Is Getting Started the Hardest Part?

Some people love a blank canvas, a blank screen, a white room with no furniture… but for others of us, a blank canvas (or its digital equivalent) can be paralyzing. Sometimes the hardest part of a project is simply starting.

(If you want to just skip the "why" part and get to the solutions part, scroll down.)

Why Getting Started Can Be Hard

The Peanut Gallery. When I begin a project, especially if it’s something I’ve never done before, the Peanut Gallery of criticism and self-doubt springs appears to comment on every single little decision I’m trying to make. Every time I make a choice — up springs a voice asking, “Really? Are you sure you want to go with that? What will ___ think?” One of the many problems with the Peanut Gallery is that it’s endless. With billions of people in the world, I can always imagine someone who doesn’t like what I’m doing, and that sends me scuttling.

It honestly doesn’t seem to matter what the medium is — writing, mosaic-ing, organizing the garage — starting is hard for me. I’ll observe a project from the periphery, maybe jot down a title in a notebook, where it sits for days, months, even years. I might doodle a miniscule sketch, or spend hours on Pinterest looking at flower gardens. I can carry this on for weeks before gluing that first piece of glass. In some ways, it’s all preparation for the project, but how much preparation do I really need?

Even when these are projects I WANT to do and am excited about, I find it hard to begin. Doing something can almost always invite criticism, and if we have a highly critical Peanut Gallery, it takes something to stand up to the hordes of critical comments we imagine.

And that’s the key: “...we imagine.” Because most of the time, what we imagine is true isn’t true at all. Most of the time, we are the only ones thinking about ourselves. ;)

Anyhoo...

When I break it down, it’s making the decision that seems hard. Deciding what to write about or deciding what colors to use for a mosaic or what size or placement of the pieces. There are so many decisions! For each decision, a member of the Peanut Gallery has opinions about it, and I get bogged down considering all the pros and cons of every choice. It’s crazymaking and discouraging, enough to want to quit before I’ve even started.

That’s when I know the ego is trying to take over. A decision that ends in me giving up or quitting often means the ego is trying to protect itself from potential (and imagined) ridicule. And the ego? That little bugger is an unreliable narrator.

Solutions

One way I’ve found to get around that is to start small by setting a timer, often referred to as the Pomodoro Technique. If I only have to spend 15-20 minutes on something, I’m more likely to start.

Another thing I found that works is creating deadlines. When I promise someone else I’m going to do ___ by ___ , then I sometimes find it easier to start. I like to honor my commitments and accountability to another person helps motivate me. But when I have no hard end date? No real reason to create? Well, then, it’s easy to put it off because I’m not letting anyone down but myself. Unfortunate, but true.

I’ve also written previously about an accountability group that I attend weekly. Even though my work and industry is different from the other women in the group, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I show up, commit to some sort of action, and get started.

After observing myself and my clients procrastinate, thereby creating our own circle of hell, I realized that having external accountability is helpful. For that reason, I decided to help myself and you by starting The Accountable Hour. I promise it's more fun than the name might suggest.

The Accountable Hour is a one hour accountability meeting on Monday nights from 7:30pm - 8:30pm where we DO the thing we often avoid/have been meaning to do/sounds fun but we never get around to it. We don’t talk about accountability (because...yawn), we just go do the thing, whatever it is. I suggest doing something that will fill your cup, but you decide what you need. All you have to do is put it in your calendar and then actually show up. It’s One. Hour. Per Week. Just for you.

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Portland, OR

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