The Accomplished Solopreneur

Issue 23.42

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Photo by photonblast on Unsplash

4 things that will help you stop spinning your wheels

Even as a self-confessed recovering productivity junkie, I sometimes just don’t make the progress I need to. In the last couple of weeks I had to revisit what and how I’m doing things, and that gave me the clarity and jump forward I desperately needed. So here I would like to share 4 things that will help you stop spinning your wheels – they worked for me.

The scene

As you know I’m building SoloBOSS. The product is technically complete, and the how-to videos that take you through the onboarding, fundamentals and basic how-to’s are progressing well.

But this is a recent jump forward.

Before the last couple of weeks I was struggling to make progress. I was lost in the details, struggling to make real progress, and getting distracted easily.

What caused this slowdown

A number of things:

  • I love tech (rabbit holes galore). It’s way too easy for me to get sucked into exploring promising new technologies (Microsoft Loop being the most recent rabbit hole).
  • I’m busy with consulting clients. OK, this is not a rabbit hole or distraction, but it’s work I have to do that take me away from progressing SoloBOSS.
  • I say yes to way too many things. I tell myself these are urgent and important, but in retrospect I’m sacrificing progress to keep other people happy, which makes me unhappy. The longer-term effects of sacrifice are not good.

So my subconscious thought patterns are “I still have some polishing to do, and I need to service my clients, and I can only do so much work on SoloBOSS in a week, so what if it takes another week, eh?”.

The net result

It’s taking way too long to get the product to market. The promises I made are getting stale. And the most important thing:

I was losing motivation.

Anything that takes too long will eventually lose its appeal. Excitement wanes, motivation goes down, and worst case, your thing ends up in the graveyard of good intentions.

I had to have a stern talk with myself

You don’t realize you’re slowing down and losing motivation until you’re well into it. It’s a bit like overwhelm – you don’t realize you’re overwhelmed because you’re too busy to look in from the outside.

But when it hit, I did my usual “recover from overwhelm and spinning wheels” exercise:

  • Cleaned and decluttered my office. (Amazing how a good clean makes you feel better.)
  • Stepped away from my computer.
  • Post-It Notes and a Sharpie, getting it all out of my head and on the wall.

It took half a day, but the end result was feeling motivated again, and making more progress in the last week that I had in the previous three weeks.

4 things that will help you stop spinning your wheels

They worked for me.

1. Remember the big picture

As Simon Sinek famously said: start with why. One of the first things I did with my Post-It notes was to write down exactly why I’m doing this.

Not why I’m doing it for others – why I’m doing this for myself.

In my case, what I’m doing with building SoloBOSS is part of a bigger picture. A next stage in life. I won’t bore you with the details, but it involves exotic places and warmer climes. The sooner I get SoloBOSS done, the sooner I can move on to that next phase.

Understanding why you’re doing something – for yourself, not others – is hugely motivating.

It’s easy to get lost in day-to-day busy-ness and lose sight of the exciting things we’ve envisioned for ourselves. Putting this front and centre has an amazing focusing effect.

2. Use smaller stepping stones

“Launch SoloBOSS” is a big goal. There’s a ton of detail underneath (especially if you’re a part-time perfectionist like me).

Big goals can be overwhelming.

So rather than aim just for the big “it’s launched!” milestone, I’m now focusing on the stepping stones that get me there. There are three or four smaller stepping stones (or milestones, if you like) that get me to the big end goal, and I’m now focusing on each in turn until it’s done.

Break big goals into smaller stepping stones, or milestones. Focus on getting to the next milestone rather than the big goal. It’s closer and easier to get to.

3. Keep the gratification monkey happy

We all have a gratification monkey riding our shoulders. The monkey thrives on instant gratification, so we it steers us towards short-term rewards, taking us away from the slog of longer-term, bigger, rewards.

Feed the monkey, I say. Focus on smaller goals (those stepping stones), and reward yourself when you get there.

Each reward makes us feel good, and that motivates us to go on to the next stepping stone.

4. Say no more often

We all like to be liked, and we believe we will be liked more when we say yes to everything. But here’s the truth:

Keeping other people happy when you ain’t happy yourself just results in everybody being unhappy at the end.

It’s hard to say no, because we want to be liked. But if we want to get stuff done – our own stuff especially – we have to say no to more things. Or at least “later”. Don’t sacrifice your own happiness (and progress towards a goal) to keep other people happy.

Honestly, some days are still a slog

But every time I reach a stepping stone, motivation goes back up, urgency goes back up, and it’s easier to focus and get stuff done.

Saying no is still sometimes difficult. But I’m getting better at it. I’m learning to be more polite.

The interesting thing is that people don’t mind that much if you say “no” or “later”, especially if you explain why.

Hope that helps you make progress! Have a great week.