Last spring I started working on Sooner Not Later. I invested in a fabulous business course. I bought the web domain. I researched and I brainstormed. It was still warm outside when I chose New Year’s Eve as the launch date. I figured it just made sense to go along with the new year and it would give me plenty of time to get my act together.
Want to guess when I put in the most effort? The first and the last month. What did I do in between? What was I doing with all those hours I deemed “work”?
I was brainstorming, writing out drafts of emails to potential sponsors, creating drafts of blog posts, planning out imaginary future scenarios, “networking” (a.k.a. stalling) on Twitter, creating mock-ups of future projects and services. I was doing all the fun stuff that amounted to nothing.
I was playing the entrepreneurial version of “House.” And just like that five-year-old who asks what you want to eat then delivers an empty plate, I was preparing to serve myself a whole lot of nothing. Not because the brainstorming and planning have little value, but because without execution, the brainstorming, planning and even networking are worthless (click to tweet).
You and I can spend all day and all night working, yet never feel accomplished because it’s easier to ignore the hard, uncomfortable stuff and instead spend our time on the easy and familiar, the stuff that doesn’t intimidate us. But spending the majority of our time on the easy stuff gets us nowhere. Sure, it starts out fun and exciting but eventually you have to admit, this is not progress. At some point, you’re faced with the choice to stay where you are or embrace the discomfort and take on the difficult. It’s in these moments that we choose whether or not to succeed.
If you find yourself in this place, I hope you will choose the uncomfortable and difficult road. If you’re not sure how to begin tackling the difficult, here is a process that I have begun to use (it’s a mixture of my own ideas and a strategy from Geoffrey James’ book Business without Bullshit).
6 Steps To Tackle The Hard Stuff
1. Get out your to do list.
2. Next to each item, write out what the benefit to you will be. Eliminate anything that can removed based on lack of benefit. Place a star next to the items with the highest benefit.
3. Next to each item, write the approximate amount of time it will take to complete.
4. Rank each item in order of difficulty. Ten items on your list? Rank them 1-10. Note: some items may seem equal in difficulty. It’s up to you whether or not you want to give them the same rating. I prefer to differentiate, even if it’s just slightly.
5. Now put them in order starting with the easiest starred items followed by the more difficult starred items. Rank the rest based on an average of difficulty and benefit.
6. Do the items in that order.
Realistically speaking, you will be tempted over and over again to focus on the “fun” and “easy”. Just say no. Before making any decision to switch to a task not on this list, ask yourself,“what is the benefit of this task?” Then compare it to the current rankings. You won’t be perfect. At times you will give in to the temptation but keep coming back to your list. Keep coming back to the uncomfortable until it’s comfortable (then start again).
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