Showing posts with label Procrastination. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Procrastination. Show all posts

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Problem with Over-Preparing

Some people I know jump right in with both feet when they’re presented with an opportunity. They say YES and don’t worry about how they’re going to do it. They’ll figure it out later.

I admire that approach, and I've done the same thing myself at times.

When I started my first company in 1982, I didn't know anything about running a business. I came from the field of education, and I had no classes or experiences that taught me how to market and sell. I just had a strong desire to make a drastic change due to the pain I was experiencing in my job.

Over the years, I've also agreed to take on leadership roles outside of work, where I wasn't sure exactly what to do. But I had confidence that I could learn what was needed in order to become competent in the position.

And I could list other examples.

But they wouldn't highlight an issue that’s gotten in my way more times than I’d like to admit – and maybe it has for you, too.

Once I take on a new project, I can get caught up in “over-preparing,” trying to make sure I get things just right first, before getting started. Ever do that?

Maybe you think you need to do more research. There’s data you don’t have. Or you want to benchmark what others have done. Or you don’t feel confident or qualified, and you believe you’ve got to learn more.

It’s easy to convince yourself of the importance of being prepared. After all, “Be Prepared” has been the motto of the Boy Scouts of America for decades. But sometimes it becomes a rationalization that keeps you from taking action and developing momentum.

In essence, excessive preparation is a form of procrastination.

Underlying your attitude and behavior is likely one or more fears, such as the fear of failure, fear of looking foolish, fear of criticism, or fear of rejection. These fears can paralyze you. You’re so focused on the potential negative consequences of your actions that you convince yourself it’s not time to begin.

And so you don’t. You allow your self-doubts and fears to dominate your thoughts and keep you stuck. Even though you’re busy explaining your lack of action to yourself and others as a necessary part of “getting ready.”

How do you move past these excuses?

1. Make a decision. That’s right. You first have to decide that you’re going to take the action you need to take, no matter what.

2. Take the first step. As Steven Pressfield advises in his brilliant book, Do the Work:

“Don’t prepare. Begin.”

Just get started. You may make mistakes. In fact, your first attempt may be a total failure. But it’s not the end of the world. With each additional step, you can learn and make corrections or improvements.

3. After each action, reflect. You will accelerate your learning – and your results – if you take time to think about what happened after you complete each step. Answer these five questions (which are part of our ProStar Coach personal development program) to help you analyze your actions and make the most of the experience:
  1. What happened?
  2. Why did it happen that way?
  3. What were the consequences?
  4. How would you handle a similar situation in the future?
  5. What will you do not to implement this learning in your life?
Get past the need to over-prepare, and you’ll experience the profound benefits described so eloquently by the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

"The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way." 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How to Build Momentum

“Be not afraid of going slowly; 
be afraid only of standing still.” 
- Chinese proverb

Do you ever have trouble motivating yourself to get started with a project? Whether it’s implementing a marketing strategy for your business, writing the first words for an article, or changing your eating habits, taking that critical first step is key.

A lack of sufficient motivation keeps you stuck in the status quo. Fear of failure and criticism can paralyze you. Self-doubt might creep in and undermine your confidence.

You could conjure up any number of excuses to explain why you’re not taking initiative and moving forward.

But the reality is, nothing happens until you take action. Thought alone doesn’t produce any result.

So how do you get past your procrastination and get started? Following these four steps can help.

1.  Take time to think about why you want to do this.

When you tap into the real motivation that’s driving you, you’ll become more eager to take action, despite any concerns that enter your mind. Staying focused on that purpose will inspire you and keep you going even when you encounter difficulties.

(By the way, if you’re “why” is not strong enough, you may be pursuing this goal for the wrong reasons. And if that’s the case, stop now and re-assess.)

2.  Visualize the desired outcome. 

Paint a picture in your mind of exactly what the result will look like. The sharper this image, the more likely you are to take the actions necessary to make it a reality.

3.  Imagine the feelings you’ll experience about yourself and the accomplishment.

Logical reasons alone are not enough to keep you on course. You also need to engage your emotions. When you allow yourself to feel them intensely, you’ll feed your drive and enthusiasm.

4.  Identify one small step you can take to get started, and take that step.

You can get overwhelmed if you consider everything you need to do to reach an ambitious goal. It’s counterproductive to dwell on the entire process at once. Instead, map out a reasonable, realistic plan and zero in on just one thing you need to do first.

Then determine the step you’ll take the next day, and the next, until you’ve established a daily rhythm.

You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish once you make a beginning. Just get started. Take the first step. Remember, your first effort doesn’t have to be perfect. What matters is action—making progress.

If you ask most people who’ve achieved great success, they’ll tell you that most of the things they attempt don’t work. But they refuse to let those failures stop them. They keep trying other things because they’re confident that at least a small percentage of the things they do will work. They know that the only way to get momentum going is by taking action.

Don’t let the fear of failure or criticism hold you back. If you find yourself hesitating, repeat this wisdom from world-famous hockey player Wayne Gretzky: “You miss one hundred percent of the shots you never take.”