From time to time, each of us experiences overwhelming, daunting, or frightening tasks. You know the kind - you don't even know where to begin. Last year, I read a book (The War of Art) that talked about a "force" that it called "The Resistance" which describes this phenomenon perfectly.
Sometimes, it's tough to get started because you have no clue what to do, or how to do it.So how do you overcome The Resistance? The first step is always the hardest - because that is where you must overcome the momentum of the easiest choice - doing nothing. As tempting as it is to procrastinate, most of the time these daunting tasks don't just go away.
Get clear on what you really need to do
In his book Getting Things Done, David Allen talks about how we get "stuck" on projects and planning because we aren't clear on the goals and activities required (paraphrasing, "We don't know what done means, and we haven't figured out what doing looks like.") He offers excellent advice: Sit down and establish a crisp definition of the outcome you are trying to achieve - only then, can you begin to divine the steps and resources required to get there.
Another variation on this from Stephen Covey, in his 7 Habits, tells us to "Begin with the end in mind." Again, figure out what you want to achieve to get yourself unstuck and moving in the right direction.
Get some help
Whether it's doing your taxes, estate planning, or getting a project going sometimes we can all use some help. There are a plethora of options available to us, such as:
Seek professional help. For financial matters, you might benefit from a professional tax preparer, a fee-only financial advisor, or an estate planning expert. You can often gain access to these people through organizations with which you're affiliated like credit unions, wholesale shopping clubs, or professional organizations.
These resources can also help you clarify your goals, provide expert advice based on the experiences of others, and useful things like that.
Ask people you know for help. Whether you know them via work, community involvement, the blogging community, or other means, you can often find people who've had experience dealing with the same issue you're wrestling with. Why re-invent the wheel? Reach out and ask them for advice or help.
By the way, if you "get clear on what you really need to do" before you reach out, you'll increase your chance of success.
|Engage||If this is a work-related project, call a meeting and solicit help in getting things rolling. For maximum effectiveness, clarify your desired outcome ahead of time and pre-announce that via your meeting invitation. Also, clarify the purpose of the meeting (brainstorming, making a decision, creating a project plan, etc.), and communicate your expectations of the attendees so they show up ready to contribute in appropriate ways.|
If a project seems overwhelming, maybe you're being too aggressive or optimistic. Consider whether you can break it up into smaller projects. One of the things I've learned from my work in the software industry is that there is often a ton of value in using a "go ugly early" strategy to show some project and establish visible momentum. This helps you achieve a sense of accomplishment, enables you to recruit supporters and more resources with less effort, and can help you detect flaws in judgement before you've invested too much time and energy in the project.
Create a forcing event
There is nothing like a deadline to drive activity. Consider making an external commitment to getting your project done. Announce to your team, customers, or other "audiences" when you'll deliver something, and you'll often find that it provides that extra bit of motivation to get you off your butt and get to work.
A variation of this is calling a meeting for which you need to produce something (a plan, update, or presentation). Get it done, or you look bad - ego is a powerful tool, when used in this way.
Sometimes, it's tough to get started because you have no clue what to do, or how to do it. While you can "Get some help" as described above, you may decide that you'd rather address your own lack of skills instead. Again, there are a lot of resources out there, including:
- your public library
- local community colleges
- courses offered through professional organizations
If what you're doing will provide you with reusable skills that advance your career or give you personal satisfaction, this is a great option.
Share what you know
Help yourself by helping others. You can build your network of resources and create more leverage in your life by sharing what you know.
When someone asks you to become part of their network you (by definition) extend your own network.
So how about it? what do you do to overcome The Resistance?