You have that awesome project in mind. The idea is just going crazy inside you. You know you’ll want it to lean to a shade between green and red. You know that the packaging has to be that exact cloth you found in the Department Store last week.
You know how it will look like, how it will smell, how it will feel, and even how it will taste (regardless of what it is).
You’re pumped like you’ve never been before. You’re ready to jump off a building just to get it done. But the moment you pick up your pen and paper to get started, it hits you.
Where the hell do I start?
If you’re anything like me, or any normal human being, getting started is the hardest part of any project or goal. (If it isn’t for you, please leave a comment and let me know how you do it.)
What’s worse than getting started? Getting overwhelmed because you just can’t figure out where to start. From there, it usually goes down hill pretty fast. You fire down your project idea because you couldn’t get started. You think, “Ah, it was impossible anyway.”
A tiny percentage of us actually get started, but most of us fail miserably from the overwhelm.
We’ve all been there. There’s just too many things to start on, right?
I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s a process you can apply to start a project without being overwhelmed. It’s simple as hell, and it involves only 2 questions:
- What do I need to do to get this done?
- Can I do this tomorrow?
Two simple questions that will change your entire mindset behind planning, and how you create the path towards achieving your goals.
Let’s say your life goal is to create a living, breathing(?), Transformer. Yes, those huge-ass robots in those half-assed movies. (The first one was okay.)
That’s your project. That’s the end goal. And most importantly, that’s where you should start your planning process.
Never fall into the trap of starting by thinking, “What should I do first?” Always start with your end goal, then work backwards. Begin with the end in mind, as Stephen Covey says.
Let’s go through this together. Here’s how our it looks like so far:
It’s time to hit your Transformer with the first question: “What do I need to do to get this done?” In the context of your Transformer, what do you need to do to build a living Transformer?
Here comes the tricky part: do not, I repeat, DO NOT get started with the little details. Don’t start off thinking, “Shit, I need a steering wheel, I need some rockets and guns, and I need those little dogs that bob their heads on my dashboard.” No. Just don’t.
Start off by thinking of the big pieces you need to assemble a Transformer. Simple, big-picture things, like this:
You still on-board? Great. Pick one of the circles, and hit it with the second question: “Can I do this tomorrow?”
Now, can you really secure a car tomorrow? If you can, then awesome. You deserve an award. But if you’re like me and 99.999% of the population, you can’t.
If you have an Academic Paper to make, you can’t just whip out an entire Review of Related Literature tomorrow. It just doesn’t work that way.
The question “Can I do this tomorrow?” exists to tackle your readiness. It’s not literally a question of availability or time. You’re also asking yourself, “Am I mentally ready to do this tomorrow?”
Back to our Review of Related Literature, it’s physically possible to write 10,000 words within a day. I just don’t think most of us are mentally ready to take on that task inside one afternoon. It just can’t be done by the most of us. If you can do it, you deserve an award too. 🙂
Now we’ve decided that we can’t secure a car tomorrow. We aren’t physically, mentally, and financially ready to do so. What’s the next step?
It’s simple. We go back to our first question. What do we need to do to secure a car for our Transformer?
(I do hope that’s what you felt by the time you’re in this part.)
Well, we need to get some permits, a huge boatload of money, find a good car dealer . . . and many other things that I don’t know about. (I’m not a car person)
You list those out too, and it’ll look like this:
Starting to make sense, yeah?
Go through each of those circles and hit them again with the second question.
Found stuff you can’t do tomorrow? Hit it with the first question.
Don’t stop. It’s crucial that you get to a point where everything you have on the edges of your list are tasks that you can do tomorrow. Why? This tells you that you’ve broken down your huge-ass Transformer to the smallest possible tasks that you’re physically and mentally ready to execute on.
This makes it easier for you to start. Even more important, it helps you avoid feeling overwhelmed when you do.
By the end of your planning process, you’ll have something that looks like this:
(With the circles filled out with what you need to do, of course. Sadly, my knowledge on building Transformers is limited.)
Organize those tasks somewhere, and make sure you execute these tasks in the same sequence you planned it out with. Start with the end of your branches. Don’t buy the car if you haven’t found the money yet. You get the point.
Just remember the 2 questions, “What do I need to do to get this done?”, and “Can I do this tomorrow?”. It will make your life easier, and you’ll save yourself from the hell of overwhelm.
Now get your ass up, plan with those 2 questions, and start your project.
Your Transformer won’t build itself. 😉