Analysis paralysis is just one of my procrastination challenges. A couple of other things have caused me to have to make an effort with my productivity. See if they are familiar to you and your own productivity issues:
- I have a compulsion to fix things
- I never think I have done enough
Do you have the same problems?
The mission here is to go from someone who is never happy with their work, never quite complete, to being someone who finishes and moves on.
I have managed it (with a great deal of effort on occasion), and so can you.
My big ah-ha moment came when I realized what I was seeing when I looked at my work, and how I felt about what I produced. Listen to your inner voice, what do you hear?
- That could be better
- Something is still missing
- This should really be HD and better lit
- I could polish that a bit more
- My design skills are lame
- Ebooks should have more pages than this
- Will anyone understand my accent?
- If I had that software I could add a neat effect there
- Graphics would really spice up this page
… and on and on …
Essentially I would only see what was missing, think about the problems I have with it, or tell myself it is still not good enough … all excuses, and not really thinking about if the end customer/reader/viewer would get value.
I know I will never be Shakespeare. My customers do not expect Hollywood-style wizz-bang special effects. You just want some useful content. Why beat yourself up when you know perfection is not just impossible, but unneccessary?
Rather than see faults, look at what is there.
Perhaps it is because I started out as an IT-geek, a Mr Fixit of the computer world, I see the world as broken systems that I have to fix. My brain is wired to see the problems rather than the good. Instead of feeling pleasure in accomplishments, my neurons get tangled over what I perceive as missing.
This can be a good thing of course, we all know people who are the other way round and who deliver too early, bodge and fudge, and who really ought to take more care. But that doesn’t help us “perfection seekers” so we need some coping mechanishms 🙂
The key is focusing on delivery rather than endlessly polishing. Get version one done and delivered. You can always release a version 2, 3, or whatever. But your priority should be to get the first complete and out of the door.
How to Become a Finisher
- Set yourself achievable goals – Some people are motivated by stretch goals, but if you are the sort of person who would take the instruction to “reach for the stars” literally and start planning your trip to NASA, perhaps a more realistic goal is in order. Also, remember, don’t try to eat the whole elephant in one gulp. Break the project or challenge down into chewable bite sized pieces.
- Decide what the finished end product will look like before you start – If your tasks are presented as “get better at sports”, “get fitter” or “learn to cook”, how on earth will you know when you are done? You can always get better, learn more, be more. Decide how you will know when you are done. Make tasks that are “done or not done”, a tick in a box. When your tasks are complete … stop.
- Focus on delivering – What is the basic feature set your product MUST have? Just do that. How can you complete the project in the most simple, pragmatic way? Do that. My last project was to release a new product. I decided it was not complete until someone had bought it because otherwise I could have written a whole ebook and not released it. By saying someone had to have bought it that meant I knew I needed a buy button, a sales page, and needed to let people know it was there. I also put a deadline on it to stop me endlessly polishing. This meant in the end I launched it without a logo or any of the other aesthetic niceities that I would have endlessly fussed over. So far a couple of hundred people have bought it and enjoyed it. Nobody has complained about the lack of logo 🙂
- Make progress and celebrate it – We often get into a gold medal mentality where there is only a winner and a whole bunch of losers. Sorry but that is just rubbish. So what if your product launch didn’t raise a million dollars? So what if so-and-so has a gajillion RSS subscribers and you don’t. Celebrate the one customer you have. Celebrate the 100 people who want to hear from you. Then set your next goal. Be proud of the achievments you do create rather than sad that you are not living up to some fake ideal.
- Fail. A lot. – Someone once said something along the lines of “show me someone who has made no mistakes and I will show you someone who has never achieved much”. Getting things done owes a lot to being prepared to fail, making progress every day. Rather than aiming to achieve perfection one time, decide to learn so you can make steady improvements. This is why I have avoided any new years resolutions. Instead I am setting daily goals and ticking them off. Each time I do something I am aiming to do it better than the last time. Not perfect, better. Make mistakes. Improve, learn from your mistakes. Make more mistakes.
Got any more tips for becoming a finisher? Please share in the comments …