in productivity

Fear of Starting

I've written about starting before, most prominently in New Year, New Attitude. My favorite part from that post:

Start more of what you love. Just start. Make those daily decisions that push those things forward and don’t make excuses.

I don't think "just start" covers it all, though. It's fine for a lot of things, but those big projects that you care a lot about are still hard to "just start." Why? Fear of failure.

Peter Bregman addresses this in a blog post over on Harvard Business Review:

Because, ultimately, the reason we procrastinate on a big, long-term project isn’t just because we have too much time or don’t know where to start. And it’s certainly not because we think it’s not important. In fact, it’s the opposite.

We procrastinate on that big project precisely because it’s important. So important, in fact, that we’re too scared to work on it.

His advice?

Don’t ignore your fear. Acknowledge it.

Here’s why acknowledging your fear works: You’re scared because you expect a lot from yourself and you’re afraid you’ll underperform. When you acknowledge that fear, you’re acknowledging that you might not have all that it takes to meet your expectations; you might not have all the tools, information, skills, etc. Admitting that, in turn, reduces your expectation of getting it perfect right off the bat.

And lowering your expectation of getting it right is the key to getting it started.

Acknowledging fear comes down to first, lowering your expectations, then building off the tools, information, and skills you acquire to constantly iterate and improve the project.

So, what big project have I been scared to start? The iPhone app. It's on my love list for this year and I haven't done anything that could be considered "starting."

So, my next steps -- with due dates:

  1. Collect resources and information necessary to start, then improve the app (ongoing, no end date)
  2. Setup development environment on MacBook (started, not finished - due February 19th)
  3. Sketch out basic screens and functionality (due February 29th)
  4. Begin building! (starts March 1st, with new goals and due dates TBD)

My ultimate goal is to build something that can at least supplement our income, but I think a more realistic goal to start would be something that works in a beta sense, then build from there...

Stay tuned for updates!