A natural first reaction to any large project is to run away.
When we encounter ideas for big projects, we either turn the other direction or we procrastinate (which has the same long-term impact as running away). It’s easier to run or sit around idly than it is to write the number of words it requires to make a book or to otherwise create something that requires an innumerable amount of time to make.
Of course, our instinct of running away from large projects is the same reason those who don’t run away — who dedicate endless hours of their life to the work create something that stands out — are those who reap the rewards. The published authors, esteemed painters, business owners, and so on.
Still, it’s incredibly hard for even the most experienced and knowledgeable creative professional to start, let alone complete, large projects.
This presents a problem for us creatives. Our natural desire to run away from big projects means our ideas are never fully explored, their potential – and our own potential – may never be discovered. What a waste of talent and ability, let alone creative ideas.
If we’re ever to do something worthwhile as creative individuals, we need to find ways of coping with the daunting feelings that a colossal project presents.
For example, I’m working on a making new creativity app right now. It is undoubtedly the largest project I’ve taken-on in my life so far. We’re talking about months of work ahead of me.
I’m scared at the thought of how much work I’m going to have to invest in this project. The more time I spend thinking about what it’s going to take to complete it, the more I want to scrap the idea entirely. I want to give up, to run away in the other direction and forget I ever had the idea in the first place.
Running would be easier, but I know it’s not the best route to take. Besides, what else am I going to do with my time if not work towards making something worthwhile? To top it off, nobody else is going to do what I could with this idea. If I run now, the idea dies and it will be wasted.
Rather than run, I’ve decided to break the project down into smaller tasks.
Breaking creative work down into smaller steps allows you to move slowly, while still being productive.
Instead of looking at our work as a gigantic project, it can be immensely helpful and motivating to break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks. Each chunk becomes an effort to move the metaphorical boulder of work forward without worrying exactly how far you’ve moved it.
For my new app project I’ll only spend anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes a day working on it. I should probably be spending two or three hours, but I just don’t have the time right now.
Can you guess what’s happened after six or seven days of these small bursts of productivity? I can actually see progress being made. It feels so good to have progress visible after a few days of small tasks. The good feeling allows me to keep my momentum going too. Rather than looking at the project in all of its overwhelming possibility and getting squashed under the weight of how much is left to be done, I look at it as a long-term process that I know I’ll get done sooner or later because the progress is there.
Yes, there’s so much left to do, but I’m not overwhelmed by that fact. I know I’ll get to it and, most importantly, that I can tackle the project one little chunk at a time.
Even if it means writing just one line to your book, or taking one tiny step to get the work done, that’s progress, that’s exploration, and that’s good.
Break your work down into smaller steps and you’ll not only make progress, and find yourself motivated to keep going, but you’ll also undoubtedly find yourself thinking about the work (and possibly generating new ideas because of the distance) throughout the day.