Yes, I’m a procrastinator. Unlike my incredibly disciplined husband who sets a goal, breaks it down into manageable tasks, schedules them into his planner, and actually does what he writes down in his planner, I’ve always struggled with starting a project. For example, after writing the title of this blog post, I got up, ate an apple, went on Facebook, and watched a video about Hiplet dancing. This sometimes happens even when I’m looking forward to working on a project (such as this blog post). There’s just something about starting.
As you may imagine, when it comes to starting a business, being a procrastinator is a bit inconvenient. First of all, there are so many unknowns. Where does one even begin? My procrastinator-brain tricked me into thinking that, once I knew the “right” thing to do first, then I’d really be able to get started.
So, in those early days, my procrastination took the form of “researching.” Don’t get me wrong, learning from others is a very good thing to do, and having a plan is important, but I was watching tutorials about wholesaling before even selling a few products on Etsy. (Sidenote: if you are interested in wholesaling handmade goods, I do recommend this website).
A general theme in my procrastination tends to be that I do something else “productive” rather than the thing I should actually be doing. In this case, the thing I should have been doing was creating products and learning how to sell them on Etsy.
Now, maybe none of you reading this struggle with procrastination, but if you do, here is what I will say to you. Hold onto your chair.
THE KEY TO GETTING STARTED, IS STARTING.
I know. Mind-blowing. It’s only taken me years.
To explain this concept a little further, I once had a wise boss say to me when I was struggling on a project at an architecture office, “draw what you know.” No matter how big the project, “drawing what you know” means that, little by little, taking hold of one manageable task will enable you to move on toward the next one, and so on, until the project is complete. Maybe you don’t know how to wholesale yet, but you do know how to paint a flower. So keep painting flowers, and the next step will be clear when the time is right.
I’ve also found that, especially on large projects, it’s very helpful to work on it consistently rather than in short, intense bursts of time. (Every non-procrastinator out there is like, duh).
For example, last year I decided to create a calendar. This definitely classified as a large project, and it was full of unknowns. But I began like I always do, with some quick, really rough sketches in my sketchbook. This small and familiar task of putting my thoughts down on paper helped me to get over my tendency to procrastinate working on such an overwhelming project. After those initial sketches I was ready to start painting, and I painted a little bit almost every day. Somehow, over the course of the summer, a calendar was made.
And somehow, over the course of weeks, months, and years, a business has been made, too. I didn’t start with a perfectly designed business model or five-step plan. I started with one little drawing, and then another, and then another.
I still fight my procrastination tendencies on a daily basis, and some days I don’t win. But the concept of starting a big project with a very small task has really helped me move towards my big picture goals.
An extremely insightful book on this topic is Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. It’s all about learning how you’re wired so that you can more effectively build healthy habits. I’m reading it right now and wish I’d read it a long time ago.
Good luck, my procrastinator friends! No matter what project you’re avoiding, whether it’s folding your socks or writing a PhD, I hope that the concept of “starting small” will help you get there.