I’ve Started, So I’ll, er…

August 15, 2012 by KWills

Hello, I’ve started a new blog!

I’m good at starting things, and rather… less good at finishing. I have more than a dozen separate projects “on the go”, which is to say, stopped.  So I dug out my old Python clips and got a crowd of annoyed extras to shout at me: “Get on with it!”.  I have learned something about myself from trying this, namely that I am better at finding ways to get out of doing things than I am at getting myself to stick to a task.  My inner slitherer-outer is stronger than my inner foreman. 

So I decided to stop fighting my procrastination head-on, and instead try to understand why I was shying away from projects that had started out so well.  After a hefty bit of self-analysis, I came up with three main reasons:

1. Boredom
I know, I know, grown-ups aren’t supposed to get bored, or at least we’re not supposed to say so if we are. So, you don’t say you’re “bored”, instead you say you’re “busy”.  Just can’t seem to find the time these days, you have other things to do.  Or else, the task is dismissed as “unimportant”, or “a waste of time”.  All ways for us grown-ups to avoid sounding like whiny kids, bleating our boredom.

The worst thing about boredom is that it is self-perpetuating: the longer a task is put off, the more boring it seems. And if the task gets relegated to the “waste of time” heap, chances are there’s another reason trying to get in in the act…

2. Doubt
It seemed like such a good idea at the time. Your goals were SMART, and you were brimming with confidence in yourself. Then, time slipped by and the task remained unfinished. Shame and disappointment started to set in whenever you think about the task. You look back over what you did get done, and all you can see are the flaws. So, you stop looking at it, stop thinking about it. It will never get done, because you know you can’t live up to your own expectations. You wonder why you started in the first place.

So? Why did you start? Can you get that initial enthusiasm back? If you can, it will go a long way towards overcoming both the above obstacles to progress. And remembering what makes your project great can also help with another road-block…

3. Fear
This one is very hard to catch in the act, but it can have devastating results. So long as a project is “in progress”, it won’t be judged. Everyone is waiting for the finished product before they give an opinion. Unfinished projects are safe. Finished projects, on the other hand, are fair game for critics. And then there’s the awful next step: what now? Now that you have your finished product, what are you going to do with it? How are you going to justify all the time and effort spent on your project?

It’s a good thing you’ve been dwelling on what makes your project brilliant, otherwise this sort of thing might start to get you down. As it is, you can look fear in the face and tell it to shut up. You’re going to get something finished, and you’ll have fun doing it. You’ll probably even learn stuff, and get all sorts of satisfaction from the job. Even if you get no praise or reward, you’re going to do it because you want to, and that’s enough. So there, fear!

And what if there is a “next step”? That’s another task for another time. For now, just focus on getting something finished. Face the excuses, answer them back, and move forward. At the start of the project there was enthusiasm, confidence and courage. Let’s get them back again.

After all this pontificating, I have no option but to go and get on with one of my stalled projects. I’ll let you know how I get on with re-capturing my motivation.

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