Category Archives: in the hard

Making Progress (Part 2)

As I mentioned in my last post, I committed to working on my Right-Brain Business Plan.

Last week I had my first Microstep appointment (for the RBBP, at least).

In the sense that I fulfilled the commitment, it’s a big win. I spent my hour working on the RBBP.

But it didn’t feel the way I expected.

Since there’s a lot of emphasis about gathering images from magazines, I was at a bit of a disadvantage because we don’t do the magazine thing.

I thought I could get images online, and I did get a few, but it’s not the same as thumbing through a magazine and cutting out the stuff that grabs you.

The trick, it seems, is finding the right search terms so you’re not sifting through thousands of images that are useless. (Hint: Searching for “Freedom” will get you a lot of American flags and silhouettes of people jumping in the air.)

So yeah, it was a little overwhelming. And as is true of so many things I do in my life, my expectations led to some disappointment. Frankly, I thought I’d accomplish a lot more in my hour.

It got me thinking…

It didn’t go the way I wanted it to go. The question, then, becomes, What do I do about it?

For one thing, I see that I should add a step to my How to Make Progress Steps (say hello to Step 3a):

1. Figure out a reasonable amount of time per week you can commit to working on your Thing.

2. Schedule the time on your calendar. Treat it like an appointment with a hard-to-see specialist (i.e., don’t reschedule unless it’s an emergency).

3. When it’s time for your appointment, work on your Thing. Do a microstep (or several).

3a. After your appointments, review what worked and what didn’t, and how you can make it easier on yourself next time.

4. Keep making (and keeping) those appointments.

But sometimes it still doesn’t work.

Committing to stuff can be hard.

And so can finding the steps that you need to take.

And even if you do both of those things, sometimes the follow-through is elusive.

That’s what I noticed after my first appointment…I really wasn’t looking forward to the next one.

There are lots and lots of reasons committing to something isn’t enough to get you to make progress on it.

A little extra help

To help with this process of committing and making progress, I created a mini-workbook.

It’s got lots of questions and tips for finding your capacity, choosing the right microsteps, setting yourself up for success, and reviewing how it all went so you can tweak the process to work for you.

I also included lots of info about what might be causing you to bail on your commitments, with some ideas for how to address the obstacles.

(In case you’re wondering, my obstacles around committing to working on the RBBP are that I’ve got something more pressing that’s weighing on me, and I’ve got some physical stuff going on. So, I used the hour I committed to to address the other, more urgent matter. And I’m committing to focusing on taking care of my body. Then we’ll see.)

I sent the workbook out to the Shmorian Society members a couple of days ago, but you can still get it.

Let me know you’d like to get it by entering your information below. You’ll get a link to the workbook right away, and in the next couple of days you’ll also start receiving my Shmorian Project Prescription ecourse.

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Note: You’ll get a lot more out of the workbook if you read my Making Progress post first.

Want even more support?

If you decide you’d benefit from even more help, I’m doing a little something special in the one-on-one arena.

For a limited time, I’m offering 30-minute sessions geared specifically toward finding the best Microsteps for you to take – ones you can commit to comfortably – so that you can make progress sustainably.

Progress doesn’t have to be painful.

You can get the details about that over here.

Of course, I really hope the workbook and the sessions help you make progress on something that’s important to you.

But more importantly, I hope it lets you know that there are legitimate reasons you’re not making as much progress as you’d like, and none of those reasons is that there’s something wrong with you.

If you’ve already been joining in on the Making Progress fun, how has it been going?
What kinds of things would help you continue to make progress?

A Peek behind the Curtain

Since launching my No-Brainer Scenario kit last week, I’ve been reflecting on the project. What worked, what didn’t. What I’d like to do differently next time.

I decided to put it here so that you could apply the parts that fit to your own projects.

What I did well:

I committed to a launch date sooner than I usually do.

And in case you’re wondering, I found the date by listening to my body.

In the past I tended to wait as long as possible to set a date because I was afraid I’d get stuck launching before I was ready. But what I’m learning is that committing is a necessary part of the process and critical to the project’s success.

Committing activates my energy in a different way. And as long as I’m mindful of my capacity and check in with myself on the date I’m choosing, it works. Everything comes together in the end.

I set milestone deadlines to help keep me on track, and I met them.

Sometimes when I’m planning a project, it’s hard to see all the moving parts clearly.

Maybe it’s not clear how long it will take to do some things. Which means it’s hard to know when I’ll get to certain other things.

But by working backwards from the launch date (which was January 24), I could see there were some things that had to be done by a specific date.

I needed to have time to test my shopping cart setup, which meant there had to be something to test by the 22nd or 23rd.

Which meant I needed to have my final PDF files by the 21st.
In order to do that, I’d need to be done with all revisions by the 19th
Which meant I needed to have review copies sent out by the 12th, and back by the 18th or 19th.

You get the idea. I plotted out what I knew first, and worked from there to fill in more of the blanks.

As long as you’re on track with your milestones, it’s very likely you’re on track for the project as a whole.

On days I didn’t feel like working, I still sat down, opened the draft and tried.

More often than not, the words showed up eventually. (Sometimes that wasn’t until 10pm, leaving me only an hour to write, but what can you do?)

Keeping to a schedule helped me experience more flow with this project. I felt productive because I was productive.

Doing even an hour of work one night would help me gain momentum the next, because often that little bit of progress was all that was needed to get over the hump to that next burst of creativity.

What I’ll try to do better next time:

Schedule (and commit to) more recovery time and replenishing activities throughout the project.

Especially as the end grew near, I pushed myself harder because I wanted to feel like I was ahead of my deadlines. (Apparently I had a bit of a trust issue – I was worried that I’d hit a snag and need to play catch-up. I never did.)

Simultaneously, my body started demanding more attention with a big increase in back and neck pain.

Between the extra pushing and not consistently nourishing myself, by the time I launched I was utterly depleted.

On top of that, thanks to having a history of ignoring my body’s needs, I don’t exactly have a go-to list of ideas to pull from. What does my body need in those times?

I do know that getting away from the computer is a good thing. Beyond that, I’m still learning. I need to plan some replenishment experiments to figure this stuff out.

Also, when you don’t do the things you need to replenish yourself, it takes longer to recover.

Practice trusting that what I’ve created is what my people need.

There were times when my perfectionism got in the way of progress.

I kept second-guessing whether certain sections were clear, or if I needed to add more examples.

I futzed around with the formatting longer than I should have. And every time I messed with the line spacing, it would change the page breaks, which meant I had to correct the white space. Since this is the longest workbook I’ve created, I have no idea if there was a way to avoid that, or if that’s just part of designing a book.

It raises all sorts of questions like “What qualifies as done?” and “What’s good enough?”

Hence the need to practice trust, since there’s no black-and-white answer to either of those questions.

Allow even more time for pre-launch (and post-launch) promotion.

I did better at this than in the past, but I find it challenging to switch between creating the actual product and the “extra” stuff needed to generate excitement and get the word out.

I made meeting the launch deadline my top priority, so I let a couple of blog posts slide.

And once I went into recovery mode, I haven’t done a great job of continuing to spread the word. (The internet is a busy place, and people need reminders.)

Mostly I need to find the pre- and post-launch activities that are effective without making me feel like I need to take a shower.

At the same time, I can already see that I’ll be able to balance the two needs of “creation” and “promotion” better next time as a result of what I did this time.

How about you?

What do you do well in your projects? What do you struggle with?
What are your favorite post-project recovery activities?

I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

The launch celebration for The No-Brainer Scenario: A Simple Tool for Powerful Clarity is ending Friday, Feb. 4. There are still coaching bundles available. Got a project you want to finish (or start)? Let me use all my project planning superpowers to help you super-charge your progress!

The Shortest Path

When I’m working with a client, eventually we reach the point of laying out the plan for doing whatever it is they’re wanting to do.

Maybe it’s creating a website. Or setting up an online shop where they can sell their wares. Or launching a service business of some kind.

Before we get into prioritizing and scheduling, we start with some initial brainstorming of the tasks that need to happen.

A real-life hypothetical example

Judy (name and details changed, of course) wants to sell her amazing coconut chocolate chip cookies. She has a secret ingredient that makes her cookies unfuckingbelievably delicious. So delicious that people experience a rush of endorphins every time they eat one of her cookies.

In fact, she wants to bring world peace by increasing endorphin levels worldwide.

These are the kinds of tasks I usually hear.

Begin brainstorming (in no particular order):

Find a professional food photographer so the cookies can look their best
Research shopping carts
Set up business bank account
Get a business license
Find an accountant
Buy, download, install and set up Quickbooks
Figure out how to integrate a shopping cart with a website
Set up the website
Choose a domain name
Set up the products in the cart/website along with the pretty pictures
Test the set up
Start telling people about the cookies

The list has the potential to be endless. Can you say instant overwhelm?

Cutting the crap

There are three big concepts* I’ve learned about doing stuff that involves putting ourselves out there and doing things we’ve never done before.

1. It’s easy to get distracted from just getting started when you’re trying to do everything “right.”
2. Focusing on the distractions will drain your creative energy.
3. Resistance will come up sooner or later.

* Of course, there are more than three big concepts, but these are the three we’re discussing today.

The problem with #1 is that it keeps us in perpetual preparation mode.

And being in perpetual preparation mode leads to #2. Doing the Thing is what energizes us. Use up all your energy doing the Other Crap and you’ll never get back to Doing the Thing.

On top of draining our energy, perpetual preparation also keeps us from addressing any real resistance (see #3).

Yes, those perpetual preparation tasks are part of the resistance, but they’re also decoys.

Real resistance

Usually the real resistance that comes up for me and for my clients sounds more like…

…These cookies aren’t that good.
…How will I ever support myself without a corporate job?
…There’s no way people will ever pay me enough to do something I actually love to do.

Real resistance often has to do with how we value ourselves and our skills. And our beliefs about how the universe works and where our support comes from.

The sooner we can identify and address the real resistance (as opposed to just hanging out with the decoys), the sooner we can do the things we want to do.

Remember Hedgehog Girl? She was the real resistance, while the tweaking and re-tweaking of my website was the decoy. As long as I kept trying to deal with the decoy, I wasn’t giving her what she needed to feel safe and allow me to move forward.

It’s the difference between treating the symptom and treating the cause.

Clearing away the decoys

Here’s a question that will clear away the decoys:

What’s the shortest, simplest path to doing what you want to do?

What Judy wants to do is to raise endorphin levels by selling her cookies.

When you look at the list of brainstormed tasks, how many of them are essential to selling those magical cookies?

Hint: Very few.

When I put on my clarity goggles, here’s what I see as the shortest path:

Get a domain, hosting and install WordPress (excellent help is available if she needs it)
Get a Paypal account
Gather testimonials by sending out some “review batches” to her network
Put testimonials, descriptions and Paypal buttons on the site
Tell people on Twitter and/or Facebook and/or her email network that the cookies are available.
Optional: She could spend a few minutes photographing her cookies with her point-and-shoot camera to see if the pictures are good enough. If not, scrap them.

Judy wants to sell her cookies, right?

With the steps above, she can send people to a website where they can read about the cookies, what other people have experienced by eating them, and they can send her money to get the cookies.

(Technically, she could do it even more simply, but what I’ve listed above strikes a balance between the shortest path and also allowing plenty of room for growth.)

The rest of the brainstormed tasks can come much later, and she can have the experience (and pleasure) of getting more of her cookies into more hands sooner.

But it’s not that simple!

Actually, it is that simple, but it probably doesn’t feel that way.

That feeling of wanting to slam on the brakes when presented with a simple solution? That’s most likely the real resistance – the fears and doubts that come up when it’s time to Do the Thing.

And that’s okay. It’s normal for resistance to come up. It doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong.

The beauty of it is that now you know what you’re dealing with and you can work on addressing the resistance you actually feel.

Some places to start

What do you do once you’ve cleared the decoys and know there’s some real resistance that you need to work with?

First off, be kind to yourself.

Gathering information can be a great place to start:

What do I need to feel safe while moving forward?
What am I afraid will happen if I’m successful?
What if it could be easy (and safe)?
What evidence do I have that I can Trust?

(And a bonus question: What would make it a No-Brainer to move forward? I’ll bet you didn’t know the No-Brainer Scenario technique could be used that way, but that’s one of the examples in my upcoming ebook. Be sure to join the Shmorian Society to be the first to get it.)

How about you?

What are you working on?
What do you notice about decoys that get in the way?
What’s the real resistance underneath?

And most importantly, how can I help?

Supporting Your Vision Part 2 – Does Your Spending Actually Support Your Vision?

Last time, I shared questions to help you explore how you might spend your money to help you bring more of your No-Brainer set of qualities into your life and business.

As promised, today we’ll look at it from the other direction: Looking at the money we spend to see what qualities our choices are increasing (or decreasing).

Still with the big fat caveat

I said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s normal to feel uncomfortable when looking at how we spend our money. Our stuff gets triggered, shoulds get louder, our hindsight tells us we could have done better…it happens to all of us.

We’re just gathering information with no expectation of making changes. So that we can have some clarity around what our money is doing for us in terms of supporting our vision (or taking us away from it).

The questions (with my own answers)

Pick two or three things you currently spend money on regularly, that you believe aren’t necessities. What qualities do they bring or what needs do they fulfill?

Going out to eat and ordering take-out – I guess this brings the qualities of ease and support. It means we don’t have to cook. Perhaps it also brings luxury or, well, whatever the quality is for indulging my sense of taste.

Starbucks – Partly the taste thing again. Sometimes connection when I met people there. But my history with lattes is that they were something I picked up on my way to the office, so it was more about “making up” for the fact that I had to go somewhere I didn’t want to go.

Renting DVDs – It brings fun, sometimes creativity if the movie sparks ideas for me. Connection with my husband when we discuss the movie.

More-than-basic cable & DVR – Sometimes fun. The DVR brings ease (I guess) or efficiency (!), in that we’re not forced to sit through commercials. Connection if we’re watching something together.

What I’m noticing: For all of the items I listed above, I’m feeling like I need to defend the money I spend on them. I also notice that these things can be used for good or for evil. Yes, movies and TV can bring fun and connection, but sometimes I use them to numb out when I’m overwhelmed. Sometimes they bring dis-connection, because it’s passive entertainment.

For the qualities and needs you listed above, what other ways could you receive them while spending less money?

I could replace the ease of ordering out with simple recipes that leave us with a few days of leftovers. Bonus points if the recipe tastes really good. Usually I’m okay with leftovers (even boring ones) because they’re so easy.

I could also start working on my pattern of using TV to numb out when I’m overwhelmed. I’m sure there are much better ways to unwind and recharge, but this is a habit that spans decades, so it might take a while to unravel it all.

I could increase the fun and connection from renting movies with a board game night sometimes.

My Starbucks habit has already dropped off considerably now that I’m not going to an office. Plus, we make really good coffee at home.

Are there better ways to receive those qualities, even if it costs the same or more money?

Note: the point of this question is to encourage you to consider how you’re meeting your needs. Something more expensive might give you a lot more of what you’re wanting, compared to the cheaper thing that only gives you a very small amount.

Instead of reverting to movies and TV together all the time, we could consider signing up for a class together. Swing dancing, or painting. My sense is creating shared experiences would do a lot for increasing the qualities of connection, creativity and fun.

What comes up for you when you think about some of your spending and the ways you could change it?

I see quite a few things that I spend money on due to inertia – it’s easier to just keep it the way it is than to address it.

I’m also noticing that sometimes giving ourselves what we really need and want, rather than choosing the convenient options, is its own form of work. Sad but true.

Now that you’ve explored your spending and the qualities it brings, are there any changes that feel like a “No-Brainer” to you?

I’m definitely going to work on ordering out less, because I realize now that it just doesn’t give me that much of the qualities I’m wanting. I’d like to go from ordering out twice a week to twice a month. I can even try to find some fun recipes to try.

Until next time…

I’m thinking it might be time to talk about that elephant in the room, Necessity.

What about you?

Any aha moments from looking at the qualities your spending is bringing you? Any No-Brainer changes you’d like to make? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Oh, and feel free to share your No-Brainer recipes that you think I should try!

Enjoying this process of using qualities to direct your investments of time, money and energy? My upcoming course will be using the same approach to help you get clarity and create structure in your business. I’m offering a $200 early-bird discount until February 11. You can get the details here.

The No-Brainer Scenario

Update (1/17/2011): If you like what you read here and want to see more ways to apply this technique for making decisions and getting unstuck, check out the ebook!

Every opportunity has benefits and costs.

Even the opportunities you want cost something (that’s where the concept of Opportunity Cost comes from). Doing Thing 1 often means not doing Thing 2.

Sometimes, when you’re trying to weigh the pros and cons, you come up empty – there’s no clear winner for or against.

Those types of decisions invariably send me into a tailspin and lead to much stuckness.

I like decisions to be clear and obvious. I’m trying to listen to my heart more, and give what it tells me priority over any list of pros and cons.

But it isn’t easy.

Here’s a technique that can help with those split-down-the-middle decisions.

It may not be useful for all types of decisions, but I’ve used it extensively when considering job offers and projects. It would probably work best when deciding whether to Do or Not Do something that involves some form of compensation.

If nothing else, it will give you a different perspective on what you’re considering.

How it works

You’re considering an opportunity, but you can’t seem to find clarity on whether to take it or pass on it.

For whatever reason, you’re not ready to say yes, nor are you ready to say no.

What’s your No-Brainer Scenario?

Try to find the set of conditions that would cause you to feel like it’s a “no-brainer” to say yes. What would the deal need to look like in order to say, “Hell, yeah! Sign me up!”

Why do this?

Figuring out your no-brainer scenario will help you create a contrast between what you want (or need) and what is there now (or what you think is there now).

From there, you can decide to try to get more of what you need. Or not.

Why this helps (a theory in development)

All those details about what the offer or project is can cloud your mind from seeing what you want.

Plus, how often do we make assumptions about stuff that hasn’t been said without asking for clarification?

By shining a light on the gaps between what you want the opportunity to look like, and what you currently know about it, you can gain insight into what you need to ask for.

Let’s see how it works in action.

A real life example

Back when I worked at Company A and started looking for a job, I got an offer from Company B.

It came with a nice raise, but I would have to be a contractor for a while, and I would lose a LOT of my precious, precious vacation time.

I kept going around and around, not able to figure out if the offer was good enough to leave Company A.

So I came up with my no-brainer scenario, which included keeping the raise (duh!), but also making sure they gave me enough vacation time so that I didn’t feel like I was giving up so much by leaving my old job. Doing that helped me figure out what it would take to give them a solid Yes.

For better or for worse, I even presented my requests using the phrase, “Here is what would make it a no-brainer for me…”

It worked.

Another (hypothetical but closely based on real life) example

Let’s say you are a freelance web consultant and a potential client contacts you. You find out about the project they need help with, and you feel…underwhelmed.

But maybe some of your other work is wrapping up, and you don’t have another gig lined up yet.

Maybe the opportunity came to you through a friend and you feel a sense of obligation. Who knows?

The point is, even though you’re not excited about the project, you aren’t ready to turn it down.

Time to figure out the No-Brainer Scenario…

Make a list of all the things you would need to have (or not have) in order for the project to become worthy of Yays and Hoorays.

It might wind up being a short list or a long list. It doesn’t matter as long as you can honestly say that you would feel good about doing the project under those conditions.

  • More money?
  • A more relaxed deadline so you don’t have to rush to complete your work?
  • Not having to deal with a certain difficult stakeholder?
  • Requiring that the people involved in the project not use icky business-speak like “stakeholder”?
  • Wednesday mornings off so you can go to your yoga class?

So for the sake of the example, let’s say that ALL of those requirements would have to be met in order for the project to be a no-brainer.

See what just happened there? You have gained a really valuable piece of information.

Now you know what you need in order to say yes and be happy about it.

The next step is to start looking at the gaps between what you know about the opportunity, and your no-brainer version of the opportunity.

This part is going to vary widely from person-to-person, project-to-project.

For every condition in your no-brainer scenario, your options are either to ask for it or not.

Whatever you decide is fine – there are lots of reasons not to ask for something.

But either way, now you know what the opportunity would need to look like in order to feel good about saying yes.

Sometimes there won’t be much of a gap, but sometimes it will be huge.

But what if I can’t come up with a No-Brainer Scenario?

Ah. It happens sometimes.

And it’s another extremely valuable piece of information, because it makes it clear that you don’t want to say yes, under any circumstances.

Will this process wash away all stuckness around all decisions?

I wish. Believe me, I know it can be really hard to say no, even when we’ve determined a no-brainer scenario doesn’t exist.

But what I’m learning is that decision-making and stuckness-removal are all about being a compassionate scientist – experimenting with as many techniques as it takes to get the desired results.

It’s about getting the information you need in the form that you need it.

This is another tool in your toolkit to try, when the time is right.

Got an opportunity you’re considering but having a hard time deciding? Try the No-Brainer Scenario and let me know how it goes!

Update (1/17/2011): If you like what you read here and want to see more ways to apply this technique for making decisions and getting unstuck, check out the ebook!