyone else, because I often run into the problem when I have an idea for an article. I love to research, jot down key points, maybe even draw up an outline of what I want to say – and then there it sits. Nothing really happens until I start.
It’s especially helpful when you dread the task. When I was on the swim team, I always hated that first dive into cold water to begin practice, but then it was OK after that. At least back then I had a coach to “encourage” me to make the dive. Nowadays cold calling has replaced the cold pool, and I don’t have a coach supplying “encouragement”. At some point we all have to become our own coaches, and then it’s up to us to start.
It’s also helpful when you lack confidence that you can complete the task. Of course, the only sure way to know that you can’t do the task is not to start. That way, at least, you can preserve your fragile ego by telling yourself that you could have, if you only wanted to. Force yourself to start something risky, and you’ll be so busy making sure you get it right that you won’t have time to feel nervous.
What are some good startegies?
Start small. If you think of everything you need to get the job done, you can easily get intimidated. Need to start an exercise program? Go for a two minute walk; look up local gyms; buy some shoes—just start with something small. Or buy Robert Maurer’s book on personal kaizen: One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way.
Use implementation intentions. Tell yourself, or better yet, write down, in specific detail what you will do and when. Heidi Grant Halvorson calls it, if-then planning: “If it is 2 p.m., then I will stop what I’m doing and start work on the report Bob asked for.”
Get some help. Enlist a friend or colleague to remind (nag) you. If you really want to make it interesting, make a bet with them that you will start by a certain time.
Use the Nothing Alternative. Since I learned about this one, it has had a tremendous impact on my writing discipline. Simply set aside time for the activity in your schedule, and even if you don’t feel the urge to start, it’s OK. You just can’t do anything else during that time.
So, what are you waiting for? Get started.