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7 Ways To Get Started

7 Ways To Get Started
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    Most of the readers coming to Lifehack.org are looking for ways to become more productive, create cooler, better stuff, and make sure that they have some sort of work/life balance. What tends to happen during this process is that when we are trying to create things, we sometimes get stuck.

    Some call it confusion. Others refer to it as “the fear”. Regardless, this bump in the road is all about traveling over the gap from ideas to reality and happens to all creative people at some time or another. This gap from ideas to reality is something that can be handled. Here are 7 ways you can get started.

    Outline and Act

    Sometimes when you are paralyzed and just can’t get any of your ideas started you really just don’t know what to do next. Being the productivity geek that I am I feel that there is nothing that can’t be solved with outlines, lists, or mindmaps.

    So, sit down, brainstorm and outline your ideas on paper (or, of course, your favorite digital tool), pick one single, clear, next action, and then act on it no matter what.

    Copy and/or steal

    I’m not a total Apple, Inc. fanboy, but there is one quote from Steve Jobs I find interesting:

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    “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.”

    This is good when you have an idea that others have already acted on. For example, if you want to start the next great gadget blog like Engadget, then copy what Engadget does. Don’t copy word for word from their articles, but write about the same things that they are writing about.

    Copying can help you get over the initial fear of getting started, then as you work on your ideas and plans more and more you can become more of “your own”.

    Prototype

    A prototype is a “first or preliminary model of something” and creating one can free you up from the inner voice that says “you can’t create something”. Creating a simple prototype of your idea, whether it’s a website, webapp, iPhone app, physical product, etc. you get an idea of what it will take to make your idea a reality.

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    By creating this first “throw-a-way” model of your idea, you can show yourself that you can bring your thoughts to fruition.

    Brainstorm with outsiders

    There is nothing better than getting fresh ideas when you are at a road block. Talking to people around you that aren’t involved in your business or ideas can give you a super fresh perspective.

    Also, you can obtain some fresh criticism that may make you rethink your idea and shape it into the thing that you need to move forward.

      Focus

      If you are one that says that you are always too busy then it’s no wonder that you can’t get started on your ideas or projects. If you have a great idea and you want to make it happen but can’t find the time to get it done, then you need to focus.

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      The only way to make sure that you can make your dream a reality is if you have the time to do it. Therefore, you need to cut something out that is less important. There are a fixed amount of hours in a day, but you are the one that has control of what you can and cannot do with those hours.

      So, either find the time and get started or ditch the idea. It’s that simple.

      Identify fears and then smash them

      If you are trying to start a business or something on the side of your “traditional job” you can have a host of fears. Instead of just letting the fears linger and then try to start your idea, you could try to identify them and then smash them.

      Write down everything that you are afraid of and then try to come up with the reasons that you are afraid. Nine times our of ten you will find that your fears aren’t grounded in reality. This can be the kick in the pants you need to get started on your idea.

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      Expect everything less than perfection

      Even with the best idea, a solid 5-year plan, outlines and project plans, time, money, etc., your idea won’t be perfect. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be.

      If you go into the creation process of your ideas expecting perfection, you will be defeated in the first day. Instead expect nothing. Work hard and create what you want. Then make it better. And after that make it better.

      It’s this type of iteration and constant improvement that make good ideas great and allow you to get started without the burden of making everything great at day zero.

      Motivation is a tricky thing. Mostly because it all comes back to yourself and your choice to do something or not to do something. All the tips and tricks in the world are no good if you don’t use them and then chase your ideas. So, if you have an idea that you are not starting on, stop looking for advice, try one of the ways to get started above, and then make your idea a reality.

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      More by this author

      CM Smith

      A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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      Last Updated on July 21, 2021

      The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

      The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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      No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

      Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

      Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

      A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

      Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

      In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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      From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

      A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

      For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

      This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

      The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

      That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

      Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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      The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

      Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

      But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

      The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

      The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

      A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

      For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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      But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

      If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

      For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

      These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

      For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

      How to Make a Reminder Works for You

      Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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      Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

      Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

      My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

      Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

      I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

      More on Building Habits

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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      Reference

      [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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