I realize that I’m not facing a unique problem. Pretty much every entrepreneur I know has battled this feeling before…
You have an idea. You have a skill set. You’re pretty sure that you can make it happen. And yet, for some weird reason, you don’t execute on the project. It’s incredibly frustrating.
What is it that holds us back from doing what we are capable of?
For me, it seems to be two things.Wanting my work to be perfect, which causes me to spend more time planning, outlining, and researching, rather than actually writing.Focusing on how big the project is and how much needs to be done rather than working on one small piece each day.
I write about habits every week and tell people all of the time: “An imperfect start can always be improved, but obsessing over a perfect plan will never take you anywhere on its own.” (More on that here.)
But when it’s my project — when it’s my baby — I want it to be incredible. I’m trying to set a high standard in the work that I do and the ideas that I share. And that is a difficult balance to maintain because sometimes I end up putting the quest to be perfect before the importance of being done.
That said, this is the very reason that I try to offer a blend of scientific research and real world experiences in my articles. You can have the greatest research and theories in the world, but if you don’t understand the struggle that comes with implementing those ideas, then you’ll never see the full picture.
In many ways, big projects are an exercise in getting started over and over. Each day, you wake up and have to find a way to work on something big, but in a small way and without letting the overall scope of the project overwhelm you.I want to make this happen and I believe that I can. But I have to remind myself that an imperfect project that is complete is always better than a perfect project that is never finished.
Franz Kafka is considered one of the most creative and influential writers of the 20th century, but he actually spent most of his time working as a lawyer for the Workers Accident Insurance Institute. How did Kafka produce such fantastic creative works while holding down his day job?
By sticking to a strict schedule.
He would go to his job from 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM, eat lunch and then take a long nap until 7:30 PM, exercise and eat dinner with his family in the evening, and then begin writing at 11 PM for a few hours each night before going to bed and doing it all over again.
Kafka is hardly unique in his commitment to a schedule. As Mason Currey notes in his popular book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, many of the world’s great artists follow a consistent schedule.Maya Angelou rents a local hotel room and goes there to write. She arrives at 6:30 AM, writes until 2 PM, and then goes home to do some editing. She never sleeps at the hotel.Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon writes five nights per week from 10 PM to 3 AM.Haruki Murakami wakes up at 4 AM, writes for five hours, and then goes for a run.
The work of top creatives isn’t dependent upon motivation or inspiration, but rather it follows a consistent pattern and routine. It’s the mastering of daily habits that leads to creative success, not some mythical spark of genius.