In my last post I mentioned that I was posting and “considering the i’s dotted well enough“. I set out to do something and I did it. I’m pretty proud of myself for that. I even posted my first draft. I’m usually much more of a planner than that…sometimes too much of a planner.
So I’m here to share five ways to quit planning and start doing. In other words…
1. Tell someone you’re going to do something.
This isn’t the point where you give trade secrets to random people or talk to your family and friends about your plan. This is where you find an acquaintance, preferably a relatively outspoken acquaintance, that you see on a fairly regular basis that you can share your general plan with. Think person you chat with at church, fellow PTA member, the cashier you usually go to at the grocery store, or some other friendly stranger. The next time your person asks, “How are things?”, tell them your plan. Don’t just say the usual, “Can’t complain”, or whatever, say, “I’m planning to climb Mt. Everest.” Of course, you should tell them your plan, not the Everest line — unless you’re actually planning to climb Mt. Everest.
You need someone that you see regularly who will ask you questions the next time they see you. “Oh, you’re still here. I thought you might be at a mountain base camp somewhere….” The idea is that you’ll then have to explain why you’re not following your Sherpa yet and what steps you’re taking to get underway. Generally speaking, this is not the job for friends or family (see number 2 for my take on this one). Look for someone who will get in your face in a non-threatening way and make you own your plans. If you’re keeping your plans to yourself it’s too easy to let deadlines slip. If you know that in three days Myrtle, the church lady, is going to ask you what you’ve been doing, you’re more likely to do something so that you’ll have something to report.
2. Don’t tell your friends and family until you know what you want (for sure).
This one depends on you and on your friends and family. Procrastination often has a basis in fear. If you have the type of friends or family who will support your plans and help you to push past your fear, by all means, tell them what you want to do. Supportive friends and family have more of a vested interest in your well-being than Myrtle. They’ll push harder, ask more, and offer more.
If, on the other hand, you know (or believe) your friends and family will remind you of all the things that can go wrong, or all the reasons why you should not attempt your goal — don’t tell them. Keep your plans to yourself at least until you’ve overcome your own objections. It’s hard enough battling your own fears without having other people send fears your way. Myrtle’s a much safer bet in this situation. Her initial reaction is more likely to be, “Mt. Everest! My goodness, that’s quite a goal. Why did you decide on Everest?” That’s the kind of questioning that helps you solidify your plans. “Climb Mt. Everest? You’ve been afraid of heights since you fell off the monkey bars when we were 10!”That’s the kind of response you need to avoid — at least until you’re sure that you’ve overcome the monkey bar incident.
3. Make a bet.
Once you’ve let the people close to you in on your plans, a bet (or dare if you’d rather) can help you to stay motivated. Almost everyone has some kind of dream or project that’s been in the idea or planning stages for a while. Your younger brother might not want to climb Mt. Everest with you, but maybe he’s always wanted to write a novel. There’s no need for a lot of explanation here. Friendly competition can help you beat procrastination. Race each other to the finish.
4. Post a calendar.
Make up a list of activities you need to achieve your goal and set reasonable dates for completion. Reasonable is a key word here. Don’t give yourself too much time, but don’t decide everything has to be done by the end of next week either (unless everything has to be done by the end of next week, in which case you should stop reading now and get to work). Mark those dates on a calendar and set reminders for yourself. Use whatever type of calendar works for you, just make sure that you can see it on a daily basis. If you use a web-based calendar, you can send yourself email. The method doesn’t matter — sticky notes, task lists, email, or whatever works for you — the important thing is to remind yourself regularly of what needs to be done. Modify your deadlines if you need to, but don’t just let them slide. Make sure to hold yourself accountable.
5. Just do it.
Don’t let the plan turn into the project. Don’t wait for all the I’s to be dotted just so, the cross-bars on the T’s to be at the same height and width, the web site to be completed, and the stars to be perfectly aligned. If you find yourself spending a lot of time in the planning stage, just jump into the project. Of course, if your project or business is selling web sites, you may not want to put up a bad or half finished site just to get started…and if you’re working on something that could prove harmful or fatal to yourself or others, by all means take your time.
All of these suggestions need to be taken and used or rejected on a case by case basis. What works for some may not work for others. Ideas that motivate you on some occasions may paralyze you at other times…and people can always surprise you. Myrtle might say, “Well, that sounds like a hare-brained scheme to me,” and the brother you thought would take the wind out of your sails might jump in and become your partner. The bottom line is that in order to reach your goals you have to actually take steps to reach them, not just plan to.
Have you tried any of these ideas? Do you think they’re worthwhile? What keeps you on track from planning to doing?