Imagine that you need to get something done, but you feel very stuck in how to get started; unable to really get any progress rolling. You’re dangerously close to procrastinating the task, especially if it’s something that’s really just for yourself. It could be cleaning, or a little project around the home, or… writing a blog post (cough).
That’s right, blog post. As in, these very words you’re reading right now. I’m just typing, and letting it flow. I have a rough idea of what I want to cover, but these first words, which sometimes end up getting deleted, are a little mental trick I use to break through the wall of action.
I’ve given myself the challenge of writing a fresh article every week. I accept that the results may vary when it comes to quality, but in this case I’m shooting for timeliness on a regular schedule. I’m not too proud to admit that over the years, when it comes to personal projects, I’ve not been the best at crossing my own finish lines. Either I create something and I don’t feel like it’s good enough, or I was just not able to capture the right groove.
Some people seem to have no problems cranking out great personal projects, and others don’t. I’m in the latter category, among any number of creative individuals. Our fuel needs the right kind of flame.
Not all days are the same, but when it’s the worst, there can be anxiety, panic, chaos, and a gazillion random thoughts in your head that prevent you from getting where you want to be. Distractions surround you: Oh, something needs cleaned. I’ve been wanting to watch this episode. Let me check Twitter/Facebook/Youtube/Other for just a minute (sure, you do that).
When I’m in the groove, I imagine it like being underwater (except you can breathe). The world sort of wraps around you. Sounds and conversations become muted, nearly to the point where you no longer hear anything beyond your own headspace. It’s so peaceful. You feel a current gently pull you, guided by your instinct, toward a direction that feels productive.
Between these two states of mind, there is an ultra-thin, yet incredibly durable barrier. The barrier you need to break through to become productive, and get shit done.
Being able to break through the surface tension of productivity requires us to be able to answer some difficult, and honest questions before you can get the answers you need. When it comes to doing something personal, it becomes way too easy to lie to ourselves and say “I’m not really into it right now, I’ll just try again later.” Then later never happens.
Is it lack of confidence? Very often, feeling like you are not very good at something is a strong push toward not getting it done at all. Yet we all know that by not doing anything, we deny ourselves the opportunity to practice and improve. Don’t think of it as a binary deal. Good and bad aren’t a light switch. Good and bad have a huge spectrum of qualities and nuances all over the place. Without practice, you’ll never have a chance to discover where you land.
On a personal note, this is where I have struggled for years. I was constantly intimidated by other writers, designers, and artists who were so much better than me. Learning how to love myself for my flaws, as well as my strengths, has taken a long time. And now, I want to help others who feel the same.
Are you just not motivated? Being motivated can be a bigger issue than the age-old “just do it” mentality. Often enough, the mind might be saying go, but it’s just not happening. There can be a creative block, too many distractions, or you just might not know where to start.
Here are a few suggestions that I hope will help you get something done:
Sure, it’s the obvious one, but it does need to be mentioned. Silence your phone, turn off the television, and try not to play music that you love. Or, if you do have the tv on, have it playing something really boring, to avoid risk that you’re going to get sucked into it. For the music, I mention putting on something you don’t love, because there’s still a chance it will pull you away. The goal is to find background noise that is easier to tune out.
I like to avoid pure silence as well. When the room is too quiet, all I can hear are my own thoughts just chatting away happily in some corner of my head, and they won’t shut up. You are truly your own worst enemy.
Find a hook.
A hook can be anything. It’s your topic of the moment. It can be a sentence, or an idea. Anything possible that’s just small and sharp enough to grab onto and hold tight, not letting go until you’ve got a solid amount of progress completed. Hooks are really hard to define clearly, but when you find one, you’ll know it.
Back to the Future.
Going back and reviewing old things that you’ve done (hoping that you have some), maybe it’s a good time to dust something off and try re-working it? This is one of my favorite techniques to be productive. Many times, even though I start with one of my old ideas, I get one such a roll, that the end result turns out completely different from the source inspiration! I highly recommend it.
Copyright ©2023, Anton Peck except where noted otherwise.