Every big project is a quixotic undertaking. Writing a book, earning a degree, cleaning the house—sometimes a task is so great it’s impossible to fathom. You may ask yourself, “How do I even get started?”
A few strategies:
Start small. Checking an easy item off the to-do list feels good. Think of it as a warm-up for the more difficult items on the list.
Focus on ONE big thing. Accomplishing one important task can reveal where to go next.
Don’t forget to take a break. Even the biggest commitments require time for leisure. Don’t neglect sleep, either. You’ll need the rest for what’s to come.
Turn it into a game. How much can I accomplish in half an hour? If I complete this part of the project, can I find a way to reward myself? Working is more fun when you find ways to level up.
My family is moving to a new house this month. Packing up a home for a family of seven where nine years of stuff has accumulated is harrowing. There are so many items to box up, so many tiny decisions to make. Do I want to keep this sweater, donate it, or toss it out? Do I really need this espresso machine I haven’t used in a decade? Though I’ve pretty much failed in not getting overwhelmed, I’m hoping to use my failure as a lesson for future endeavors.
For instance, editing my next book (titled POETRY COMICS, to be published by Chronicle Kids Books in Spring 2024). For me, the process of creating a new book is front-loaded with enthusiasm. I’m thrilled to dive into the idea and see where it takes me. I’m excited to audition new techniques, approaches, and color schemes. By the time I’m 90% through with the project, this enthusiasm has waned. I’m still engaged in the work, but it feels like slogging through the final miles of a race instead of sprinting off the starting line.
It helps to have a mental break before beginning the grueling finishing stages. If I haven’t engaged with the material in at least a month, I’ll see it with fresh eyes. Awkward wording, misspellings, sloppy drawings: all becomes more apparent after time spent NOT looking at it. I’m less emotionally attached to the work, so I’m more eager to cut or adjust what’s not working. Now I’m no longer tired of looking at the pages of my book for the nth time. I often think to myself, “This is actually pretty good. Now how can I make it even better?”
Maybe a giant project is not a spinning windmill that you have no chance of defeating. Maybe it’s a challenging round of miniature golf.
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