Got a big, cool project you want to get started on but you just don’t seem to find the time?
Maybe you want to:
- Create a new program in to response to something your customers have been asking about for years
- Redo your website
- Learn about social media and start using it in your marketing
- Write a book
Most entrepreneurial types have at least one big, cool project in the works.
But life keeps interfering, right? You need to:
- Take care of your clients and customers (that’s what you get paid for)
- Buy more toner for your printer
- Pay your quarterly taxes
- Check out the funny noise your car engine keeps making
And these are all important things to take care of. You can’t ignore them.
As a result the new eCourse you’ve been dreaming of doing keeps getting pushed back. And back and back.
Then I got an idea from an unexpected source: watching my toddler son learn to walk.
Business Lessons from a Toddler
Have you ever watched a toddler learn to walk?
Then you know how watching a one-year old taking his first steps is alternatively hilarious and terrifying.
Hilarious because they look like tiny Frankensteins stomping and lurching across the floor; terrifying because they tend to fall down—hard—and not always on well-padded bottoms.
You may notice however that no matter how many times toddlers fall they don’t give up on walking. They may cry and fuss but give them an hour or so and they’re back at it.
And I can’t think of too many adults who watch a toddler fall down and say,
“You’re doing it all wrong! You’re not suppose to fall. You’ll never get it right!”
“Walking is really hard and it sucks when you fall down. Why don’t you just stick with crawling. You can still get around.”
Of course not! I know I was cheering my son’s every step:
“Good job! Alright! You almost did it. OK, now one step and grab my hand! There you go, hooray!”
Followed by lots of hugs and a chaser of milk and cookies.
We adults could learn a thing or two from the average toddler.
Which is where baby steps come in.
What are Baby Steps?
A baby step is an action that is so small and seemingly insignificant that you’ll do it because it doesn’t bring up resistance.
But at the same time it advances your progress towards a goal.
How to Use Baby Steps to Accomplish Big, Cool Projects
I’ve been experimenting with using baby steps to get my own projects.
For example, one of my latest big, cool projects has been to write an ebook about creating information products. I’ve been talking about this book for years. Writing a book is a very exciting idea and it scares the crap out of me.
A number of people suggested I get started by “writing an outline for your book.” Unfortunately, when one part of my brain says “time to get started on that outline,” another part of my brain says, “right after I clean the kitchen.”
Clearly the conventional approach wasn’t working for me.
Here’s how I used baby steps to get going with the book project.
Step 1: Come up with a few ridiculously small actions that will produce forward motion.
When I say “ridiculously small,” I mean exactly that.
So these were the baby steps I came up with to get started with a book outline:
- Buy index cards (use to record outline topics)
- Buy rubber bands so I could group stacks of cards
- Buy some fat markers to write on the cards
- Ask my husband if we could move a folding table into a spare bedroom so I could have a big surface on which to work with my cards
Of all of these steps, #4 was the biggest since it involved making a request. Still notice I didn’t say “move the folding table into the spare bedroom.” That is a bigger step that I might not have done.
In my experience, if I’m not taking action, the step is still too big.
Step 2. After you’ve taken one or more baby steps, reward yourself
Yup, when I bought index cards, markers, and rubber bands, I told my friends, my husband, and my coach. I popped some popcorn, stretched out on the couch and watched a movie.
Step 3. Take a break
Work on all the familiar stuff that you need to do.
How long a break? Sometimes a day is enough, sometimes you may need a week.
I know I need a little recovery time if there’s fear and tenderness around doing the project. I say “fear and tenderness” because if there wasn’t you’d have completed the project a long time ago, right?
It’s important to be kind with yourself here. Remember yelling at a toddler because they’re not learning to walk fast enough would be considered cruel by most people, not to mention ineffective.
Step 4. Repeat Steps 1 through 3.
The Magic of Baby Steps
After you’ve done enough baby steps you’ll notice something really cool: that you’re making progress and building some momentum. Each little step is accumulating and giving you a sense of real accomplishment.
You may also notice that your resistance is lessening. Suddenly you’re finding the time in your day to work on your project.
Baby steps are not a be all and end all to getting intimidating projects done. You need to give yourself some time and space to get going. And baby steps tend to work best when the hardest part of your project is getting started.
On the other hand, in my experience, the projects most worth doing seem to be the ones that are hardest to start.
If you have a worthy project that you just keep putting off, say a little about what you’re working on. Maybe we can come up with some baby steps to help you get going.