A simple formula to make you achieve something.
I have a couple of boxes of unfinished projects — both physical and metaphorical, and I bet that applies to everyone. There are even more imaginary boxes that haven’t got the shape yet and got stuck in “it would be nice to…” stage.
Thing is that there are only three steps that lie between imagination and implementation. Three simple steps that are often lost in the many details.
Step one. Start.
Rule one: start small.
Want to build a clothing brand? Get a t-shirt with the simplest drawing that’s shipped to your friend to understand all the steps.
Want to learn to draw? Pick a pen and paper.
Want to run? Run.
Many starts are ruined by excessive details. Drawing logo. Buying art supplies. Reading a lot about the topic and never actually starting it. It’s kinda easy to get lost in the process, you know.
Rule two: each thing can be simplified to the “small” amount.
I built a CNC once but the starting point was just grabbing a piece of wood and carving a line with a Dremel. I started rebuilding the motorcycle with a print of a contour of a bike and painting it with crayons. Decomposition is key.
Rule three: move the dot, not the todo-list.
Our brains are hard-wired to see the moving dots. We are taught by the evolution to ignore static images. Making something actually move brings up your internal attention, and now it’s time to make the movement persistent. Find a way to make the first move visible for yourself.
Step two. Continue.
There is a point where all Monday or New Year resolutions fail apart.
Turning a clean start into a daily activity is hard. You may get stuck, confused, or lost in the process, but your biggest enemy is your lazy brain (which is also hard-wired to be lazy by the evolution, because lazy equals more energy equals higher survival rate). Fortunately, there are some ways to make yourself actually continue.
First: find a company.
I’ve started my workshop with a friend and it was an awesome idea. Each time when I got lost with my daily job or something else, he was there to call me and ask “oh hi, how is the paint going on? and what about that box? and you know I saw this ceramic piece on youtube, maybe we can repeat this, and how are your welding skills?”. Thank you, George, if you are actually reading this.
Side note — the company is not always a colleague or a like-minded friend. It can be someone you’ll owe 50$ each time you don’t go to the gym twice a week, and believe me if you forget about such agreement, the other part won’t — it’s 50 free bucks once a week, after all.
Second: reminders should stand out.
Post-it sheets and online todo lists do not work as good as we want them too. You need your goal to stand out to make it a habit, you must trip over it first thing in the morning to make it work. Want a whiteboard? Good, make your whiteboard bigger than your TV.
Simone Gierts once made a board with 365 buttons that light up on touch so you can track your yearly progress. I would nominate this invention to best motivational gadget ever created. It’s big, it tracks your progress perfectly, and it’s also quite a stylish thing.
Third: plan your attention budget.
Our attention budget is very limited. For most people, it’s fully exhausted couple of hours after dinner time and this is OK (lazy brain, energy-saving and so on, remember?). You can’t create more attention than you actually have, so you can only reallocate it, and this should be a conscious action.
Simple saying, ditch TikTok, get a book. Or ditch a book, spend more on TikTok if you are planning to become a fulltime TikTok star, the choice is yours. The subject does not matter, but you must know that every time you want to do X you should do Y instead.
Fourth: reward yourself.
While saying “reward”, I’m not asking you to become a finely trained circus animal that gets a treat each time it does a trick (side note: the animal circus is cruel and should be avoided).
What I mean is that you should be somehow proud of yourself. Not “very proud” because you will lack the motivation to improve, but not “I’m bad in everything”. Accept your ups and downs and let your small improvements be your reward. Perfectionism can not be applied from the very start — it took me many years to get this simple truth.
Step three. Maybe end.
I can’t emphasize how important this part is.
First of all, you need to understand that “maybe” part, and whether ending applies to what you want to achieve.
Healthy eating? Meditation? Running? Building any other habit? This should not end, but knowing your limits is very important. Unfinished business, unsuccessful projects are depressing and may start draining too much energy from you, therefore you should know an end condition.
When I said goodbye to being a CTO and started consulting, I had an exit condition: if I don’t make a living by the end of a year, I will get back to the office.
I didn’t have to, but you get the point. Have small goals and scale them according to your success, health-check your progress every couple of months and you will be amazed by a result.
Anyway, as far as I know, trying now is better than never.