Do you have “the list?” A catalog of projects you want to get done but never seem to get around to doing. Most people do. Typically, projects we perpetually put off are the ones that we – for some reason – don’t want to do. Common reasons include:
- The projects seem overwhelming
- We lack the knowledge to proceed
- We lack sufficient time, energy, money, or other resources
- We find the tasks unpleasant
- We are physically incapable
- We blame and resent someone else for having put this on our plate
- We worry about making a mistake
Today’s quote from Henry Ford suggests an approach for finally making progress on those long-avoided tasks. Ford said, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small parts.”
When I hear people talking about projects they wish to complete but have been putting off, I suggest we break it down into small steps. How small? Steps that are tiny enough that you will be willing to do them.
For example, imagine you have a problem with your roof. The problem is periodic, so it is easy to avoid dealing with it… until it snows 2 feet or rains 3 inches. Then you get leaking into your home, become exasperated, and resolve to get it fixed. But then the sun comes out, the problem abates and decide to deal with it later.
This situation has five common problematic components:
- The cause of the problem isn’t obvious, so there the path forward is unclear.
- Whatever the problem is, it will probably cost a lot of money to fix.
- Fixing the problem is likely to take time and make a mess, both of which will interfere with your everyday routine.
- You aren’t a roofer or architect, so you worry that you will be taken advantage of if you hire the wrong person.
- The whole situation feels overwhelming.
In this example, what tiny step could you take when you feel so overwhelmed? Perhaps the first step is to simply call a few people to come and give an opinion on what needs to be done. If this still feels too intimidating because you don’t know who to call, try making a list of people you could call. If even this step feels hard or uncomfortable, maybe start by calling someone you trust to discuss the situation. Just one phone call, to someone you know.
The key is to keep pushing yourself to make the task smaller and smaller until you can look at it and honestly say, “I’m willing to do this.” Then, follow through with this tiny task. Typically, whenever we take a first step, the ball starts rolling, and next steps naturally present themselves. All we need to do is keep walking through the next door. If no “next steps” appear, go through the process again to identify another tiny step you are willing to take.
Today I encourage you to identify a project that has been hanging over you and delineate one or two tiny steps that you commit to take in the next week. Then, schedule these steps into your calendar to make sure you do them.
What project are you finally ready to break down into small steps and finish once and for all?