First Week of “More First Steps”

It’s been a few days since establishing my Groundhog Day Resolutions for 2014, and I’m starting to get a feel for more first steps, less planning. While planning is easy for me, I started to think that it just makes the work seem that much more daunting and tedious. I had also gotten into the habit of suppressing epic creative impulses because I always had something “more important” to do.

So, for this month, I’m making first steps first and eschewing planning. If I feel the urge to explore an intriguing line of inquiry, I would gladly take “first steps” instead of burying it under mounds of guilt. Secondly, I think getting in the habit of just taking first steps will lead to a long-term improvement in my attitude. I’ll also start making progress on long-stalled epic projects that, until now, seemed just too big and distracting. These are projects like learning to write IOS applications and developing software, and also large complicated marketing projects that I’ve just not been able to get excited about.

First steps! Many of them! Over and over, until it becomes a habit. That’s the idea.

Whenever I find myself thinking stuff like, “I really would like a better logo” or “The living room could be less cluttered”, instead of stopping myself with grim thoughts of how long it would take, I just do something for a minute and see what happens. The most recent example of this is when I thought about a new personal logo, and instead of pushing this off as a very long drawn-out process (which it is), I got my notebook and scribbled three ideas. It took five minutes, and the project moved ahead.

I also speed-read the book The Now Habit: Overcoming Procrastination on the suggestion of commenter Matt. Initially I resisted the idea, because I thought I had already done quite enough inner work on this, but I take recommendations seriously enough that I will at least take another look. It turns out that all this time, I’d confused Neil Fiore’s The Now Habit with Eckhert Tolle’s The Power of Now, a book I had never been able to get through. Fiore’s book, by comparison, is a highly-readable breakdown of the elements of procrastination. Much of it was familiar to me, but several ideas really struck home:

  • That I didn’t have to generate fun-denying guilt by thinking, “I should be working on X before enjoying myself”.
  • That I didn’t have to schedule myself so stringently.
  • That wanting to finish everything in one go was creating resistance to starting anything.

It was nice to actually read this in a book that was written 30 years ago. It made me feel that I was part of a universal tribe of procrastinators, and that being a procrastinator didn’t mean I was any less worthy as a human being. I recommend the book heartily. I think it would appeal to people seeking to understand root causes and are motivated to reprogram their expectations of themselves. It’s not heavy on practical tips or process, so people looking for a program of procrastination-busting exercises and tools may be disappointed. I owe it a more careful read.

So that’s how it’s going this week. I’m trying to just start things and not plan them out, which is the opposite of how I’ve usually worked in the past. A wrinkle is that I’m doing a lot of challenging client work this year, and it’s left me less time to work on my personal projects. More on that later.