Stop Preparing and Start Doing Now
Preparing and planning are severely over-rated. Things would never get underway if we spent inordinate amount of time in preparing for them. One last edit round and then I’ll submit my article, let me research some more options before I commit to any one, one last talk with investors and I’ll make a great proposal for my start-up, do these situations sound familiar?
If you’ve always believed that elaborate preparation guarantees success, it’s time to understand that this formula for success is seriously flawed. Nothing guarantees success. It’s the outcome of many moving parts, many of which are not in our control. We don’t mean to preach that preparing is not essential. It’s prudent to analyze situations, anticipate outcomes, and do needful preparations. The problem comes when you over-prepare. You may be more than ready to take action, but you perceive the opposite. And the longer you prepare, the more you want to delaying action unnecessarily.
The main problem with over-planning is the longer you plan, the longer you’re not in the marketplace. By the time you’re ready to present your ideas or start working, the window of opportunity may have been claimed by someone more proactive.
If you find yourself constantly putting off action and fretting too much about preparation, the strategies below can really help you get moving:
Face Your Fear Of Failure
Let experiences guide you. You don’t have to be perfect all the time. Failure is just success turned inside out. These words may sound clichéd but can considerably ease your analysis-paralysis tendencies. To quote an analogy, have you ever noticed how birds teach their young ones to fly? They simply push them out of the nest, not once fearing what will happen if the baby injures itself. They rely on experiences and instinct, not preparation. Many a times, they fail but that doesn’t stop them from trying again.
Experiential learning strengthens your instincts and over time, you start understanding what will work and what won’t. But this will happen only if you expose yourself to failure. You need to be open to learning maybe even from those you consider under qualified to teach.
Let me elaborate with an example. I recently went deep sea diving. Now, that’s not a feat for most people, but considering my fear of enclosed spaces, it was a big deal for me. All my friends were going and I didn’t want to be called a “wimp” for the rest of my life (need to be perfect, again!) Anyway, no amount of reassurance was enough to soothe my fears. The boat guy pushed me into the water after imparting cursory training. Initially, I floundered, struggling to get control of my body, the buoyancy, the water, and my fears. But when I couldn’t, I just let go. I let instincts take control and absorbed the experience. Gradually, my tensed muscles relaxed. It was exhilarating. Fears are illusions and you shouldn’t let them overpower you.
Follow the 80/20 Rule
Identify those 20% requirements that can give 80% of the final output. Work backwards from the product you’ve envisioned and list out all the components that you plan to put into it. Then, drill down upon the essentialities (“must-haves”, must not be more than 20% of total required input) and keep the “good to have’s” for a later time. If you put together the must-haves you’ll have a fully-functional Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Minimum investment for maximum output- now, that’s productivity. Improvisation can happen later. Don’t let the details bog you down.
Have you been putting off something for the longest time, citing under preparedness as the reason? A task that you don’t particularly enjoy? A meeting you’ve been worried about? Preparation here may be your excuse for escapism.
Take a small step towards your goal. If you fail, try plan B. The best thing about experimenting on a small scale is you won’t suffer huge losses as you could if your elaborate planning met an adverse end. Adversities also teach us something valuable. Take those teachings and incorporate them in your next steps.
And if your micro step fares well, you’ll feel bolstered to go ahead. Since you’ve already committed to the task, there are lesser chances of a roll back and going forward is the only way out.
Setting internal deadlines can work wonders for people who find themselves spending way too much more time in preparing than in doing. Build urgency into your system, perhaps write down goals or mark on a calendar. And be relentless about these deadlines.
And That's a Wrap
Commitment to action is not something you’ll achieve overnight. You will have to push yourself and fight tendencies to fall back into old patterns. Stay tuned for more time management and productivity tips.