“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” – Plato

I’ve got a busy mind. I enjoy learning and creating and get excited by the prospect of a new project.

I’m also a procrastinator.

Add overthinker and perfectionist into the mix and there are three qualities right there guaranteed to stop me beginning something new.

I’m unlikely to fling myself into anything without reading at least 20 articles, seeking out others to talk to, debating in my head for days and sometimes nights on end.  I actually love the process of researching and planning, and this is no bad thing, until I realise that the research and thinking has become a giant distraction from doing the actual thing.

When starting something new there can be such a weight of expectation. In the past I perceived that weight of expectation as coming from others, but now I realise it comes only from me.

I put off starting because I worry it won’t be perfect.

When really, all I need to do is make an imperfect start.

Here are some things I have found that help me take action:

Accountability

Find a friend or colleague who you can trust to hold you accountable or start a coaching circle with a group of likeminded people. Tell them what you’re doing and when you’re going to start, ask them to check in with you regularly.  Once you’ve said it out loud to someone else, you are that little bit more committed.

Baby steps

You don’t have to go all in at once. While it’s good to have goals you should also figure out some easy places to begin, set yourself a deadline and just start. At this stage it’s enough to focus on the start and not the end point.

Set yourself up for success

If it’s a written piece of work, cut out distraction from emails and social media. Turn off your notifications, close down email and block out small amounts of time for deep focus work.

Ditch perfectionism

It’s far better to start with something small and imperfect and refine and build from there. You will learn lots in the process, gaining confidence and momentum as you go. If I need to write something, and am finding it hard to get started, I set a timer for 20 minutes and write, stream of consciousness style. It’s amazing how writing with no expectation and no audience can free up your thoughts and creativity.

Work to your strengths but be aware where your weaknesses can trip you up.

If you love to research and reflect before taking action, that is fine and to be encouraged. Allow a certain amount of learning time but give yourself a clear cut off point when you commit to taking action. Trust that you have done all the research you need and the best learning is yet to come from putting your findings into practice.

As the book says, ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’.

What’s the worst that can happen?

The agile brain

And if you need another reason, beginnings, especially as we get older, are great for our mental health and overall cognitive abilities. According to this article, starting something new creates new pathways in the brain and new connections, whether at 30, 50 or 90.

We can’t learn and keep growing unless we try new things.

Let’s begin.

By Melissa McConnell