There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure. – Paul Coelho
I knew I wanted to do something really cool for this year. I figured out that I can mix up business and pleasure with a workshop (I won’t get into detail) on some topics that haven’t been yet addressed in my country. It sounds pretty simple, but when I figured out how much I had to cover (from content, presentations, case studies, partners, organization…damn) to make it a hit I first thought “This won’t happen with my current job and all the problems I’ve got on my mind”. Well, I’m proving myself wrong and I’m getting closer and closer to making my “dream project” a reality.
Anyway, be it launching your blog, a website, a workshop or anything professionally related that takes a lot of work such as launching a new business, I think these steps can help you.
The “I don’t have time” issue
1. Get your life in order
Since January 2013 I’ve been using Evernote on my phone, tablet and laptop and keeping track of all my personal issues that are more or less distracting. I solved 70 out 110 already (and I thought it will take a year) and I’m feeling less stressed and able to do much more for my project. There’s a moment when you’re going to see that most of your life is much more organized and you’ve got rid of all the pesky stuff that won’t let you focus on your project.
Also, you should focus on various health issues and try living a healthier life. In the long run you’ll be much more productive and focused.
These steps should really improve your chances of finally getting some work done, but if you want to maximize your chances, you should:
2. Stop worrying
We worry too much. We spend a lot of time worrying about all the little things and especially all the things that can go bad. That can lead to decision paralysis most of the times and more waste of time. Just stop worrying about everything and start listing the tasks.
I take things lighter at the moment and some people think there is something wrong with me or I don’t care. The reality is that I really felt the effects of stress on my health these last years and believe me, it’s not worth it. I’m a little overweight (by USA standards I’m just fine though) and have some surprising health issues for my age. If I could go back now I wouldn’t worry so much about all the things, all the time. It’s just not worth it: some things are going to go wrong even if you don’t stress yourself out.
3. Give yourself time to plan
Also, try not to set a deadline for the whole project because you’ll always be “behind schedule”, but try and break up all the stuff that needs to be done and assign some deadlines only for the next couple of things.
4. Track how you spend time
If you discovered Breaking Bad yesterday and you’re on the 5th season today you’re not efficiently using your time. The first step in “making more time” is finding out where you waste it. You should check out this article on time tracking and productivity from Asian Efficiency (I really hope they’re Asian and not just saying that).
For example I used Evernote to note everything I do daily and found out I was wasting a lot of time on stuff like watching too many shows, going out too much, waiting for other people (now if they’re late I just cancel the meeting). I think I saved about 15% of my time by analyzing where I lost it.
5. Create habits
Habits are a powerful thing. It’s hard to make them and it’s even harder to get rid of them sometimes, especially the bad ones. Everything I do now I try to form into a habit or correlate it with an existing one so that I’m constant in what I do.
If you’re willing to spend some time forming habits you can go from a lifestyle that includes working nights, waking up with coffee and cigarettes, staying until dark at the office and having lots of sleep and health problems to an actually healthy and balanced life with less work hours (that still means you can do the same amount of work, just more productive). The thing is don’t change everything at once because it’s almost impossible and you’ll get demotivated faster than you can see the first positive effects of the changes. Take it step by step and try to improve one thing each month. You’ll be happier.
6. Give up some stuff
It’s ok to give up on some stuff you’re currently doing. For example, I gave up on a lot of social activities for some time and I talked with the people that were affected by my decision one way or the other. The good part is that they understood why I’m harder to get a hold of and it hasn’t affected my relationship with them.
The “I don’t have the expertise” issue
7. Stop worrying
Everybody screws up. Worst case scenario you’ll embarrass yourself a little bit, but as long as you don’t pretend to be the expert it’s not that bad. People have bigger issues on their mind and don’t actually care that much that you didn’t know the difference between Chateau Noire ’77 and Pinot Gris ’86 a couple of years ago. Just follow the next steps and in time you’ll pick up the knowledge you’re missing.
8. Well, start learning
The 4 steps to learning anything in business can actually be applied to everything from my point of view…
You should also find the situations where you can read, listen to audio books or watch various webinars: when using public transportation, when waiting for someone to show up, when you’re eating, when you’re doing household tasks and so on. I had about a year in my life when I had to work a lot of nights at a hotel (it was really cool actually) and instead of playing games or just reading all the crap on the Internet I only read professional content and I took a lot of courses, ranging from development to marketing and business development. That helped more than anything actually.
9. Ask for help
There’s no shame in asking for help on issues that are not exactly your area of expertise. For example, several years ago I was spending a lot of time coding certain part of my web projects instead of asking for help from coders I knew – they probably could have done things 10 times faster.
You’d be surprised on how much happier and productive you can get by just helping people. It makes their lives easier and the first chance they’ll see to do something nice for you, believe me, they’ll do it.
10. Get a partner
Chances are you’re not the only one trying to do something similar for a long time, but you don’t have the time/resources/will. Why would you compete and get nothing done in the end and not partner up with someone who wants to do the same thing? Things are much easier when you’ve got someone to rely on (or you’ll be more serious if you know someone relies on you).
11. Get a mentor
If you’re tackling something really hard, getting a mentor might be the best thing. Some things you just can’t learn by yourself. Some good tips on how to do this and why it’s a very good idea at Think traffic.
The “I don’t have money” issue
Yeah, you and 6 billion other people. If you’re reading this post that means you live in a country with more than enough possibilities (in example) and you have the most important way to connect with people that can help.
12. Stop worrying
Money comes and goes. If you’re young, money shouldn’t be your first concern. It should be getting experience, learning from your mistakes and others and just living a happy and healthy life. Worst case scenario you’ll screw up and be broke for a while and go live on a friend’s couch or back to your parents. This can actually be a good thing sometimes.
13. Go fund yourself!
Now we have Kickstarter and maybe 40 other funding communities where you can try and raise money for your project, we have a lot of NGOs that are spreading money around (at least in Europe), we have angels, investors and so on.
14. Well…borrow money
If these are not enough, you always have banks, you can get another job for a while and save money or borrow from close people that you feel comfortable asking money from.
15. Learn the art of bootstrapping
The “I don’t have the discipline” issue
16. Start worrying
If you lack discipline or can’t keep yourself motivated long enough to finish your project or at least “jump start it”, then you should start worrying.
17. Discipline yourself
I’m not talking about motivation here. I don’t think it’s worth the time to try and motivate someone to do something for themselves. Anyway, discipline is not an issue I would advise other on so here are some great posts: Michael Hyatt’s 5 steps to developing more discipline, Pick the Brain’s steps to self-discipline and the issue you need more discipline, not motivation.
18. Make a commitment to others as well
The thing is that if you make a commitment only to yourself it will be easy to quit. Tell people your dream, get them involved in it and make a strong commitment. This is more of a “hack” to say so and it works quite well for me, but I don’t know if it’s suited for everybody. The bad thing is you can end up disappointing a lot of close people if things don’t work out.
Any other excuses?
I’d be happy to discuss them in the comment section below. And feel free to post more tips – I’m also trying to find more time for passion projects.