Starting and finishing...with the seasons

I decided to finish work early today, so I could get out into the garden to weed and trim and clear out while the sun was shining and my energy tank was full.

The cherry trees have finished blooming in our yard. Same with the tulips and the daffodils.

(The lilac bushes are about to start. Same with the wild lilies and the irises.)

We think of spring as beginning—new life, new growth, new newness.

But it’s also a time of finishing. There’s constant finishing, all around me, as one or another tree or shrub does its thing, has its 15 minutes of fame, and then goes quiet again… That is, until next year.

What are you finishing this season? What are you starting?

Cutting loose vs. letting loose on a Friday

“Sometimes the biggest gain in productive energy will come from cleaning the cobwebs, dealing with old business, and clearing the desks—cutting loose debris that's impeding forward motion.”

David Allen wrote this in his book, Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Getting Things Done.

I haven’t yet read that book, but the concept is something I help folks put into practice on the second Friday of the month when I host Get It Done Day. The event is free and open to whomever wants to show up, and it’s largely about what Allen says: sweeping away the dust, finishing up projects, and making space for clarity and peace. It’s pretty nice that it’s held on a Friday; the participants get to glide into a weekend with a huge feeling of accomplishment, productivity, and energy.

It’s a better alternative to the burned-out, brain-fried experience that so many escape from on a Friday at 5 p.m.—and then escape TO some sort of over-medicating situation (booze, greasy food, late night, un-boundaried decisions) in an effort to recover...to compensate for what felt bad about the week...for the procrastination and the flagging energy and the unavoidable avoidances. In an effort to find balance.

Get It Done Day is about cutting loose. (Cutting loose isn't the same thing as letting loose.) Get It Done Day doesn’t remind me of my wild Friday nights, tearing it up at the Lithuanian Dance Hall in my Baltimore days or at the back room of Rapture in my Charlottesville days.

But it does feel fun. It feels like camaraderie and good collective energy to tackle the stuff no one wants to tackle...but that we all know we must tackle eventually.

I’ll wake up tomorrow feeling pretty damn balanced, not because I'm letting loose tonight, but because I cut loose on a Friday afternoon, when it would’ve been easier to write off the week and hope for the best when Monday rolls around again.

If you’d like to invite some sensible balance into your weekend, come join us for one of the next Get It Done Days, always on the second Friday of the month. (Use that hyperlink to register; it's FREE, but I require a headcount.)

Now, go eat a banana and get some rest. Don't do anything that’ll make you feel like garbage tomorrow.

How to start before you're ready

You’ve got the seed of an idea in your mind...and, right on schedule with spring and through no conscious effort of your own, it’s just started to push through the surface and show a little green.

Are you ready to begin work on it?

(Psst! Here’s a not-so-secret secret: If you say you’re ready, you’re ready; if you say you’re not, you’re not. I promise it’s that simple.)

Will you water it and put sunlight on it and cultivate it, knowing that it’ll put forth its own effort no matter what? Knowing that it’ll meet you more than halfway? (After all, that’s just the nature of an idea that’s in season.)

Or will you hold back out of fear, out of a feeling that maybe right now isn’t The Exact Right Time to invest yourself, and next year might be better? In which case, that green that’s starting to emerge on its own? It’ll catch your eye every single time you walk by it...and remind you of what you’re not doing. It’ll be visual evidence that the idea is showing up and doing its part—so, what might be possible for it if you showed up and did your part?

A former client once told me: “One of the most transformative parts of working with you was learning to embody the idea of doing something before I feel ready.”

In our work together over the course of six mini sessions, we didn’t try to change how she felt.

Nope. We changed only what she did (or didn’t do) with those feelings.

She said it best: “I’m much more comfortable now with feeling ‘not ready’ and taking action anyway. You helped me change my mindset at a core level. And I now I don’t see it as an excuse to not move forward but instead as an opportunity.”

Want to change what you do (or don’t do) with your feelings? Comment below (“Seedling alert!” will do just fine) and include the best email address where I can reach you, and I’ll take it from there.

Why you procrastinate

Have you ever considered the purpose of procrastination?

TO AVOID DISCOMFORT.


The discomfort of starting something new or finishing something difficult, the discomfort of being a perfectionist who might not be able to do the thing perfectly, the discomfort of working on an undertaking that elicits some level of stress.

But there's often a bit of a fight against procrastination. We do it and we self-flagellate at the same time. We know it's not serving us to procrastinate...and yet, we can't seem to stop ourselves from avoiding the discomfort that we know the work will entail.

What I propose to you is to bring some awareness into the picture.

Instead of procrastinating blindly, thoughtlessly... And instead of railing against your procrastination—fighting it, obsessing over it, trying to force your way through it...

Shine a light on your procrastination. Focus your awareness on the why of it. Examine it—as well as your perceptions, sensations, thoughts, and emotions about it—without judgment.

When you notice yourself picking up a novel to read instead of researching that grant that could finance your painting career for a full year, do just that: Notice it.

When you keep telling yourself you'll begin writing your website copy just as soon as you've cleared out your email inbox (but you haven't yet put down that novel in order to tend to the email, let alone the web copy): Pay attention to yourself.

This awareness will become habitual, inserting itself earlier and earlier into the chronology of events, so that you'll start to observe yourself as you're following the distractions and avoidances, not just after the fact. Then, you can introduce some gentle inquiry to your procrastination-in-progress:

“Why am I avoiding this thing?”

“Where is there discomfort for me in this undertaking?”

“Am I sure there's discomfort, or might it be just that I'm fearing possible discomfort?”

And that's it. No cajoling or strong-arming necessary. This focused awareness is enough.

I’d love to know if this lands for you; leave a comment below and tell me!

Three mindset shifts that might help you realize RIGHT NOW is the perfect time to start

1. You’re guaranteed a RIGHT NOW. You’re existing in it as we speak! You don’t have a LATER or a TOMORROW or a ONE DAY. Nope, not yet. You have a RIGHT NOW, and only a RIGHT NOW.

2. You had a YESTERDAY and a LAST MONTH and a THREE YEARS AGO. And if you didn’t like what you did with them, how you spent those specific periods of time (periods that were, at one point, RIGHT NOWS, but have become things of the past), you can choose differently today. You can create the RIGHT NOW that YESTERDAY wasn't.

3. If—and I really mean if—you’re going to be gifted with a LATER, a TOMORROW, a ONE DAY (lucky duck, not everyone gets those), don’t you want to be at least a little bit past the first step by then? Wouldn’t it be awesome to be someplace beyond the starting line, when and if you get more than a RIGHT NOW? Doesn’t that simultaneously honor the RIGHT NOW and the potential, not-yet-promised TOMORROW?

Which one of the above turned on a little lightbulb over your head? Tell me in the comments.

Small Steps, Tip #4

Today was a glorious day of STARTING.

We just wrapped up April’s (free!) Get It Done Day, where four intrepid souls joined me in beginning Those Tasks We’ve Collectively Avoided For Too Long.

Some of these tasks were organizational, some administrative, others generative or creative. Regardless of the nature of the tasks, we all had our reasons for procrastinating on them until today.

And you know what the best part was? It didn’t even matter why we’d put off starting our various projects; each of us decided that today was the day we’d make inroads on them, no matter what happened last week or last month, no matter how we might’ve failed to start sooner.

Today—we determined both separately and together—would be our starting line.

(And this was the kind of race where no one’s actually racing anyone else and everyone gets a trophy. ‘Cause that’s how I roll.)

Though we worked independently throughout the morning and afternoon (FYI: just an hour at a time—any more than that, and we’re asking too much of our bodies and brains), we checked in with each other on several different occasions via video conference call.

We laughed. We cried. (Just kidding, no one cried.) We mostly got it done. At the very least, we started something we’d previously put off starting.

Do you feel how huge that is? If you’ve ever avoided beginning a project, you’re likely nodding your head in agreement right now.

Sometimes we’re afraid to start a project because we don’t believe we have what it takes. Sometimes we (think we) don’t know the first step. Sometimes we convince ourselves we need to be able to finish the project before we can start it; we need to set aside a whole day or a whole month before we can even look at the thing; we get really All Or Nothing about it.

We don’t do ourselves any favors when we let our clever excuses run the show. They might be clever, but that’s about all they’ve got going for themselves.

If you’d like some support in locating your starting line, come to the next Get It Done Day. It’s free, but you do have to register. I can’t wait to see you there.

A procrastination solution that requires just one day of your time

Without exception, I use my time far more efficiently when I know someone else is paying attention.

If I go to the bookstore on my own, to hunt for a particular book, you can bet I'll wander to my heart's content, remembering this book and that book and detouring myself the entire time. An hour or more can be lost like this.

Sure, I've got a goal (to locate that one book), but it's pretty meandering as far as a plan is concerned, and it's definitely aimless in the sense that it doesn't live on a timetable—so, I've more or less made it forgettable from the outset.

If, on the other hand, my husband's waiting out in the car and we agree I have 15 minutes to find my book, I'm focused first on accomplishing the mission at hand, and only then would I permit myself to wander around with any remaining time.

As with the first example, there's still the same goal (to locate that one book); however, this time it's set within a specific context—a husband waiting patiently and an increment of time that's trained squarely on the objective, not on the experience.

An important aside: I absolutely believe in focusing on the experience much of the time. In fact, I'd go so far as to say I'm someone for whom the experience is often prioritized over the objective.

But, when it comes to doing what I know I need to do with this one life of mine (and when it comes to doing what I want to do and staying married to the person I want to be married to, lol), I try to remember that focusing my energy on the objective is sometimes undeniably important.

And in many cases, dealing with the objective first (and positioning it within a meaningful context—on a timetable, as part of an agreement, etc.) actually affords me the opportunity to be present for the experience.

ENTER GET IT DONE DAY.

 

Get It Done Day is a FREE virtual event for anyone who struggles with procrastination and has been avoiding a specific something (or somethings) for a good, long while. The objective is to give you a designated time to finally complete That Which Inspires Dread.

It’s free, but you must register. Hop over here to add your name to the list.

What to do when you don't know what to do

Your Big, "Impossible" Thing scares the crap out of you.

You literally have no clue what the first step is in getting what you dream of...and admitting that feels vulnerable, like you have no business dreaming of something you don't know how to start, let alone achieve.

I have news for you:

YOU'RE ENTITLED TO WANT SOMETHING REGARDLESS OF YOUR KNOWING HOW TO GET IT.

 

Not knowing should never be the reason you don't pursue your Thing. Why?

Look around you! There are RESOURCES everywhere! In the form of people! People who DO know what you don't positively abound on this planet!

Some of my clients have believed they've discovered an exception to this (they haven't): "But what if I don't know what I don't know? Then, how do I figure out where to start, what questions to ask, who I need to hire to help me first?"

YOU FIND SOMEONE WHO WILL ASK ➡️ YOU ⬅️ THE QUESTIONS.

 

You find someone who doesn't care what you think you know or what you think you don't know. Someone who doesn't believe your Stories about yourself, your litanies of self-diagnosed shortcomings, your limitations. Someone who will shower you with questions like it's her job (because it is).

If you're nodding your head because you don't know what you don't know about going after your Thing, I have two things to say to you: 1. It's more common than you think (in other words, you're not alone), and 2. get a coach on your team right now.

Comment below or email me privately to start a conversation, which we can take to the phone. If I can't help you, I'll refer you to someone who can. Resources abound!

Chronic starters and reluctant finishers: There's still hope for you!

Okay, so you've figured out that you're a chronic starter/reluctant finisher... But what do you do about it? Three ideas:

1. Take a quick inventory of all the pursuits you've started, but never finished. Do they have anything in common? Do they tend to be, say, craft projects? Product ideas for your business? Do you have a habit of beginning to organize a room, but then abandoning it before you're even halfway through? Look for patterns in your unfinished stuff & use your new awareness of those patterns as a guide going forward. (You might decide you're no longer permitting yourself to buy more fabric—at least not until you use what you have to finish what you've started.) Even if the finishing part is difficult for you, you can decide to temporarily quit starting.

2. Marie Kondo's gotten us all to think about what personal belongings spark joy, but what about the unfinished items on our to-do lists? Determine which ones stir up a feeling of dread, & which ones still bring you a little thrill—then, LET YOURSELF OFF THE HOOK when it comes to finishing what's no longer serving (or sparking joy for) you. Just because we start something doesn't mean we have to finish it. There are all kinds of reasons why we abandon this stuff; sometimes we're distracted or not fully committed, but other times, we're just not digging it all that much. That's okay. Not everything deserves a piece of our limited time on this earth. Decide once and for all to ditch what isn't doing it for you anymore. (But really DITCH it; donate the materials to your local community center, sell the fabric on eBay, ask your friends if they want all your beading supplies. Set the physical stuff—and yourself—free.

3. Nothing means anything until we assign it meaning. So, stop attaching meaning to the fact that you happen to leave a lot unfinished. It's a tendency of yours, is all—and a value judgment from your inner critic probably isn't the thing that's going to inspire transformation. Get neutral about it, and then we can work on shifting it to a behavior that better serves you.

Am I reading your mind? Awesome. I'm betting I can help you. Leave a comment below (or email me) and we’ll get something on the calendar.

Small Steps, Tip #2

Hey, you—yeah, you. You with the eleventy bajillion things on your to-do list.

I've got news for you: You don't actually have eleventy bajillion things on your to-do list.

You don't even have twenty things on it.

You have ONE. One thing to do first.

And it's your very next step.

That's it—just the very next step; it's the only thing you need to look at, and then take action on, right now.

(Still overwhelmed? Look at that very next step and break it in half. Start there. Once you begin, momentum will support you. Also? I can support you. Leave a comment below and we'll have you moving in no time.)

You might be a chronic starter/reluctant finisher if...

  • you seem to always move the same few items from one week’s to-do list to the next week’s.
  • your life feels like a compilation of unfinished projects—a laundry basket of curtains needing hemming and shirts needing replacement buttons sewed on, a dusty stack of photos that are only half-digitized, a box of thank-you notes to be written, a closet to be culled and clothing to be donated.
  • even on a good day, you never actually feel ‘caught up’ because you know you haven't completed a whole slew of things you started long ago.
  • you have ideas—and you enter into them with gusto; taking those initial actions isn’t usually your problem when you’re excited about something. But somewhere along the way, your relationship with the project fizzles or is hijacked by something or someone else; you get distracted or hit a roadblock and the project falls by the wayside. Only, it isn’t a clean break; you’re thinking about it and your energy is tied to it, still... So you wind up with this albatross of unfinished business around your neck.
  • you say you’re ‘procrastinating,’ but you haven’t even set up a date by which you’ll finish the thing, so you’re not procrastinating so much as you’re just not doing it.
  • the half-done things you need to complete might be:
    • creative projects (your novel, that quilt you started, that tunic that’s still just a stack of pattern pieces, a partially knit sweater);
    • organization projects (photos and old home videos of your grandparents that need digitizing, a recipe box that needs sorting and filing);
    • home improvement/renovation projects (hemming those too-long curtains and getting them hung again, painting the half-bath, hanging the gallery wall in the living room);
    • ongoing ‘life’ projects (scheduling everyone’s annual doctor/dentist appointments, writing the overdue thank-you notes);
    • self-study projects (Rosetta Stone Spanish lessons, anyone?), etc.

Does some of this sound familiar? Take heart: I promise you finishing is a muscle that EVERYONE is capable of strengthening. And I can help. Leave a comment below, or shoot me an email, and let's chat.