It hardly ever "feels right"

Best not wait for that special mindset before you embark on a new big project. Don't think, just do, but do small

Posted: May 18, 2017-Likes: 0-Comments: 2-Categories: Uncategorized
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I wrote the blog below for the “Human in the Machine” publication on SuperYesMore which is dedicated to productivity and features a different author each day. I decided to write about the search for the “right” feeling that I’m often looking for when starting a new big project. But it’s best not wait for that special mindset. Don’t think, just do, but do small

Like many others I am also a person that says “yes” too often. However, I have the good fortune that I can easily say “no” to things I don’t think I’ll enjoy. It’s more that there are so many interesting things crossing my path these last two years. I try to say “yes” to all of these because deep down I feel like it might well be the last fun thing coming my way (which could be a whole other article on its own).

That has meant that I often work through weekends and evenings to reach my deadlines; deadlines for conference talks, deadlines for articles, self-imposed deadlines even. And the more things that I have looming in the near future, the more I find that I push things back. “My future self will figure it out” kind of thoughts while I go binge a few episodes of Legion.

Some part of me wants to wait to start on something until it “feels right”, when I’m super motivated, full of ideas, can’t wait to get them out of my head.

And sure, I have those moments. When I lie in bed with an idea I’m so psyched about I can’t fall asleep. However, more often than not it never really comes. It’s not that I don’t look forward to it. Like I said, I say “yes” to things I think I’ll enjoy. But when it’s finally time to take that first step to start, I often feel that there’s a big psychological barrier I need to break through, because I know it will take many hours to complete. So I wait…….for the right feeling…….

I’m sure I’m not alone in this, this search for the right moment to start something new, something big. But when I feel my emotional self trying to demotivate me, I remember a few pages from a manga I read years ago called Fruits Basket. In it there’s a girl who is, in a metaphor, surrounded by a literal mountain of laundry which she has to wash. A friend gives her some advice

“Whenever you think about it [washing all that laundry] you feel insecure, but time is passing you by. Well, what should Tohru [the girl] do?”

“First, you start with the clothes closest to your feet; washing them one by one!”

“Having a clear view of your goal is important, but if all you do is look to the future, then those clothes around your feet will block your path forever.”

Fruits Basket

Which is based on the two pages from Fruits Basket below (note: you read these from right to left, so start reading the right page first and follow the text “balloons” from right to left, top to bottom :) )

Page from Fruits Basket manga
Page from Fruits Basket manga

And as silly as it may sound, after thinking of this quote I know what to do. I know that I won’t get that magical feeling I’m hoping for, and that I shouldn’t think about the hours and hours of work still to come. I don’t allow myself think about it anymore, open up my laptop and start.

But I start on something small, “maybe just create the right folder structure”, or “just copy some files that are similar to what I’ll need”. And once I’ve completed that task I often think, “O, but maybe I can prepare X as well”, which in turn leads to another small task to complete, and so on and on. Before I know it, it’s a few hours later and I’ve become invested in the project. I’ve crossed that psychological barrier and my mind is now set on doing instead of thinking/planning.

And often I am surprised that by that point I’ve suddenly found the right feeling while I wasn’t even searching for it anymore.

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Comments (2)
  • Alta - May 29, 2017 - Reply

    Your blog reminds me of the following quot by Francis of Assisi:
    ‘Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible’
    I love your work!

  • Sven - June 18, 2017 - Reply

    This feeling is super familiar. I’ve been guilty of postponing so many things for that exact reason. I feel like I need to find the right time, as every project I think of will require a serious amount of startup work.

    For work, I usually end up finding the time. Deadlines and all. Another trick is to copy an existing project, even if it means throwing 90% away for the new one. That feels less daunting than starting from an “empty page”.

    But for personal projects, I have so many ideas written in notebooks that never see the light of day. With a 3 year old in the house, the time never feels right… Thinking is easy, there’s the time before falling asleep, the shower…

    There’s another reason I postpone often. Not that of the right time, but the right tools. I seem to convince myself I cannot start before I get X or Y. But once I buy X or Y, it’s back to “the right time”…

    It’s nice to read I’m not the only one. I’m going to do something. Right now ;)

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