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The Hardest Step Is Getting Started

It is easy to find (or make) excuses to not do something. Maybe it is personal, such as not eating healthy or not exercising. We tell ourselves we do not have time, it is too expensive, or procrastinate and say, “I’ll start Monday.”

From a professional perspective, getting started on a new initiative or task can also be difficult. There are competing initiatives, limited resources, and interruptions that require urgent attention. We convince ourselves we are doing the best we can, but are we?

Here are a few situations executives have shared with our team recently:

  • “We cannot start until after our busy season.”

  • “We have a process, but it isn’t followed consistently.”

  • “We don’t have time to train our people.”

  • "Our team doesn’t have the expertise to implement change.”

  • “We have too many open positions.”

Think about something you are trying to achieve, either personally or professionally. Consider what is holding you back. The most difficult step is typically the very first one - getting started!

Follow these strategies to avoid excuses and procrastination:

1. Define your goal

It seems simple but writing down your goal (or putting in a OneNote) forces you to express in words what you are trying to achieve.

2. Make your goal SMART

It is OK if at first the goal is vague. It just means you have the opportunity to refine it. Ask yourself the following and adjust or expand upon the goal to make it SMART.

  • S: Is it Specific?

  • M: Is it Measurable?

  • A: Is it Achievable?

  • R: Is it Realistic?

  • T: Is it Timebound?

3. Document your “Why”

When things get tough, being able to remember or revisit the initial reason or driving force behind the goal will help you overcome obstacles and stay on the course. More than likely, you have more than one “Why” behind each goal. Create a list – the more reasons, the better. On some days, some of the “Why’s” will resonate more than others. They will help keep you (and your team) motivated!

4. Determine how to execute to achieve the goal

Because it is difficult to think of everything at once in the order that it needs to occur, or the level of detail for each task or supporting project or process, my preferred low-tech approach is to brainstorm using post-it notes. It allows me to think in random ways and capture ideas that I can refine, re-sequence, or further break down later while not getting hung up in the beginning with all the details. Once you have a few things noted, arrange the steps or tasks in groups and order them. Add dates and what you need from others. Now what seemed like a massive endeavor has bite-sized pieces to execute.

Progressive improvement is better than postponed perfection.

5. Block time & Plan for obstacles

Identify what obstacles could get in the way and consider what you will do to overcome each. Don’t skip this step – prepare yourself for the obstacles, so that when they come up, you can take action without losing momentum. Block the necessary time needed on your calendar and then allow yourself to focus during those windows without interruption.

Whether it is starting a new initiative, rolling out a change, or being better about following a process – these strategies will help avoid procrastination and other excuses from getting in the way of what you want to achieve. Butler Street is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help companies and their people grow.


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