“He who hesitates is lost.” — Old saying, common to many cultures.
It’s not always about procrastination or perfectionism, the dreaded Ps that often undermine Productivity…though often they contribute to the hesitation. Part of it may be fear of the future or of failure; some may be uncertainty about whether it’s the best path. Whatever the cause, the end result is that we stand frozen on the edge of a precipice, like a newbie skydiver hesitating at the hatch of the airplane. And like one of those skydivers, we may have to be pushed to get us out the door. But hey, as long as you’ve packed your chute right and keep your wits about you, you’ll survive.
Moving Right Along…
Let’s look at a few ways to get it into gear and break that seal of hesitation, assuming you’re prepared and truly ready to go.
1. Set a drop-deal deadline—with a penalty. It’s easy to get lost in the details of planning. But you can’t drag it on indefinitely, unlike the video-game maker 3D Realms, which wasted more than 12 years, millions of dollars, and all their shareholder and customer goodwill on a sequel to the popular game series Duke Nukem back in the 2000s. Their failure basically killed the company (someone else finished the game two years later). Since you want to survive, set a date for implementing your work and stick to it like glue. Let everyone know that date, and punish yourself—or have your manager do it—if you fail to meet it. Skipping dessert for a week won’t cut it; make the loss financial, like losing a bonus, or ego-damaging, like someone sending a scornful letter about how you’ve failed them and yourself. (It doesn’t have to be something everyone knows about.) Maybe next time you’ll get the lead out.
2. Prepare for all reasonable contingencies. Look at all the difficulties you’re likely to face, whether human, mechanical, industrial, or social, and make plans for them. Don’t take this too far, though, or you’ll never break that seal. And remember: no matter what you think up, Murphy’s Law will be in full effect, or someone just might find a whole new way to screw it up. We’re clever monkeys that way.
3. Be willing to handle the details on the fly. Tell yourself that once you’ve made the leap, you can deal with the details as they pop up. This is the logical thing to do, because you can’t guess the future. What if Microsoft releases a similar product on the same day? You’ll have to scramble to differentiate yours. If a weird bug shows up in beta-testing, jump on it and fix it. If your marketing department can’t sell its way out of a wet paper bag, work around them somehow. You get the drift.
4. Be ready to process the feedback. Shortly after the word go, people will start providing feedback on your project… feedback being business-speak for “criticism.” But as the cool kids say, it’s all good. Ignore the bad stuff, but take the constructive feedback and cycle it back into the project, just like you’ll handle the unexpected details of Point #3. You’ll end up with a better product or service for it—or you’ll soon know it’s time to cut your losses and go back to the drawing board.
5. Work through your emotional issues. Sometimes, the only thing stopping you from starting is because you don’t wanna. Well, how come? We’ll assume you aren’t lazy, or you wouldn’t be trying to improve your performance by reading things like this! But that doesn’t mean you don’t have a good reason for not diving in. Think deeply about why you might be hesitant to start the project. Is your subconscious telling you something that your conscious mind can’t or won’t see? Maybe there’s a flaw in your reasoning, or in the product, that you need to confront. Or could it be that you’re just sick and tired of work and can’t stand the thought of starting another project? In that case, maybe you need some time off. If these reasons don’t apply, give it more thought until you find what does. Talking it over with someone who’s unbiased might help.
Taking the Plunge
I saw a great T-shirt the other day. It read, “Humpty didn’t fall. He was pushed.”
Nothing ever works the way it’s supposed to. You might think that that’s pretty much a Captain Obvious thing to say, but sometimes in the bustle to get stuff done, it’s easy to lose track of the truisms. If you find yourself hesitating on the end of the diving board and don’t really know why, especially when the metaphorical water’s just a few feet below, take a hard look at yourself and figure it out, using the above methods. But don’t wait too long. You still need to dive in soon…lest you be pushed, like the late Mr. Dumpty.
© 2014 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, is America’s Premier Expert in Productivity™. For over 20 years, Laura has worked with business leaders to execute more efficiently, boost performance, and accelerate results in the workplace. Her company, The Productivity Pro, Inc., provides productivity workshops around the globe to help attendees achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time®. Laura is the bestselling author of six books, with over 20 foreign editions, published by Random House, Wiley, and Berrett-Koehler, including her newest work, Execution IS the Strategy (March 2014). Widely regarded as one of the leading experts in the field of performance and workplace issues, Laura has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. Connect via her website, Facebook, or Twitter.