If you have been putting off decisions in your business for a while for one reason or another, you may find the resulting backlog so tangled and confusing that you are no longer sure how to resolve it. Although the situation is far from perfect, it can seem easier to plug along instead of making changes. That would be fine if it weren’t for that nagging sense that you could do more and better work if you weren’t held back by so many interconnected ‘what ifs‘ and ‘really shoulds.’ Somehow, in spite of all the guilt and regret, we tell ourselves that we will get to the the thorny problem “when things settle down.”
Let’s take the example of learning a new tool for your business. Sure, you’d love to generate better income with your creative work, but there is the issue of the outdated computer and the worry about money. Your colleagues are discussing the finer points of a software, which you have been meaning to get the hang of, but haven’t had a chance to try yet. In any case, it won’t install on the older computer and one also needs faster Internet for the downloads. The trouble is, you somehow need to get back to the cutting edge.
Whether the convoluted situation you need to address is the future of your business, your work space, or a skill you want to learn, the approach to cut through the tangle of fears and excuses isn’t very different in each case:
You have to make yourself start.
Here are some useful steps to help you get going:
1. Don’t wait until you “find the time”
Will you suddenly find yourself with nothing to do, sitting at a clean desk, and ready to tackle your task? Not likely. As with all other larger processes, you have to break tasks down into more manageable pieces to address them. In a particularly daunting situation, it is OK to alternate difficult steps with easier ones to make sure you don’t throw your hands up in frustration somewhere in the middle. In our example of the software, easier steps may be to watch online tutorials, read discussions in user forums, and go to the official product websites to calculate upgrade cost. Tougher problems may be to figure out how to install the product and how to get started without falling behind with your other work.
2. It doesn’t matter where you start (as long as you do)
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to start a big undertaking, as long as you remember not to blame yourself or make excuses. It doesn’t really matter why you fell behind with upgrades, or what other issues you may have been focused on, so don’t dwell on the past and look ahead. It would also be unrealistic to expect that you can quickly fix a situation that has most likely built up for years. To get started, think of one manageable step to address the situation and do it right away. Examples of useful steps include asking someone for help or getting a “how-to” book from the library.
3. Ways to cut through procrastination excuses
As you focus on getting started, you may feel compelled to do something “very urgent” that pops into your mind. You will think that you should definitely check Facebook, look at your phone, or eat a Nutella sandwich, NOW. Don’t give in to these temptations and stay on the subject. Remind yourself how determined you are to address the problem instead of setting it aside yet again. Then set a timer for five minutes and take one focused step to address your problem. That can be notes, the start of a list, or a mind map.
The never-ending babble about “successful people” and “life hacks” can sometimes make us feel inadequate and isolated. When you face a tangled situation, reach out for support and seek advice. What if you listened to other people’s suggestions and regained your energy and passion for your work? You really should.
How do you deal with convoluted problems?
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