When faced with a project, there is excitement, anticipation, and … dread. We like to do new things, and we get excited about the outcomes: the book, the painting, the new app, the new landscaping, an organized house, a degree. But then it hits us. The work, the long days and nights, giving up free time. Suddenly we are world-class procrastinators looking everywhere but the task at hand.
So what can we do?
The secret is breaking the task down into the smallest possible steps. Something that won’t trigger the dread, or the fight or flight feeling. Something that just barely registers as work. You do that, and then you take the first step. And then, you take the next step.
The Chinese proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” reminds us that every great journey must begin with the first step.
Every time that I start a project, I doubt myself. I look at projects that I have finished and try to deconstruct them. How did I do it? How did it all fit together? I ask myself these questions as if I had not been in the room during the making. It’s sometimes tempting to copy my past work. I can see it turned out well, it seems safer to repeat myself.
I never do this, but I think about it every single time I sit down to make something new.
It doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes as I approach the finish line, I hate the project. Sometimes I put it away for a while. Sometimes a long while.
But a funny thing happens when I pull it out. It’s not so bad, I think. Sometimes I think, “This is damn good.” And yes, I even think about copying work that I once soundly rejected.
Seeing this pattern, I now know to watch for it. I say to my doubting self, “Trust the process” and “Be okay with failing.”
I try to laugh at the temptation to reverse engineer my own work.