3 Steps to banish procrastination and overwhelm for good
Want to know the hardest part of every project?
The most common reason people procrastinate on a project is not that they’re lazy (although that’s definitely the case sometimes!), but instead it’s usually because of the anxiety that’s caused by thinking about starting a project.
We visualize how hard it will be, or focus on how overwhelmed we currently feel because we don’t know all the specific steps yet.
Typically though, once most people finally get going on a project- they power through the tasks and before they know it they’re done. Most of the time the hardest part, the biggest challenge is seeing the big picture and capturing it down into actionable, ‘bite size’ steps. If you can nail that first step every time you have a new project to start- you can practically kick procrastination in the butt. You’ll be able to look at whatever the largest item on your list is, and tackle it with ease.
Brainstorming is the easiest to use and most important step in any project. It skyrockets you past the initial anxiety and overwhelm and provides you with not only clear action steps, but often new ideas you never dreamed of thinking up.
Below I’m going to break down for you the ideal brainstorming game plan, so I want you to think of a project you are currently putting off- the one that gives you the most anxiety just thinking about. Once you have that in mind, let’s start!
3 Steps to a Successful Brainstorming Session:
The key to brainstorming is to not just through random stuff ‘at the wall’, but to ask yourself some key questions throughout the process to spark ideas. Within the next steps, use some or all the following questions and thought-provokers as starting points to get your brainstorming juices flowing.
- If you had to describe this project to a friend, how would you describe the overall objective and goal?
- What are the biggest benefits to come out of this project (not necessarily for you, but what’s the point of completing this task)
- If you had a ‘magic wand’ (and could do whatever you wanted), how would you proceed with this project?
- If you could remove ______ (fill in whatever your biggest challenge or hurdle is to the project), what would you do?
- Think of at least 20 new ideas for the project- even if they seem ridiculous or unattainable
- If someone else came to you with this problem, how would you suggest they handle it?
- If you had to list ALL of the challenges with this problem, what would they be? Now right a solution to each (even if the solution doesn’t seem ‘possible’, just write it)
- Write down every possible step and action needed to complete the task
2. Get the ideas out of your head!
Once you’ve got your creative juices flowing: try any one, or a combo of, the below methods to capture the ideas in your head into tangible thoughts.
- Lists- Grab a sheet of paper, or use a whiteboard/chalkboard and use some of the prompt questions to create massive amounts of lists related to your project. Lists are great when you need to just come up with a bunch of singular ideas or thoughts.
- Free Flow writing- Try using some of the prompt questions to start writing thoughts and paragraphs of ideas or explanations. No need to worry about spelling or grammar, just write as much and as fast as you can. This is great for projects where you are stuck on the overall strategy or global concept.
- Mind Maps- This is a great tool for very visual people, and works especially well for projects that require processes. Use one of the prompt questions to give you a starting point. Then start drawing the next steps or next groups of thoughts related to that initial idea.
- Sticky Notes on a Wall or Board- This is a great method for if you need to come up with a lot of mini projects or tasks. Simply grab a stack of sticky notes and come up with as many ideas as possible, tearing them off and putting them up on a wall or board when done with each one.
If you were making lists of ideas, try the below methods to help refine:
- Look back at your lists and cross out anything that won’t actually be realistic, possible or make sense for the project
- Circle the top few ideas you know you can execute right away, and file the others away for later
- Prioritize the list of ideas into what needs to happen first, second, etc.
- Create a list of tasks and/or assign people to what specifics need to be done for each of the priority items
- Then go get started on task #1!
If you were making a list of processes, try the below methods to help refine:
- Cross out or remove any steps in the process that won’t actually be realistic, possible or make sense for the project
- If needed, move some steps around to make sure it has the best flow
- If there are still empty spots, or areas you are struggling with- try making a list of ideas for that section alone and come back once you’ve repeated the process with a fresh list of thoughts.
- For each step in the process create a list of tasks and/or assign people to what specifics need to be done
- Get started on task #1!
Some tech goodies that might help:
There are also a ton of online and mobile tools for brainstorming and mind mapping. Check out some of the below tools for both sparking new ideas and collecting them.
Inkflow Visual Notebook:
- Inkflow makes it easy to add lots of different visual cues to your brainstorming process. You can create models, concepts, text, and add photos.
- Free for IOS
SimpleMind+ (mind mapping):
- This is a great app if you are looking to create a traditional mind map and would like the visuals done for you. Start with a main feature and branch out from there, adding your own nodes along the way.
- Let’s multiple users collaborate on the same project. Images and text can be dropped in, and there are tons of ways to save and share the final result. Best part? It’s free!
- Mindomo is a very professional collaborative tool. It’s secure and easy to collaborate, great for projects with large teams. Basic accounts start free and go up from there.
- This is a very user-friendly tool, with a clean and modern layout. It’s an online and offline collaborative source that is great for teams. It makes presenting the final thoughts easy and is shareable on mobile devices. Personal accounts start at $4.99 and go up from there for business accounts.
Oflow App: http://oflowapp.com/
- This app provides over 150 techniques ‘on the go’, giving you great questions or thoughts to get your brainstorming session started.
- (IOS- $0.99)
Visual Thesaurus: http://www.visualthesaurus.com/
- This is a cool site for if you’re stuck on words and need some new similar ones to get started. You simply type in a certain word and it brings up other synonyms around it to get your brain thinking.
Now, all this information is fine and dandy but it won’t do you any good unless you put it into action! Take that project you thought about in the beginning, and work it through these steps. Use any tools necessary and take your time to really hash out the plan.
Then, please come back and share your insights! I would love to hear about the type of project you struggled with and what parts of this brainstorming process helped most to get you going.
If you resonated with this, please ‘like it’ and share with others you know who could use some brainstorming insights.
Thanks for reading and look forward to chatting with you in the comments!