Temperatures are finally cooling off and you’ve been itching to launch that new project for weeks now. It rolls around in your mind from Monday through Friday, but when Saturday shows, up, your motivation is nowhere to be found.
Here’s how to push through what’s been keeping you from taking the leap.
Recognize how you’re feeling
Before you begin, you might be filled with fear — and you might think that you have to suppress it in order to get started.
Quite the contrary, according to Peter Bregman, CEO of leadership coaching organization Bregman Partners. He writes in the Harvard Business Review that the fear is a sign that you’ve got high standards for yourself — maybe too high — and that you may be demanding perfection from yourself and your as-yet-unfinished project while deep down, you’re afraid you’re doomed to fail.
That could be enough to trigger a paralysis that will stop you before you begin.
The trick is to admit you’re scared, Bregman argues.
“When you acknowledge that fear, you’re acknowledging that you might not have all that it takes to meet your expectations; you might not have all the tools, information, skills, etc. Admitting that, in turn, reduces your expectation of getting it perfect right off the bat. And lowering your expectation of getting it right is the key to getting it started,” Bregman writes in HBR.
Don’t look for perfection in the beginning
Do something, anything — don’t get caught up in attaining perfection just yet.
Writer and illustrator Alex Mathers writes on Medium about how he begins things, demonstrating how important it is to feed off the energy you get once you do.
Writing that he lets himself “create complete trash the first time around,” Mathers continues, “when I’ve spewed nonsense onto the page, I take a step back and say to myself, ‘Ok, I’ve done something. I might as well keep going. Perhaps I can dig a gem out of these ramblings…’”
You might just feel accomplished once you break through.
Start with the easier tasks
Writer and former staffer in the NYC Mayor’s Office, Eliza Berman, writes in The Muse about how you should “identify the low-hanging fruit” when starting a difficult project.
“There are a few reasons to start with the easy stuff. First off, it gives you some notches on your belt. This feeling of forward movement, minimal as it might be, is an important psychological win. It gives you momentum, fuel for the more challenging work ahead. And second, it allows you to demonstrate progress to the project’s stakeholders, generating faith in your ability to deliver on future phases of work,” she writes.
Hold yourself accountable with ‘external deadlines’
Getting ready for another event where you will need to have started on your project might create more of a sense of urgency — and keep you connected to your mission.
Lifehacker explains what setting “external deadlines” looks like.
“Sign up for an event, workshop, or class that forces you to have something prepared. It might be a writing group; it might be a startup bootcamp. If your project requires you to travel, book your plane ticket,” the publication reports.
In other words, force yourself to commit by setting up an infrastructure of accountability.
Reward yourself for getting work done
Don’t forget to reward yourself by doing something fun after making progress. Otherwise, you might be tempted to quit if you feel like the positive affirmation that comes with completing your project is entirely out of reach.
It might mean taking a break from work and spending time on something you love — connecting with friends or family, going to see music or art or live performances or just basking in the moment.
However you do it, giving yourself positive associations for your accomplishments will build up a Pavlovian response that will keep you going until you reach the next benchmark.
Breaking out of your shell and starting a tough project you’ve been avoiding can be challenging at first, but ultimately very rewarding once you move forward.