Just over a year ago, I wrote a piece called ‘How to get important things done’ in which I gleaned and presented lessons and principles from relaunching my business site.
I had been previously frustrated by the fact that I always had these interesting ideas but never had the time or focus or discipline to work on them until they were finished and ready to ship. Eventually, I was able to break the cycle by working on and launching my business site in the midst of the general chaos of life and work. I have already reworked the design and content of said site, and there is a whole new version with new additions in the works.
That’s something I find interesting, as I learn more and understand more, the website has to shift and evolve over time to reflect that. So just after one iteration is done and published, the next one begins. But that is life, some things never finish, you just keep tinkering and making it better.
Over the past year, I have grown better at getting things done, in addition to the aforementioned iterations to the business site, I have revamped my personal brand and website, and that only took about a month compared to the 6 months it took me to do the business site. I have also built a framework on which hang multiple personal projects that I am working on, and so far, I seem to be making progress on most of them.
In this post, I share 3 principles and ideas I keep in mind as I try to push these projects and get them done while juggling work projects, life and relationships.
This is a rehash of an idea I spoke about in the previous post. If you want to get things done, you have to commit, and you have to sacrifice something else usually, to allow you to commit. There is no creative wall, there is no mental block, there is nothing standing between you and the work. You just have to set aside the time and sit down and do the work. That is the nature of getting things done, embracing the grind. If you just have one project you are trying to get done, all you have to do is focus, put in the hours and get it done. If you have multiple projects like me, this is more like a lifestyle, you are almost always working on something. Like getting and staying healthy, the idea is not just about bursts of activity and action. It is a commitment to a daily or weekly practice of putting bum to seat and slugging through the work.
You cannot fall asleep at the wheel, you have to stay awake to your goals and what you are trying to accomplish. A lot of things happen, a lot of things vie for our attention. We have work to do, families to feed, careers to attend to, people to take care of. There is always something. And it is easy, incredibly easy to drift. All it takes is a week or two of relentless pressure and distraction and you can be cast adrift for months.
So, you have to stay awake. If our projects are a priority we must remind ourselves of them continually. That is why I created a device to help me remember and stay focused. I retrofitted my year diary to become a reminder of the value I provide, my ultimate aims and the main projects I am concerned with for the year. Thinking about things in the context of 12 months allows me to carve out each part of year accordingly and know if I am on track or not. It is long enough to allow me to put in proper work, but also short enough so I can actually close and end projects quickly.
Death by a thousand strokes
Some of the things you want to accomplish are big projects. They are not the sort of thing you can knock out in an afternoon. You need time. Especially as a creative. We require huge swatches of time, blocks of time to really dig in, focus and create. Time to get bored. Time to think. Time to research and to absorb. Time to create. Many times, you can only get these pockets of uninterrupted time in 30-minute increments, sometimes we are able to block out whole days. But whatever you have, make the best of each opportunity.
I have open projects all the time. I could steal 30 mins in-between client work to read over a portion of my book and make edits. I could repurpose the hour break I’m taking watching a show to also collect visual reference material for another project. The idea is that these projects are not usually tackled in one fell swoop from start to finish, but are approached bite by bite, piece by piece, brick by brick. This frees us up to not to be too anxious, but to take our time, working and revising, working and revising, learning, making false starts and starting again. In this way, our masterpiece emerges by a thousand strokes made over time.
Getting important things done when they are not directly tied to your job or anchored in societal norms and expectations can be almost impossible. There is just generally a lot that gets in the way, and that is how too many of us die with our song unsung. The unique creative thing you were meant to contribute to the rich tapestry of life, for better or worse.
But crack the code, and be able to conceive a project, and see it to the end, for yourself, to your ends, not because someone told you so. That ability is extremely powerful and important in navigating an uncertain future and becoming antifragile. It shows initiative, it shows power. And even though you will inadvertently fail time and time again, if you stay the course and stay focused, eventually you will win, you will get what you want.