Not sure how to get moving on a project? Stop cryin’ and start taking baby steps

Do you want to help make a difference, but find yourself surrendering even before you begin because you don’t know where to start? Do you keep shaping an idea in your head but not taking any action?

You’re not alone. There are many reasons we can end up feeling lost when we want to change the world. Maybe…

  • You feel overwhelmed by all the elements you think it will take to make your dream a reality.
  • You believe you don’t have the time or energy to commit to a long-term project.
  • You’re not willing to pick just one of your good ideas to focus on.

The list could stretch to infinity. But whatever the reason, if you’re just standing by, paralyzed by procrastination and toying with excuses, fears, and doubts, you won’t ever start.

Luckily, there’s one simple key that can get any project going. It’s called: Just start somewhere.

It doesn’t really matter where. Your first step will dictate where your next one should be, and the dominoes will fall from there. You just have to get started.


Don’t know where you’re going? That’s okay. Just take the first step.
(photo courtesy Shutterstock)

Step by step

Here are some ways to take that first good step. Try them, and your project will begin to take shape.

  • Verbalize your idea. Share it with your friends and peers; speak it out loud. Talking about your project will generate a stronger commitment to yourself to take action. You even stand a good chance of finding allies among your listeners who will want to help so you don’t have to act alone.
  • Focus your magnitude. If you’re thinking of an idea so big that you can’t imagine how to address it, scale it back and start with something smaller. For example, if you want to fight hunger, don’t start with a goal to end hunger all over the world. Instead, begin by learning how to help those suffering from hunger in your own community and scale your efforts up from there.
  • Find a similar project. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Do some research and see if you can find a person or organization doing the same type of work you want to do. If you can identify a few, you can ask for their advice or see if they’re interested in joining your project—or you might find that you want to join theirs! This practice will save you time and enrich your perspective.
  • Divide and conquer. Define the main things you need to accomplish in order to reach your goal and write them out in chronological order as best you can. Then set time limits to meet each of the steps (you’ll have to estimate; just try to be realistic). Your goals and the timeline are likely to change as you progress, so modify the list as you go. But if you stay committed to it, you’ll keep your focus and avoid getting distracted.
  • Just take action, here and now. Think: what’s one step I can commit to right now? What’s one step I can take today? Don’t think about it too much; it doesn’t have to be anything big. In fact, at the beginning, it should be just enough to give you the feeling that you’ve taken action and gotten the ball rolling. This will motivate you to do more!

In short, if you don’t know where to start, just start by completing a first step as soon as possible. As Anne Frank wrote, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

What project would you love to work on this year? What first step are you taking to start it?

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Kick Start Your Dream

From Flickr user kaibara87 (Creative Commons)

By Anne Lind.

At Idealist, we’re committed to helping people turn their intentions into action, and we know that there a variety of obstacles that sometimes stand in the way—financial concerns being just one of many. How many times have you had a great idea and dismissed it out of hand because of a lack of funds?

Recently, hundreds of people have been empowered to pursue their former pipe dreams, thanks to a a website called Kickstarter which provides “a new way to fund creative projects and ambitious endeavors.”

Basically it works like this:

You post your idea on Kickstarter and set a fundraising goal: an amount, and a date you will raise it by. Your “backers” pledge money towards your goal, but no one gets charged unless the project meets its goal. To encourage people to back your project, you provide creative incentives like public recognition, prizes or event invitations.

Many of the project “creators” are musicians looking to fund a record, filmmakers trying to distribute their new documentary, or writers hoping to self-publish their first novel, but Kickstarter uses a broad definition of “creative” and many community-oriented projects have found success on the site.

Kickstarter is quick to point out that they are not an investment or lending site, but rather a “new form of commerce and patronage.” While backers may not be financial investors, per se, they often become personally invested, and are more likely to be fans, advocates, or even volunteers for the project in the future.

What do you think? Would you use a site like this to fund your great idea?

[This blog entry first appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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