When it comes to creativity, if you’re anything like me, you’re filled with ideas — tons of fun, interesting, lucrative ideas. Things that you want to accomplish. Things you want to do for yourself, for others, for your business. Dreams, big and small. You think about them in the shower, when you’re driving, when you’re walking the dog, but for some reason, when it comes to doing them, you start to doubt yourself, second guess your brilliance, and talk yourself out of your bold new approach.
Everyone feels this dread from time to time, but the difference-makers stop the self-sabotage, get out of the way, and get things done.
Here are six ways you can do instead of dither:
Change Your Mindset – You don’t need to get zen and meditate (although, that’s incredibly helpful), but take stock of how you talk to yourself. If you are constantly telling yourself what you’re doing is subpar, a waste of time, not as good as so-and-so’s, how do you expect to get anything significant accomplished? Once those thoughts creep in, push them aside. If it helps, you can promise yourself you will review whatever you’re working on critically upon completion. That might be enough to silence your inner critic enough to get something accomplished.
Get Real – There are only so many hours in a day. Too often, we overwhelm ourselves with all we need to accomplish and end up getting very little done because we overscheduled a day or didn’t prioritize appropriately. All the productivity apps in the world aren’t going to help if what you’re scheduling is unrealistic. Create a master list and then assign tasks for each day. Some people like to do a big, hard task first, and others prefer some easy tasks off their list first to get into their groove. Experiment and find out what works for you and stick to it.
One Thing at a Time – One of my favorite books is Anne Lamott’s book “Bird by Bird.” She talks about how when her brother was 10-years-old, he was cramming to finish a report on birds that he’d been assigned three months earlier. He had one day to do it and was immobilized by the fear that he’d never get it done. How could he complete a task so immense? Their father sat down, put his arm around the boy and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” So whether you think of it as one thing at a time, step-by-step, or bird-by-bird, instead of overwhelming yourself, focus on the small tasks that lead to big results.
Create Hard and Fast Deadlines – Speaking of deadlines, create them, and have the discipline to stick to them by whatever means necessary. Sometimes that means scheduling it and setting reminders. Often it means having someone who knows your deadline and will keep you honest and not let you come up with excuses. It can be a coworker, a spouse, a friend, your dog. Find an accountability structure that works for you and force yourself to stick to it. No matter what. Even if it’s 11:57pm and you know your child is going to wake up any minute, but you made a promise you would finish today (because you flaked yesterday)…not that I would know anything about any of that.
Be Confident – Did you know that being shy and cautious is the natural human state? Most people are not born self-assured and confident. Bummer, right? Not really. For most people, confidence is a skill you develop as you learn and grow. You aren’t doomed, even if you don’t feel especially confident at the moment. Put your lack of confidence in its place, and when self-doubt rears its head, remind yourself of all you’ve accomplished in your life or in your career. It’s nothing to sneeze at, and you’ve certainly pushed yourself through moments of real adversity to get there.
Done is Better than Perfect – This is a hard one for me, and it’s hard for most creative types. I can overthink anything. I ponder. I debate. I consider. And then I reconsider. It’s very hard for me to deem something complete or finished. But in most cases, done really is better than perfect. So whether it’s feeling prepared to make a call to that prospect you want to nail, submitting a proposal for a big job, sending out an email blast for your company, or even, like me, and publishing this very blog post. Do it. Seal the envelope. Send it out. Fin. End scene.