Over the past few months, I’ve debunked nine common, but evil “Getting it Done Myths” that make it hard for so many of us to complete our big, important projects. Let’s take another look at these misconceptions and remind ourselves to guard against their sneaky attempts to undermine our self-confidence and success. And I’ve added a picture of a sneaky myth for each one, so you don’t forget how sneaky they are.
Myth #1: You have to be in the mood to tackle your important-but-not-urgent work (especially the parts that you tend to procrastinate on).
Stop waiting for the Muse to appear. Instead, think of motivation and inspiration as skills to practice and master.
Research proves that those who work at a project regularly, for a short time each day, generate MORE creative thoughts than those who wait for a stroke of genius.
Develop the habit of working this way, and you’ll experience a positive upward spiral of effort followed by ideas, excitement, and eagerness to get back to work.
Myth #2: You must have long blocks of time to invest in the projects that mean the most to you.
Last-minute cramming may be the way a lot of us have functioned since school days, but it’s just not the best approach to getting things done.
For starters, it’s hard for most of us to carve out hefty chunks of time. So we keep putting off that big, important project, usually until deadlines force us into a working marathon that compromises our productivity, our results, and our health.
Why not, instead, start to enjoy the bursts of energy and self-satisfaction that come from short and consistent daily jogs toward your goal?
Myth #3: Getting it done is easy for everyone else.
I estimate that 90% of people think the work they find taxing and even anxiety-producing comes easy for everybody else.
The truth is that the same tasks you find so difficult and dread so much are likely just as hard for others. Even the most well-known and seemingly secure people sometimes doubt their abilities. The only difference is that they persevere despite all their self-doubts.
You can tackle the negative belief that everyone gets done more easily than you. Small, daily actions will move you through even the toughest parts of your projects.
Myth #4: You can “get it done” by working on it once a week.
Weekly commitments may work for staff meetings, Rotary breakfasts, and church services, but not when it comes to finishing big, important-but-not-urgent projects.
Limiting yourself to weekly work sessions puts you right back into “binge working” mode, with all its drawbacks. And it’s much harder to get back into a project when you haven’t thought about it in a week. Your most important work demands — and deserves — more frequent attention.
Begin by setting reasonable expectations of how much time you’re willing to work on it daily. Even 15 minutes, whether at your desk or in your car waiting for an oil change, will move you forward.
Myth #5: I’m just slow. Everyone else works way faster than I do.
“Slow and steady wins the race” is still true, especially in completing important, long-term projects. And yet many of us feel we’re working too slowly to ever cross that finish line.
The truth is: slow is the only way you can go. You can’t expect to finish a big project overnight. In fact, the more you try to speed up, the more anxious you’ll feel, which will really slow you down.
The solution is optimizing your work by accomplishing a reasonably small amount each day. Going slow has a magical way of helping you work at your best potential and cross the finish line with a flourish.
Myth #6: “It has to be perfect or it’s worthless.”
Can you imagine setting out to become a concert pianist, but deciding before your first lesson that you’ll never play a wrong note? Ridiculous, right? Yet this is the way many people approach their big, important projects.
Perfectionism is a no-win proposition.
Instead of holding yourself to impossible standards, follow the example of highly successful people. They’ve learned to be resilient — fail fast, learn from mistakes, and move on — and to realize that “good enough” really is. And they aren’t afraid to share their imperfect work with others in order to gain valuable feedback. I could say more, but this summary is probably good enough as-is.
Myth #7: I never meet my self-imposed deadlines, so I might as well give up.
Deadlines can be an effective way of getting things done. But self-imposed deadlines are often unrealistic to start with, making it tough for us to meet them.
When you create self-imposted deadlines, you end up in the middle of an internal shouting match among your reasonable “Adult You” and less realistic “Crazed You,” “Critical You,” and “Superhero You.”
End the deadline drama. Turn up the volume on “Adult You,” listen for negative self-talk and refute it in writing. Keep track of how long it actually takes to accomplish tasks, and be flexible.
Soon, “Adult You” will learn to set more realistic deadlines, making the process less painful and more useful to you.
Myth #8: There’s nothing to be gained by getting feedback from others.
People with perfectionist tendencies don’t like to share their work until it’s, well, perfect. But most people do much better work when they ask for feedback from others than when they isolate themselves.
By sharing your early work with trusted peers, carefully considering their feedback, re-doing parts they misunderstand, and taking advantage of their help in solving sticking points and dilemmas, you’ll improve the eventual impact of your big, important project.
Even if they find mistakes, your trusted peers won’t think less of you, lose respect for you, or dislike you. In fact, they’re more likely to feel flattered that you asked for their advice and want to help you in return.
Myth #9: The reason I’m struggling is that I’m not cut out for this.
This myth can be sneaky. Here are some other ways it might pop up in your head.
- “I’ve never been any good at ___________.”
- “I’m not the kind of person who _____________.”
- “I wouldn’t be able to ______________.”
- “I tried that, and it didn’t work for me.”
And here are some tips for fighting back:
- When something feels too much for you, know your anxiety about it will go away, not kill you.
- Think about what a good friend would say
- Remind your perfectionist self that “good enough” usually is.
- Remember everyone struggles; it’s part of living life fully.
- Have faith in the process. It may be long and hard, but with small, consistent steps, you can get it done!
One lesson I take from looking over these myths, is that you have to become alert as to why you’re choosing to tackle your work a certain way. Check out the underlying assumptions that are motivating your approach. Are you unconsciously obeying some already-debunked way of thinking?
Lesson number two is: Learn to question why you feel a certain way. If you are down on yourself or discouraged, then try to find the underlying belief that is telling you to feel bad. Could it be, “I’m too slow?” Well then, that goes back to myth #5, “I’m too slow.” Remind yourself of the more reasonable way to think about your work style, and you will feel a whole lot better.
Lesson number three is: perseverance trumps everything. Become flexible in your thinking and feeling. Don’t get mired down in beliefs. And keep on keeping on. It’s the people who can persevere who win.
And finally, I know that there are many more myths like this. Don’t worry; I spend hours searching under moldy leaves in the woods, in order to bring those sneaky myths into the light of day, so you don’t have to.
I will report on them periodically. Bringing them into the light is the only way to make long-term projects safe for humanity to tackle.
What do you think? Do you see any common threads between these myths?
Which did you think was the worst myth – the one that has derailed you the most?
Can you help me think of some other myths that stop us from being productive?
We’d love to hear from you! Please post below.