‘You have lots of ideas, but you don’t make the step from thinking to doing.’ These were the words a friend of mine used to give me some cold-hearted truth a couple of month back. He was right. Over the years I had racked up a little bit of a reputation among my friends of having the ideas but often not following through on my personal/passion projects next to work and sports. After yet another failed attempt at a project, being totally fed up with the situation (and the reputation) I asked myself: what am I doing wrong?
Being fed up with the situation (and the reputation) I asked myself: what am I doing wrong?
I decided to look at my process and the steps I was taking to see if I could identify what was holding me back. It was blatantly clear I was not following through, but why? This is what I have learned so far:
- Riding the idea wave
I absolutely love the energy boost I get when I come up with a new idea or insight. Like constantly checking your mobile phone, this is my addiction. I could ride the idea wave for days. Thinking about the idea, how it can develop, the potential for future use. My brain was already celebrating the outcomes, without actually doing the work. After the initial wave settles down and the idea hit a plateau, I hopped right on the next idea-wave, chasing that high.
- Over thinking
Yup, Guilty. Settling into my own little cocoon thinking about the project I would be able to go for hours. Filling in the blanks with no evidence to support my thoughts, making assumptions and endless lists of action points. Effectively making me go round in a circle and preventing me from taking action.
- Broadcasting too soon
In my enthusiasm I would tend to barrage my friends and pitch the initial idea too soon. One friend told me: You tend to come across so determined, that I expect you to follow through, only to find out later that you scrapped the project and moved on to something totally different.’ (Yeah, that one hurt).
A more practical point in this bullet-list of ‘ starting fails’ is time. Not only would I not free up enough time to actually work through the challenges of the project. I simply did not have enough time to allocate to the project even if I wanted to, due to a multitude of commitments (sports, coaching, social life etc.) I was juggling at the same time.
After this much needed reality check I looked for solutions. How was I going to counter this behavior? Where could I adjust? What small changes could I make to enable myself to ‘start’? An article about product-development gave me the handhelds I needed.
What is preventing you from starting your project or taking on your challenge?
In his blogpost Henrik Kniberg talks about how ‘many projects fail badly, because they do Big Bang delivery (build the thing until 100% done and deliver at the end).’ The idea is to not work on delivering the product a 100%, but to ‘focus on the underlying need the customer wants fulfilled’. For example: if a customer wants to get from A to B, a car is just one possible solution, the minimum to fulfill the customers need in this case is not the car, but a skateboard (see picture below). This is also called the Minimum Viable Product or Earliest Testable Product (read the full article here).
What is the Minimum Viable Action you can take?
I took this idea, applied it to ‘starting’ and asked myself: What is the Minimum Viable Action when starting a project? I came up with two simple and practical questions I now use to ‘start’ any new project:
- What is the smallest step I can take that moves me forward? (Minimum Viable Action)
- What is the minimum amount of stuff I need to start, if any?
It is about identifying the absolute minimal viable action you can take that will give the input/feedback you need to make the right decisions moving forward towards your goals. I have added the second question to prevent myself from buying anything that I do not need to ‘start’.
Let’s take running as an example. You have decided that you want to start running. What do you really need to start? Let’s be honest, do you really need those fancy running tights? Or that personalized 6-week running schedule to start?
- What is the smallest step you can take that moves you forward?
- To go out for a 20 minute run.
- What is the minimum amount of stuff you need to start, if any?
- Shoes, shorts and an old t-shirt.
What do you really need to start your project?
Going out on that first run and listening to the feedback your body is giving you will give you the input and information you need to make better decisions in moving forward on the road towards your goals.
Don’t over think or over inform yourself, with these 2 question you can do what is most important in setting yourself up to win, start.
What do you really need to start working on your project or challenge this week?
What is the smallest step you can take that moves you forward?
What is the minimum amount of stuff you need to start, if any?