Beating procrastination and the power of just doing stuff.

Ever since starting at Orbital, I’ve been less terrible at procrastinating and more proactive in beginning tasks. For me, taking the first steps really eliminates a lot of the mental block in tackling large projects. In the past, I’ve been pretty intimidated at the prospect of beginning new projects, big or small. But where does this intimidation come from? Am I scared of the large amount of work required to complete the project? Or am I scared because I don’t even know what to be scared of? Am I scared of having too many decisions or undefined ones?

This feeling has held true for my endeavors into poker, trading, programming, and even blog writing. I didn’t have my own blog before Orbital because I felt like it would have been too much hassle to create or maintain. I overestimated the amount of programming and technical expertise needed to begin and maintain a blog. I simply didn’t understand that Tumblr was doing a lot of the heavy-lifting behind the scenes and that creating a blog could really be a simple as writing good content.

I wonder why this is? Why does my intimidation drastically decrease after beginning? The answer isn’t that these endeavors seem simple to me after I start them. In fact, it’s the opposite. The professional poker field made me feel like a small fish in a big sea: there were a ton of gaming and math prodigies that made me look amateurish from the beginning. My foray into trading convinced me of the never-ending arms race that exists in games where time and latency are of almost equal importance as the decision-model that you use. Even writing this blog has shown me the difficulty of constantly coming up with original and readable content. The world is complex and starting these endeavors has not swayed my opinion.

So why do these projects seem more manageable after completing the simplest of early goals? Perhaps, after completing some early steps, the person at the helm begins to see a path towards some newly formed options. Perhaps the person no longer suffers from decision paralysis and begins to see the numerous steps he CAN take in order to get from the beginning to the goal. Instead of an infinite number of uncharted decisions, the person now sees a finite but large number of decisions. The path towards the goal is still difficult and demanding, but the person is no longer lost.

Before starting the most basic of steps for my project Studtor, I didn’t really have any questions or problems to even address. I was so lost that I didn’t even know of the right questions to even ask or which problems to tackle first. My number 1 problem right now is getting my MVP in front of people, without embarrassment or fear. I need to test if this concept has any traction and obtain some very early feedback. I need to engage in rapid learning and learn more about the history of the social networking landscape. These are my next steps and I didn’t see that until I started down this path.

I think before you start any project, the state of having 0 options and an undefined path is in it of itself extremely intimidating. It’s almost the lack of choice and not too much choice that is what is most intimidating. After you start, you have lots of options in front of you and, in some way, that feels better. It feels at least some progress has been made and that you’re now on the right path. 

Written on July 9, 2014