Remember Avoidance? We’re on her tail today. You have to battle before you can conquer, but don’t worry, we’re going to start small n’ easy. Next week we’ll pull out the big guns – but for now, here are three baby-step strategies that you can put into action TODAY to stop avoiding and start doing:
1) Don’t Take Fake Breaks
I’m a documented advocate of taking breaks to boost productivity – both tiny breaks mid-task to help you work harder, and hiatuses between big tasks to help you avoid burnout. However, there are times (you know when they are) when “taking a break” is really just Avoidance cloaked in window dressing.
I’m a pro at Avoidance-Driven Break-Taking. In fact, I avoided writing this post by wandering around the house eating a carton of fat free lime yogurt. (Really.)
I mean, if I sit down to write, then I have to think. I have to edit. I have to go back to my psychology training and – good grief – maybe even look stuff up. I have to focus. I have to discipline my thoughts, which frankly, tend to run around in my head like crazed bunnies. And all of that is a lot harder than knocking back a half-pint of Dannon Light & Fit, musing about what I might do.
Solution: Set a scheduled amount of time to work first, followed by a break. Work for 45 minutes (or 10, if the task is really that terrifying), and then take a break. If you take all your breaks up front, no work will get done, and your “break” will be haunted by that pit-in-the-stomach feeling that accompanies Avoidance. Yuck. Take it from William James: “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” Schedule a time to start, and also schedule a break that you can look forward to.
Sometimes it is hard to discern between a real break and Avoidance. It may help to ask yourself: Am I truly resting between accomplishments and recharging for the next step here, or am I doing this because I don’t want to start something I know I should?
2) Banish The Thought: “I’m afraid to start because I don’t know how to do it.”
Often we drag our feet on our way to our desk (or camera bag) because we don’t know what to do once we get there. We avoid the heck out of the unknown. Usually this is because we assume that it will be really complicated to figure out, or that we’ll look foolish trying.
Let’s get one thing straight: In the photography business, few things are as complicated as you think they are going to be. Not blog design, not filing a sales tax return, not firing a flash with a radio transmitter. A simple, free Google search is usually enough to get you going.
You’re going to feel more foolish when you realize that the thing you’ve been putting off for two months actually takes ten minutes.
And it’s never true that you “don’t know where to start.” I’m guessing you can turn on your camera – that’s a start. You can also turn on your computer, follow a “how to” video on installing WordPress, or find the phone number of your local government office so you can ask how to register a business. (Believe me, they’ll be happy to tell you how to send them money.) From there, the next step will present itself.
And by the way – make liberal use of hotlines and tech support. I’m practically on a first name basis with tech support at most every service I use. Trust me, the people on the other end of the line will appreciate the ease of answering ‘beginner’ questions. I bet they downright look forward to it. It’s much more fun than talking to people who are calling with complaints.
Everything is impossible when you avoid trying. Everything is learnable if you start.
3) Don’t Get Bogged Down in Research Before Starting
I know this sounds like I’m contradicting what I just said, but I’m not. “Research” is one of Avoidance’s nastiest disguises, because you feel like you’re being productive when you’re not.
Research may seem like a way to gain confidence, and it can be, but undisciplined and unguided research keeps you in Avoidance’s grasp.
Say you want to learn to shoot video with your dSLR. If you go online and try to read everything there is about shooting video, you’ll drown trying to swallow an ocean. Your eyes will glaze over as you browse articles and forums filled with foreign terms, and then you’ll get sidetracked watching everything in Vincent Laforet’s portfolio. At that point you’ll be both overwhelmed and discouraged, and three hours behind. Nothing you read makes much sense because you have no context for it, and you’ve just spent an hour comparing yourself to Vincent Laforet when you haven’t even started. Bad idea.
BUT if you instead pulled out your camera and turned on the video feature, then more concrete, actionable questions would start coming up. “Okay, it’s asking me to set the frame rate. What are the differences between these numbers?” A quick Google search will tell you. “Okay, now I have to figure out what to set this on, and how to move it without it looking shaky.” Back to Google to look at tripods and other solutions. Instead of being massively overwhelmed by the topic of “video,” you know exactly WHAT to research, and you’ll know it WHEN you’ve found the answer.
You can “research” for decades – there is never any obvious end point, and you forget most of what you read. By just starting, you soon narrow down what you need to research, then commit it to memory by putting it into immediate action. Of course you shouldn’t be reckless in action: Don’t learn how to first-shoot a wedding simply by showing up cold. Create low-stakes situations and get started (i.e. grab a friend, put her in a pretty dress, and start figuring things out).
An extraordinary amount of things can be figured out just by doing them. Fill the gaps as they come up.
Remember: We avoid things because we think we’re avoiding pain.
Pain of having to focus, pain of being the newbie, pain of confronting a not-so-stellar “first try.” Sure, that stuff isn’t all skittles and rainbows, but avoiding those things eventually causes more pain than it prevents.
The solution? Just get started. TODAY. Yes, you can. No, it’s not going to be as bad as you thought. In fact, you’ll be relieved – I promise.