When the idea to row across oceans first popped into my head, my first reaction was, “That’s perfect! This is the project I’ve been looking for!”
My second reaction was, “I can’t possibly. There’s no way. I’m just a management consultant.”
But then I reached the dangerous stage of thinking, “Well, hypothetically, supposing I was going to row across an ocean, what would I need to do? Who would I ask about it? What books would I read? What courses would I take? What would I need to buy? How much money would I need?”
So I wrote a list. It was a very long list, but when I had finished it and looked at each of the items, none of them seemed too impossible. And the whole project started to seem frighteningly do-able.
I still take the same approach. I’ve always been a list-maker, and to be honest, I don’t know how anybody ever gets anything done without them. Whenever starting a new project, I make a list of everything I need to do. I use the Things application (by Cultured Code) to manage my To Do lists on MacBook and iPhone, so that I can capture ideas whenever they occur to me. There are lots of other apps that are also good – Omnifocus is another one. Or even a notebook and pen. The main thing is to never underestimate the power of making a list.
If anything on the list seems too big and daunting, it means I haven’t broken it down into small enough steps. I often find that something sits around on my To Do list for a while, nagging at me but mysteriously remaining undone. It helps break the cycle of procrastination if I take a closer look at it and figure out the very first tiny action that will contribute to getting it done. It often turns out that I am lacking some vital information or need input from somebody else. Once that first tiny action appears as a separate item on the To Do list, I get past the blockage and the whole job gets checked off. As the saying goes, a job begun is a job half done.
But then I still suffered a major wobble when I got out onto the ocean. 3,000 miles suddenly seemed like an awfully long way. For a while I was quite dispirited, skipping shifts on the faulty logic that with so many miles to go, a few less each day wouldn’t make much difference. But it does. It all adds up – just as a few extra miles each day would have done. Once I got into a regular routine, the shirking stopped and the miles started to tick down. Routine helps me from asking myself whether I want to do something or not, which so often is not a helpful question. Best just to get on and do it. Anything can be achieved with the 3 Ds – Discipline, Determination and Dedication.
I’ve learned a lot from the Queen of Getting Things Done – my mother. She has an ability to buckle down and get on with things that I can only marvel at. There are some monumental tasks – and monumentally boring ones too – that she helps me out with, such as logging my business expenses. Her approach is to do a bit each day until the task is done. A regular routine like this can really help with large tasks – like rowing an ocean, for example. How do you eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time.
Along with procrastination, I have also suffered from perfectionism. I’ve had to get over it. There is a saying in the British military, known as the 7 Ps: Perfect Preparation and Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. I disagree. If I waited until I was 100% prepared, I’d never have made it across an ocean. And I’m afraid to say that my book isn’t perfect either. But sometimes “good enough” is, well, good enough. Which is no excuse for being shoddy. It’s just the recognition that nothing is ever perfect, and by sweating the small stuff you can prevent a project from ever reaching fruition.
For further reading, I can highly recommend David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”. But really, it’s not rocket science. The best way to get things done – is to Just Do It!
– Make a list. If there is anything on the list you can’t do, break it down into smaller steps.
– Rhythm makes life easier – steady working rhythm, regular daily rhythm.
– How do you eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time.
– Don’t waste mental energy asking if you can do something. Just do it. You’ll surprise yourself.
– Life can be magical, but magic only gets you so far. Then you need discipline, determination and dedication.
– A job begun is a job half done
– Perfection is the enemy of productivity