I have a secret project, growing a new audience, and here are my learnings, now that it’s been 2 months…
Procrastination happens with any new venture.
I have just 2 hours a week to work on this project. I’ve scheduled it into my calendar. When the time approaches, even though I’m excited about the vision and possibilities, I still want to procrastinate. Why?
“After an intense work week, I deserve to rest and play.”
When it comes to creating something new, this is a dangerous thought.
Of course we should rest and play, and I make sure to get plenty of it. But rest and play has the tendency to want to keep going forever. And, I don’t believe life’s purpose is about rest and play. I believe life is calling us to a deeper happiness that arises from personal growth through our service to the greater whole. Rest, play, vacations, and self-care are breaks and not the goal.
“I deserve to” is an entitled attitude that never ends, that keeps me from stretching beyond my comfort zone, and therefore experiencing the deeper joy of growth, creation, and service.
In fact, I feel great after I work on this project. That’s a good sign.
“I don’t really know what direction to go.”
This is a new project, and I kind of have a core message already. (I teach a core message course so I applied my own framework to this new project.)
And yet, the project could still go in many directions. The lack of confident clarity about a single direction for the brand/business makes me doubt, and want to procrastinate.
Then I glimpse the underlying myth: if I don’t get crystal clear first, I shouldn’t create any content or try to build an audience.
I meet that myth with a deeper truth: trying to create content (however imperfectly) and trying to build an audience (whether or not it’s the perfect one) is the very activity I need to do that brings the clarity and confidence to grow even further.
I’ve let go of worrying about whether I’m taking the brand/business in the “right” direction. What I know is that movement creates clarity and builds strength. Movement dissolves stuckness and allows for real changes in direction.
“What if it doesn’t really make a difference?”
What if I put in the effort, and it doesn’t really help anyone?
What if nobody shows up?
Does it really matter?
The answer, I realized is not: “Therefore don’t try.”
There actually is no answer here.
There are only choices that I make. I can choose to try and build this, and stay curious and open about what could happen.
Structure really helps.
Just because it’s a side project doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t structure in some accountability.
In the first month and a half, I made the mistake of trying to do it all by myself, and doing a lot of procrastinating (and internal suffering as a result of it).
Get Some Human Accountability
Last week I finally decided to use the accountability tool that has helped me with other projects: Focusmate.
Focusmate is especially helpful if you work alone. Isolation breeds procrastination. Human accountability is a magical antidote. (If you can budget for a higher level of accountability, also hire a coach, therapist/counselor, or mentor.)
So for my two hours a week that I have for my side project, I make sure to schedule those hours on Focusmate. Now, there’s more energy to do the project.
If you’d like some human accountability facilitated by yours truly, I’m offering the Get-it-Done Sessions. It’s $60/month, and includes some coaching from me in a group format. However, you may want to try Focusmate first, which is free.
One Place to Capture Ideas
Ideas about my project arrive at random times.
In the first few weeks, I didn’t have somewhere organized to track these ideas… so they went randomly into my “to do list”, and it cluttered up my business and life tasks.
Finally, I decided to create two categories in my Todoist: Project Tasks and Content Ideas. It’s made a big difference. Ideas for this project now have an organized place to rest and incubate.
Commit to a Content Process
Coming up with a blog post idea, writing it, promoting it, doing it all in one sitting was stressful. I thought that since I only have a 2-hour block each week, I needed to do it all in that time.
I got smarter recently and came up with this simple process for my work time:
- Task 1 — Brainstorm and briefly outline what I will write about next week (i.e. in my next opportunity to work on my side project.) This plants a seed and allows my subconscious to start incubating the idea for next week.
- Task 2 — Write the blog post that I began to think about and outline last week.
- Task 3 — Edit and improve the blog post that I wrote last week, and promote it now with Facebook ads.
Coming up with this simple plan was very helpful. Now when I sit down to do my side project, I don’t have to think about what to do. I simply do the above, knowing that if I show up, I will inevitably make some progress.
UPDATE: Read lessons from Month 3 here.