How to Overcome Procrastination and Start Now

Hue, 2017 #cindyproject

“A task once begun is (more than) half done”. – Seneca

Dear friend,

One of the hardest things to do in life is to start.

But once we start, we’re like as Seneca says– more than halfway done.

I know personally I often suffer from ‘paralysis by analysis’ — I over-complicate things, which prevent me from starting. Whenever I have a business idea, a photo project idea, or a blog post idea– whenever I think too much or plan too much, I never start. And when I never start, I never finish.

Instead, I’ve tried to make it a habit to just start things.

For example, even this blog post was inspired to just start it. To not think too much. To just open up a text editor, and start typing away.

No situation will ever be perfect for you to start anything. There is no better time for you to start your own business, than now. There is no better time for you to start a photo project than now. There is no better time for you to tell your significant others what you want to tell them than now.

You’re losing charge

Our life is a smartphone battery. We start with 100% charge, and each day, we lose charge. And we don’t have a recharging cable (unfortunately).

So why delay what is truly important to you? Just get started.

How to get started

Easier said than done.

Here are some tips I would give regarding how to start:

1. Make a shitty first draft

I forgot where I learned this, but if you’re a writer, don’t aim for perfection when you start. Just try to finish a ‘shitty first draft’. This way, you put less pressure on yourself to create a masterpiece on the first try.

If you look at any work of art, the first version was never very good. Artists had to iterate, over and over again, and make several drafts before they finally made anything good.

You can apply this philosophy to anything.

If you want to start a photo project, just start by taking shitty photos.

If you want to start a business, just start off by making a shitty business website.

If you want to write a blog post, try to just write a shitty first draft.

2. Eliminate distractions

For me, I have no idea how to “focus”. Rather, I know how to eliminate distractions.

Nobody knows what makes them focus. But everyone knows what distracts them.

For me, I am easily distracted by my smartphone. So whenever I need to get anything started, I need to shut off my phone. Completely. Either that, or I put it to airplane mode, or put it to mute.

I also get distracted by websites and blogs. Therefore, I (like Ulysses when avoiding the tempting songs of the sirens) stop up my ears with beeswax, and tie myself to the mast. I do this by installing a website blocker extension to my browser (I use ‘Waste No Time’ for Safari, also ‘StayFocusd’ is a good option for Google Chrome).

I really need to prevent myself from being distracted, I go the full 10 yards by using the ‘Freedom’ app on the Mac– which literally disables your internet for a per-determined amount of time. So I can disable my wifi for 3 hours, and no matter how many times I restart my computer, I cannot use the internet.

Other options include going to coffee shops that don’t have wifi.

What is your personal distractions? Seek to eliminate those, and it will be quite easy to focus.

3. Imagine that you will die tonight

Death is the best motivator. If we knew that we would die tonight, we would definitely work a lot harder to achieve the best out of today.

For me, I cannot motivate myself to work on long-term projects that take weeks, months, or years. However, I know how to motivate myself for a single day.

As a blogger, I know how I can write one blog post today. As a photographer, I know how I can try to get one meaningful photo today. I don’t know how to be the best person, but I try to say at least one loving thing to Cindy (and strangers I meet) each day.

If you want to start a business, what is the smallest possible thing you can do today to get started?

If you want to make a living teaching photography workshops, perhaps the first thing you can do is come up with a workshop description, choose a date, choose a price, make a Paypal ‘Buy now’ button, and publish it to your website or blog, and have students sign up through Google Forms.

If you want to write a novel, it is easier to just try to write one chapter today.

If you want to become a full-time photographer, you can try to find at least one client today, by advertising on social media that you are accepting commissions or work.

4. Keep it as simple as possible

“Perfect is the enemy of the good” – Voltaire

Complication is the enemy of getting anything done. Try to keep things as simple as humanly possible, to get things started.

If you’re a photographer suffering ‘photographer’s block’ — start off by taking photos on your smartphone.

If you’re suffering from writer’s block, start off by writing in a text editor (Cindy is currently using my laptop, so I am writing this on her laptop, in the web-based version of Evernote, which isn’t my ideal writing tool, but it still works anyways).

If you want to get into shape, start off by getting on the floor and doing 10 pushups right now.

If you want to lose weight, start off by abstaining from sugars for an entire day (starting now).

The more complicated whatever you want to start, the less likely you are to start.

5. The rolling stone gathers no moss

“The rolling stone gathers no moss” – Publilius Syrus

Once you get started, just keep the ball rolling.

Each day try to make a little bit of forward progress. Aim to make yourself 1% better each day, and you will make massive returns in the long run.

Try to take a few photos each day. Try to write a little bit each day. Try to exercise a little more each day.

Once you have momentum, keep moving forward.

“The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

Don’t delay; start now.