Maybe I’m the only one, but I have the absolute hardest time starting things. I could call myself an idea person, a planner, and a finisher, but NOT a “starter” by any means.
This shows up in two major areas of my work:
Let’s be real - not all client work is exciting enough to get us out of bed in the morning. Sometimes it’s kind of a snooze. But even worse, sometimes it's daunting! That’s the thing about creative work, it’s all different. Even if you’ve designed 100 websites, that doesn’t mean you have all the answers and a perfect plan for the site at hand.
Especially if a project is big - like a web design project. There is so much unknown. You know you’re going to run into obstacles and design problems to solve. It's a fun challenge when you're in a good flow with it, but until then it can be intimidating.
Business development stuff
Improving our portfolio
Posting on instagram
Emailing potential client sources
Writing blog posts
This stuff feels hard for a different reason: it’s not really that time sensitive, and no one is holding me accountable. I know it’s important, but there are more pressing matters that are much easier to put ahead of this. Such as client work, answering emails, playing with the dog, or watching youtube videos of families living in Hawaii…….
For both of these types of work, my main problem is that thinking about starting makes me feel scared and lazy. I feel like it’s going to take so much time and effort and I just don’t want to do it!
Throughout the past couple months, I’ve come up with a trick for starting things quickly and painlessly.
Let’s say you have 3 intimidating projects on your plate. Maybe they’re brand new or maybe you’ve been stressing and putting them off for days. Either way, head over to your calendar and block off 30 minutes for each project. No more!! You can even do 15 minutes if you’re really feeling overwhelmed.
I’d recommend scheduling them for ASAP, like ideally that same day, but definitely that same week. I’d also recommend scheduling them back to back, with 5 minute breaks in between. This will allow you to use inertia to your favor and crank through that shit.
Then, once you show up to those working sessions, don’t think of it as starting these big projects. Take it for exactly what it is - 30 minutes of work.
You don’t have to get a certain amount done. You just have to work on each project for 30 minutes.
Then you’re done! You’ve started! The hardest part is over! Hurray!
Getting this first chunk of work our of the way does two things:
It breaks the ice.
This is no longer an unknown, scary piece of work, it’s more familiar and less daunting.
It sets you up to be eager to work on it again later.
You’ll probably find that during those 30 minutes, you don’t get a WHOLE lot done, but that by the end you’ve just gotten into a good flow and want to keep going. If that’s the case, you certainly can keep going! But I find that stopping at this easy place is better than stopping when you hit a new problem. If you stop at an easy spot, you’ll know exactly what you’re jumping back into during your next work session.
The whole idea behind this for me is to get the hardest part over with first. The sooner I do this, the sooner I get to the fun part of the work where I feel more sure of myself and my ideas. And by setting aside 30 minutes to just start, I take the pressure off. I just have to do SOMETHING related to the project during that time. And I’m always surprised to find how quickly I get into a flow and start to enjoy working on it.
I hope this is helpful! If you try out this tip, feel free to let us know how it goes for you. We all work so differently, and I find it so interesting to hear about other designers processes and tricks.