“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step” – Martin Luther King Jr
Leonardo Da Vinci is one of the most brilliant painters of all time, who at the time of his death at 67 had only finished 15 paintings, an interesting point to note for someone with such artistic gifts and also considering artists like Van Gough had over 2100 artworks in a decade. It is alleged that the Mona Lisa, which is now the star exhibit in the Louvre Art Gallery in Paris was ordered by the Italian Pope Leo X around March 1515 as a welcoming gift for Isabella d’Este. She would be visiting the Pope seven months later so Leonardo had ample time. When the Pope was told the gift wouldn’ t be ready by the time his guest arrived, he exclaimed “This man will never accomplish anything! He thinks of the end before the beginning!” Da Vinci finished the Mona Lisa a solid 15 years later.
Like most people, you could be struggling with getting started or finishing a project you are working on because it seems so complex or huge. Maybe you want to study for an exam, or maybe you keep putting off redecorating your house. Perhaps you can’t get started with that business plan you have dreamed about.
Now it’s time you get that project going and I will show you how in these few steps.
#1. Write down your big goal
The first step is scheduling what needs to be done, when it needs to be done and how it should be done. Writing down your task allows you to see it in smaller bits and also prioritise them by importance or difficulty. Once you have it down on paper, you can plan on how to tackle the tasks that you are most worried about. The one thing I have learned over the years is that what gets scheduled gets done that is why writing things down is important.
#2. Get Prepared
Once you have the task written down, it’s time to prepare for your project. Here you need to be seriously critical in looking at your distractions and getting rid of them. A lot of people complain that they do not have time to chase their dream but the truth is they are just not prioritising the dream. There is something else taking the time that your dream needs to get off the ground, so what are your distractions? is it the TV? Are you obsessed with social media? Does family, friends or colleagues constantly interrupt you?
Are you surrounded by clutter? Clear your space and make it convenient for you to operate at the highest level of your creativity. Gather together everything you need to start your task but don’t make a big deal out of it as this may become a distraction as well. For example, if you are supposed to start a business, looking for office space is not preparing the ground, it’s a diversion. Get the necessities done first.
Also look at what you can do alone and where you can ask for help, this helps with the division of labour. Lastly, get an accountability partner, this could be a friend, spouse, colleague or mentor that you can talk to and they help you to keep your commitment to your project.
#3. Get Started
Stay away from a complicated plan to achieve your task, simplicity makes it easier to get started. Perhaps you are already obsessing about your first steps and maybe that is the reason you kept putting off the whole thing. Now it’s time to put your plan in motion, it is time for that first step. If it is complex or daunting break it down into smaller steps until each one looks like it will take no more than an hour to complete.
When I started writing my book, I knew it was a great task but all I did was just start writing. So whatever it is you want to start, go for it, you can do it. There are no distractions, no excuses, just jump into it and do it. Write that first chapter, paint that picture, put in that hour at the gym, make that healthy meal today.
#4. Reward Yourself
Now that the first step is out of the way, it is time to reflect on how that went and take a break. Have a coffee or a snack, take a walk, play a game or watch your favourite movie. Reward yourself because you deserve it, you have taken the first step to realising your dream. Beware though – it’s just a short break. You are not packing for the day so this is not a celebration, it is a dangerous time because procrastination is just a heartbeat away. Do not get sidetracked or you will be away with the fairies again, stay in control and keep your head in the game.
#5. Build a Habit
Take another look up the mountain towards your goal, what is your next vital step? Maybe you have learned something from the previous step that inspires you and propels you forward. Or perhaps there are changes that need to be made to ensure consistency. Whatever it is you are now at a place where you can create a sustainable habit that will increase your efficiency. Cultivate a routine that will get you working effortlessly, maybe you are a morning person and you work better it the first hours of the day. Or you prefer working at night where there’s quiet.
You need to find your sweet spot and you will realise your task will be completed in no time.
If you follow these simple steps you will be proud of yourself in no time for completing that one thing that you always used to put off. So keep working step by step and every now and then stop and check your progress, make adjustments and reward yourself. I am sure you will feel better about yourself. Procrastination can be beaten after all and like Leonardo Da Vinci you can finally complete your masterpiece.
Remember, you do not need to see the whole picture for you to get going, just take that first step and you will see everything falling into place.
What is it that you have been struggling to start? Share with us your stories in the comments section.