There are few things I love more than making and launching things. Being in creative flow is intoxicating, whether it is writing, or creating videos, or getting in the deep coaching zone with a client.
I also love to witness other people making and launching things. I admit to getting teary when I see clients get their body of work out into the world.
As LL Cool J said, “Creating is what makes us great.”
If this is the case, then why do we get really jammed up sometimes, and swim in circles instead of shipping?
There can be many factors that lead to logjam. But in many years of working with people (and paying attention to what helps me get my own work into the world), I have noticed 3 critical ingredients that need to be present in order for you to take consistent action:
1. Mindset – Your Why
Some people roll their eyes at the relentless Internet memes on mindset. They say things like “don’t just share motivational quotes, DO SOMETHING!”
I can’t really argue with that. Time and time again, I have learned that the best way to get out of my creative funks is just to jump on the keyboard or whiteboard and start working on stuff.
But if you don’t know why you are taking action, your work can become uninspired. And you won’t have the endurance to get through the normal, awkward, sometimes excruciating parts of the creative process.
Why is your work important? How does it solve real problems in the real world? How will it help people you care deeply about serving? How will telling your story be therapeutic and liberating for someone else who has faced similar challenges?
There is a reason 28 million people have watched Simon Sinek’s Start With Why TEDx talk.
Defining the deeper reason behind your project, what I called your “roots” in Body of Work, is a key part of generating and sustaining momentum.
Answer this WHY question for the project you are working on: Why is this project important to the world?
(It doesn’t matter if it just impacts a tiny corner of the world, size does not matter when it comes to why)
2. Firm Timeline – Your When
I don’t know about you, but I do not take any massive action without a real deadline. When I know that I need to complete a project for a client, or turn in a book manuscript, or get a sales page launched, I really start jamming when a firm deadline is in place. That is how we plan and prioritize when there are many things to complete in a given week or month.
My client Skip Miller, a leading expert on sales, encourages salespeople to ask a prospect about their Implementation Date (or I Date for short), when there is some concrete reason to have your solution up and running in their business.
Without an Implementation Date, people will say things like “Oh yes, I should get coaching sometime in the future!” or “We really need to implement new accounting software sometime next year!” or “Oh man, we need to improve our management skills if we want to retain great employees!”
As you probe deeper in conversation, you need to get to a place where there is true consequence for lack of action, so that deadlines become real.
Coaching becomes make or break when you get laid off and must find another job. New accounting software becomes imperative when you get audited and face penalties for incorrect financial data. You will improve your company’s management skills when you risk a lawsuit from an employee who was managed inappropriately.
You must define the true deadline for your own projects.
Answer this WHEN question for the project you are working on: When does this project need to get done, or face true negative consequences?
(Mindset implications or emotional reactions can be a valid part of negative consequences — you may feel extremely disappointed in yourself if you don’t write your book by your 40th birthday. Or you may not want to start one more year as an employee, deferring your dream once again to start a business. Other deadline reasons are very concrete — if I don’t ship this product, I won’t be able to pay my mortgage.)
3. Accountability – Your Who
Who will be impacted in a positive way if you get this project shipped? Who will be negatively impacted if you do not get this project shipped?
I told the story in Body of Work about driving my kids to school when I was almost done with the book manuscript.
Josh asked “Why do you have to write in the evening and on weekends? Why can’t you write during the day at the office?”
To which I replied something like “During the day, I am working with clients so that I make money. Some moms choose to stay at home full-time with their kids, and that is a great choice. Other moms choose to take care of their kids and also serve people outside of their family. That is also a great choice”
To which Rosie replied “I wish you were the other kind of mom!”
That truly got me in the gut. I realized that my long bouts of procrastination, delaying completion of my manuscript, were taking a huge toll on my family. This made me accountable to finish my book to the three people who mean the most to me: my husband, my son and my daughter.
I wrote like a fiend for two weeks straight until I was done with the book.
Answer this WHO question for the project you are working on: Who are you accountable to for getting this project done, and why is their satisfaction important to you?
(Sometimes the people who matter most for your accountability are peers, colleagues, or even your parents. Never be ashamed to want to make your Mamma or Pops proud with your work, and use that motivation to drive your projects to completion.)
Make sure that you have at least these 3 ingredients defined for your top projects.
Then get to work!