Just Start Doing It

I always find myself seeking new ways to get work done. I’ve made habits with end goals, I’ve set aside a period of time each day for learning something new. I exercise daily. I meditate. I make sure my workspace sounds right. But there’s always a roadblock: Starting.

Just follow along and don’t skip ahead. I promise you’ll like it. If you absolutely can’t stand reading, then skip past the second divider.

My Problem

It’s happened to me a couple times in the past 6 months. I’ve tried learning JavaScript, gettings myself to write more (and more often), and improving my shabby drawing skills.

Three months ago I decided that I wanted to learn how to write JavaScript. Hey, it is the most popular language on GitHub. So I started reading and doing Eloquent JavaScript every day for 30-60 minutes. I even bought Effective JavaScript to help. Then suddenly, I realized I wasn’t good at it, and I unintentionally stopped doing it.

Some time after that I decided I needed to write more. I updated my website, set up a system for posting, wrote a couple of journal posts, and then ran out of steam. I felt like my writing wasn’t up to par with the excellent articles found on Medium or Svbtle. I gave up. I quit. Again.

Finally, 2-3 weeks ago. I noticed I wasn’t doing anything in my free time, so I took up drawing. Now historically-speaking, I’ve never been good at drawing. I was really into pop art and Roy Lichtenstein, and so I decided to try that. I went out, spent $50 on materials, and then my interest waned in the 3-4 days that followed.

Self-Diagnose Your Problem

Now it’s your turn. Look back at all the things you haven’t started that you wish you did in the past year. If you can’t remember that far back, limit yourself to 6 months. Then, on a piece of paper, start writing all those unfulfilled ideas. Those weekend projects. The personal goals. Every. Single. One.

Once you’re done your list, go back and read over it. Look for projects where you were almost guaranteed success. Projects that you knew you could almost certainly do. Projects that mostly required skills you knew well. Circle these projects, underline them. Make them stand out.

Now there are two outcomes to this exercise. You either highlighted most of your projects, or you highlighted few. Likewise, there are two things that you can take away from this.

Mostly Highlighted

If most of the items in your unfulfilled list were highlighted, it means you have an organizational problem. You might be over-scheduled (or worse, badly-scheduled). You might not have enough time to yourself. You might not have the means to do the projects.

Reflect on why you didn’t start or follow through with these ventures. Take measures to fix some of the problems. These are person-specific, so I can’t get into them here.

Few Highlighted

If only a few of your items were highlighted, you’ve likely fallen prey to one of humanity’s best qualities and one of our worst problems: Liking what we’re good at.

When we’re doing something that we know we are good at, we feel good about it. We’re confident about it. We feel as though no matter what comes our way, we’ll make it. We want to do it.

But when we don’t have this confidence, we feel like we’re going to be criticized for our sub-par work. Worse yet, we might even criticize ourselves on our own work. This gets us stuck. We don’t start, and we don’t finish.

So Start Doing It

Ultimately, this is our problem. We’re too afraid to start. I was too afraid to start. I kept thinking that with all the good work here on Medium, I would be nothing more than a cry in a storm. But eventually, I knew I needed to start. I did, and I finished. And now you’re reading it.

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