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How to stop procrastinating and have fun with the things you have to do

If you’re like me or anybody I know, you keep procrastinating on some things because you don’t want to be doing them. For example, unless you’re a happy and skilled accountant, I bet you don’t like doing taxes. It’s tedious, there’s the risk of doing it wrong, and it’ll always cost you time and money.

So what happens after you’ve been procrastinating for weeks and the deadline gets near? You start dreading the moment you’ll have to get to it, you’re even getting tense just thinking about it. And you can’t stop feeling uneasy about the whole thing. Which in turn makes the task feel even more awful.

What is happening for taxes for some, might happen for others when preparing a report, or calling an awful client to tell him his project is gonna be late. Like for hobbies and food, this is a matter of taste and experience. What is a joy for some is a pain for others. And it feels like it cannot change.

It’s too bad, because there is one easy solution.

Open up

However awful one activity seems, there is always a way to find fun in it. But first, you need to be open to the possibility.
In lots of cases, the feeling of repulsion is so strong and deep that it seems there’s no way in hell it would be better, let alone “fun”. But if you can find only one people in the world who believes that doing taxes can be fun, it means that there is no absolute rule that says you have to hate it.

If you don’t have to hate it, then maybe you might find a way to like it.

Find the fun

photo credit: Neal.

In any activity you do, there is a fun factor. Bring your candeur, bring your curiosity and forget about what you think you know. Do you like to play with numbers? Do you like to go on a quest to find where little things belong in the world? What do you think “doing taxes” is? It’s putting numbers at their right places and simply playing with them. You can choose to see any activity in a billion different ways, which means you can choose to see it in a way that’s frightening and disempowering or in a way that’s attractive and empowering. The more fun you’ll mentally create in the activity, the less fear you’ll feel, and the easier it’ll be to do it.

If there is something you have to or want to do, but it is frightening and you don’t know how to proceed, take 15 to 30 minutes to find the fun in it: how other people may have fun doing it, how it uses the same skills as things you like, etc.

It will build the positive anticipation until there is nothing you can do except doing it. Once you’re done, come and share your experience in the comments!

The value of an idea

Do you have more ideas for new projects than you can keep up with? Or are you waiting for the million dollar idea to quit your job?

How many times did you see a new object/software/thingy being released to the world and think “Damn! I thought about that! Why didn’t I do it?”?

The 260-million sales idea

zen garden
photo credit: Eddi 07

If you have a really great, innovative idea, you can surely create a new market, crush the dull competition, and make billions in revenue in only a decade.

Take the iPod for example, it seems like everyone and their mother have one or two. 260 millions units sold since the launch of the first, Mac-only, iPod on October 23, 2001.

Even their competitors have to agree Apple did an awesome job, putting thousands of songs in our hand. And they succeeded because they came up with the idea first.

Or did they?

In 1996, Audio Highway announced the first ever portable MP3 player, Listen Up, which was released in 1997. Then came  Saehan’s MPMan, Diamond’s Rio and Compaq’s Personal Jukebox in 98 and Creative’s Nomad in 2000.

Apple entered the market after most of its competitors in 2001. And they still took most of the market share (72.7% in 2007). How did they do it?

Making an idea real

Was there a new, killer idea/feature in the iPod which justified such success? Did the iPod do more than the Rio for example?

Not really.

Their success came from great implementation and marketing of an idea, and creating the eco-system to make it flourish (in that case, great design and iTunes).

Don’t think they just got lucky, they did the same thing with the iPhone, then again with the iPad, taking everybody by surprise with a brilliant implementation when the competition was fighting over average.

Yes, being the first to market can be useful, but if you can change quickly, which is the case on the Internet and in small businesses, it’s better to work on the implementation. You don’t even need to release all the features at first, make a subset of features, only the core, but make the experience great and attractive. Remember, the first iPod required a Mac to work, had no store and no touchscreen.

Having the vision

I’m not saying an idea isn’t important, it is.

But it is important because it allows you to have a vision and get motivated to implement that vision.

The vision itself is more important than the product. Only the product is required in the market place, but it is the vision that creates success.

The vision will keep you going when it’s hard, and the implementation (the product) is the structure you need in order to go forward and share the vision.

Opening new perspectives

If you give too much weight to any idea, it’ll be very difficult to change course when something isn’t working, or to seize new opportunities, because you’ll be too attached to your first, “perfect”, idea.

Ideas should be free-flowing, coming and going, when it makes sense and you’re passionate about an idea, act on it, but leave room for new ideas to come to you anyway. An idea loses value with new discoveries.

Being Passionate

The value of an idea is found in how passionate you are to make it a reality. If you are passionate about bringing your idea to more people, while still be open to change it as you go along, it will grow enough to take a life of its own. You’ll end up simply serving the idea and the greater good.

Be careful not to fool yourself, you can have a great idea, but without implementation, it isn’t worth a dime. And if you’re waiting for the killer idea, remember that a good idea with a killer implementation will trump a great idea with a bad one any day of the week.

What’s the idea you’re passionate about enough to make real?

Why clarity is your best ally on the road to success

The Strong Clouds
photo credit: dobrych

Is everything clear?

Have you ever felt like something wasn’t right, without being able to point out what it is or why it’s giving you this feeling?

It might be your career, your personal life or simply the number of items on that damn new restaurant menu.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything just made perfect sense? No wondering, no hesitation, just the feeling of knowing…

Would you like some clarity on the side?

Having clarity means knowing what your current situation is, what you’d like it be to, how they differ, but most importantly, how to close the gap and achieve what you want.

If you know where you want to go, and how to get there, congratulations! You can stop reading now. Otherwise, stay with me.

“I had the perfect plan!”

Awesome! Me too! It involved me being rich and famous (basically ruling the world) by 25. Hasn’t happened yet. Nor do I still want it to happen, mind you, but I digress.

If life always went according to plan, it’d be way easier, or at least, more comfortable. Unfortunality for our controling nature, life rarely goes according to (our) plan.

All the unexpected events and unforeseen consequences in your life slowly changed the picture. But worse, most of the time, they don’t actually brag about it, so you might not realize that the circumstances have changed until way later. That creates confusion, not only about the present situation, but also about the future: what’s ahead and what’s possible (or not). If you’re in your forties but still dream about competing in the Olympics, sorry to destroy your dreams: never gonna happen.

Maybe it’s time to move on and shop for some new goals.

Focus on why, not how

Imagine you go to the store to get a dishwasher. After a few minutes wandering around, you find yourself in front of a list of all the characteristics of the machine: speed, capacity, eco-friendliness, price, etc. And while these informations may give you some idea of how that particular piece of machinery will behave, it is easy to get caught up in all the details and forget why you wanted it in the first place: to help you reduce your burden, save time, and enjoy more of the rest.

Whether you’re looking for a dishwasher or a job doesn’t actually matter, if you have enough clarity to know what you want and why you want it, you’ll know how to choose the right match for your goals and the life you want. Besides, you’ll be less prone to influences from third parties, who have their own goals, which quite often conflict with yours.

Doing or buying one thing because that’s what your peers expect is not a good enough reason to act. Knowing why you’re doing something is the only way to be invested in it while going forward.

When you are confused, your mind is reluctant to go forward and take any action. The best first step to get unstuck on your path, is to get more clarity.

“Naah, it’s fine, I’ll just figure it out while going along”

Seriously? Is that your answer or the fear talking?

Do you know where you current path leads?

Do you know where you want to go?

If both destinations are the same, great, you can simply act as usual and continue on your current path. But if the answers are not clear, or are inconsistent, you need to ask why. What on your path is not aligned with who you are and where you want to go? How can you change it?

Having clarity means you:

  • know where you are, what are the paths available to you, and what they entail
  • understand why you’re doing what you’re doing
  • are motivated to act and go forward because you know exactly what you’ll get
  • can decide in an instant what to do because everything is clear in your mind
  • are less stressed by everything that goes in your way because you can process them easily and effectively
  • know what you need to go forward, and are less hesitant to ask for it

I see no reason not to want that (but if you do, please share in the comments!).

Gain more clarity

It is very difficult to get more clarity when overwhelmed with things and thoughts. Past a certain point, you need, at the very least, a wall to bounce things off. Here are a few things to get you started on the road to clarity:

  • put your thoughts on paper, see where they go
  • draw a mind map of your situation
  • ask a trusted friend and exchange with her your thoughts about your condition
  • try new things: a cooking class, a new sport
  • go for a walk in an unknown place.

Getting a new frame of reference will help you gain more perspective.

A life of uncertainty

If you’ve been tolerating something that’s not right for you for months or years, you’ll probably struggle to even acknowledge that you don’t need nor want that thing in your life. It’s easier to  make excuses than to challenge one’s whole life, it’s easier to tolerate and say “it’s not that bad”.

But it is.

Take any given situation in your life and ask yourself–“why?”  Is it giving you what you want?  If not, then why not? What can you change in your life to get what you want? Does your current environment support you in your goals? If not, why don’t you drop it?

Do you need help? Do you want help? Would you be willing to use it? Or would you rather listen carefully and then do nothing?

If you’re not ready to try anything different, acknowledge your fear, and deal with it before asking again. But if you’re curious enough and want to actually try, go for it!

Connections create clarity

Sometimes you can’t do it on your own. There’s no shame in that, on the contrary, knowing when to ask for help and actually doing it is a sign of wisdom and courage. The smartest guy in town is the one who populates his entourage with people more competent (or specialized) than he is.

Look for help, ask for help. Meet with a friend, a counselor, a priest, a coach, a mentor, read a book, watch a documentary, or a fiction. Whoever and whatever can help you get more acquainted with your situation and go forward.

Clarity is one of the most important tool when you want to be conscious about your choices and your life. It’s also one of the most overlooked. Too bad, because it’s very easy to know when you need it: in case of doubt, seek more clarity.

What do you need more clarity on today?

How to get unstuck

Kitten trapped in cage

© Kitchen

Let’s say it’s a day like any other. You’re behind schedule on a big project (who isn’t?), your account balance seems to decrease by the minute, you wonder if it was your turn to grab the kids from school (hopefully they’re your kids), and you hope it wasn’t because the car was making a funny noise on the way to work this morning. Okay, maybe it’s not a day like any other. It’s worse. You feel stuck. Things don’t go as planned, you don’t know how to proceed. In a word, you’re overwhelmed and can’t go forward. You’re lucky, you can stop wondering

How to get unstuck

Whether it’s a big or a small problem, it doesn’t matter, the process is the same. The first step is always to acknowledge that you have a problem. Do you? Great! Good work. Now,

1. Step back

There’s no point trying to dream up a solution standing where you are, if you want to have a chance at making any progress, you have to step back, take a deep breath, then look at the current situation. If you can’t see the beginning or end yet, go further away.

2. Assess the situation

From here, you should have a better view of what you’re doing. It’s time to find out where you’re going and if it’s close enough to where you want to be going. If you’re killing yourself working, maybe you shouldn’t. See what’s working, and more importantly, what’s not working. Once you have a clear view of the current situation and what you want to achieve, it’s time to

3. Brainstorm new ways

Write down any and every idea you have that may (or may not) improve the current situation. Don’t disregard anything, be creative and not judgmental. You want to open up new possibilities, new ways to go forward. Just write an idea per line, or draw a mind map, whatever feels easier to you. The process will help you gain more perspective. After 15 minutes to an hour (or more), if you feel satisfied,

4. Analyze

Review all the ideas you have, maybe give them a note, according to how fulfilling they are, or what they can give you. Eliminate those that won’t work or won’t give you what you want or need. Keep the rest. You should still have multiple ideas left.

5. Commit

You now have several ideas that you like and that might help you achieve your goals (if you don’t, go back to step 1). Decide and commit to those you want to pursue right now. Put the others somewhere safe, you might want to go back to them in the future.

6. Act

It’s good to gather some ideas, and commit to them. But now, the real work begins, it’s time to act. Start with one little thing you can do right now, make a phone call, order a book or research a subject, it’ll build momentum. Then identify one action that you can do every day to bring you forward, and do it.

7. Continue.. and repeat

Now that you’ve expanded your world a little bit, and sailed on a new path, you have to continue on your way. Once a certain amount of time has passed (a week?) or you want to re-assess the situation go back to step one of the process, and repeat.

There are multiple ways to get unstuck, but each major overhaul of the current situation follow the same path as this article. The basic idea is to get out of the hole, think, then hop on a new way. Ready? Go!