Just Start, But First…

You have a grandiose idea. Changing your lifestyle. Changing careers or starting your own business. Now you just need to get everything together before you start… or so your mind tells you. Your mind is lying to you right now, setting you up to fail before you begin. Why? Because what you’re planning is too big, too life changing and it wants to save you the trouble of failing so you never start. As a developer at DoubleMap I am faced with this type of ‘brain protection’ almost every day. Waiting around not doing anything because a problem is too large is simply not an option. Creating solutions that don’t exist is daunting.

How many times have you said something like “I am going to start working out more regularly but first I need to get a gym membership and then some gear,” and it takes you awhile to get those things. Now you start thinking “OK, but now I need to change my schedule and it’d be nice if I can get someone to go with me…” You set your alarm an hour earlier, but that snooze button is all too easy to hit. You never really try to get a workout partner. At some point you realize you’re pushing that starting line further and further and just give it up before you actually do the work. Your brain smiles with a huge sigh of relief now that you don’t have to feel sad and guilty about all that failure you just avoided.

That doesn’t work in successful software development. If there is a large feature or seemingly unsurmounting challenge we can’t just ‘push the starting line’ nor should we do it alone. When our brain tries to go into that mode, it’s a loud call to action. First, acknowledge how large the issue is. Bring in other developers early. The more points of view and experiences you can bring into a problem the better. Break apart the issue into separate parts. Then break them apart again, making sure they are now realistic and easily attainable goals. You’ve now put your brain at ease and moves out of the way to let you do your work.

In the workout example, you don’t need a gym membership to become more active. You don’t need a $500 worth of gear. You don’t need to wake up earlier or rely on someone else. Just start. Set aside time you all ready have. Set a schedule, stay home and work out to free videos on the internet. Commit to the minimal amount of work you can do now and make sure it’s achievable. With time and effort you will get to where you need to go by constantly making sure your next goal post is achievable and your mind won’t have to try to protect you from failure because now you’ve proven to yourself you really do have what it takes.

Now that you’re armed with how to get to the finish line, just start that next challenge.