Time to sit up and pay attention
Okay, it’s been a few months since I really applied myself to one of my big projects, and now that I’m back in the swing of things, I can really tell I’ve been away. I had to produce a little side-project, this past week, and it turned out to be a lot harder than I remembered it being, a few months back. That’s basically because I stepped away from that activity for a while — and anytime you’re away from something that you do, even daily, you get rusty.
And rusty I was. It was a pretty humbling experience, and I was definitely feeling the burn 48 hours ago, because it turned out to be a challenge I hadn’t counted on being that hard — and I almost didn’t get it done in time.
That’ll teach me to wander off and distract myself with other side projects, while I’m getting the Big Project up to speed.
You know, it’s funny. I made really rapid progress with my Big Project for about 10 months running, then everything ground to a halt. I made great strides, and everything was looking awesome. I mean, I was booking. Seriously. People I talked to were amazed at how much progress I was making. I was focused, I had a vision, and I had the drive to make it all happen.
Then I hit a few big bumps in the road, things got crazy at work, and everything with my Big Project stalled. Just stalled. Like I threw a rod or something. The work, the thinking, the progress, the innovation… everything… suddenly, where there was once focus and drive and determination, there was nothing – zip, zilch, nada.
And I went into a kind of hibernation — a sort of depression — not feeling up to much of anything, and just wanting to hide from the new world I was moving into, and resuming residence in the old world where I lived for so many years… a world of books and reading and writing and words and thoughts and plans and very abstract, non-solid kinds of thinking. Fluid… general… pie-in-the-sky, without much actual work going along with it. Just thinking in the abstract, high-level. I went back to my books, back to my studies, back to writing pretty much non-stop about new ideas I had.
Comfort zone. Sweet spot. And it felt great to be away from all the new-to-me activity I’d been caught up in. It felt great to take a break from that new sort of busy-ness, the anxiety of figuring things out from scratch, and get back to the old familiar. Ironically, it wasn’t a slowing down of my pace — if anything, it speeded things up. But it was a different kind of speed, which was familiar to me and gave me some relief from the stress of newness and uncertainty.
I actually did do a lot of really good work at that time, but it had nothing concrete to do with the Big Project I started, about a year ago. I need to follow through on some important steps, to bring it to its logical conclusion, but there was nothing — and I mean nothing – happening.
So, anyway, after 2 months away, I got a new client who wanted me to do some work for them related to my Big Project, and I said, “Sure – I can do that.” I had a hard and fast deadline to meet, and I had every confidence I could easily do it.
But — surprise — it took me about three times as long as it used to take me, when I was still in practice. I thought it would take me a day, at the most, and it took me three days of regular work, some of it really frustrating because things were not fitting like I expected them to.
And in the end, some of the results were not ideal. I also found some holes in the process I was following, and I needed to scramble a bit to get them all in order. I can check in with my client later, to see how my product is working out for them, and I can certainly make needed adjustments, no problem. But it was a wake-up call for me, to see how much I was struggling with things that I was expecting to be very easy.
Without getting into a lot of fine detail, basically, I need to follow specific steps to deliver my new “product” — and if I do the steps out of order, it screws everything up. I have a number of different pieces that need to fit together, and I was having a hell of a time seeing how they all fit, and figuring out where to start.
It was the weirdest thing – I could see it all in my mind, at a high level, and I knew this was all very straightforward and I’d figured things out. But when it came to actually doing it, things just didn’t “gel” the way I expected them to. And I got so overwhelmed with the jumble of details and steps, I hesitated and held back on moving forward as quickly as I could have, and I lost a lot of valuable time in delays, as well as confusion.
So, the one day turnaround that was logically realistic, turned into three days of recalculating and reconfiguring and hassling over details I thought I had worked out.
The thing is, I had worked out those details. I know how to do this stuff. I’ve done it tons of times in the past, with great success. I was just out of practice after two months of not much thinking about it and even less doing it… and I underestimated the degree to which that time off affected my performance.
Well, now I’m back. And I’m practicing anew each day. After working hard for the past few days, I’ve got my motivation back, and I’m moving forward. I have my ducks in a row better than in a long time, and I’ve made some important decisions about how to move forward, that will help me in later times.
I’m also back into getting as much practice as possible, doing and doing and doing some more — at a steady pace, instead of fits and starts — so I won’t get into the situation I was last week. This has been an important wake-up call for me, and yes, now I’m fully awake and alert and back “on point”.
I’ve got my notebook with the steps I need to take each day, and I am taking them, systematically and regularly. And it feels great to see how much I’m able to do each day. I’m getting more organized every day, and I’ve got a clear path ahead of me.
So, it’s good. I’ve taken my lumps — which fortunately were only my lumps, not someone else’s — and I’ve learned my lesson(s) so I can keep going, regardless of bumps in the road.