The Art of Doing

You love to-do lists and productivity tips and getting ish done! Then this post is for you. Click through and apply these tips to do anything!

So this time it’s for real, right?

That new diet/quitting that job/getting a small business loan/going to art school/breaking up with that hot but useless boyfriend (I’m looking at you, 25-year-old self).

But then something happens and a valid excuse to avoid your new adventure presents itself. And so we don’t do it. That grand, exciting, scary, life-changing thing we were going to do.

Maybe we eat Lean Cuisine at our desks for a few weeks and troll facebook for our next sexual conquest but that’s as far as it gets. How do we make that scary leap from thinking about doing to actually doing?

Now, I cannot claim to be a total expert on this. There are many a thing that I’d like to do/am in the process of doing that may never quite fall under the done heading. Opening an Etsy shop, writing a children’s book and competing in a triathlon to name a few.

However! I do have a decent track record of actually completing a good number of the seemingly ridiculous/improbable things that I set out to do. Here’s what has worked for me:

Write it down, then start mapping your path

We all know that putting pen to paper is one of the best ways to make things happen. But taking it a a bit further helps even more; start compiling the information the will bridge the gap between what’s inside your head and what’s out.

The address of the applications office at the Pratt Institute, sketches of the jewelry you’re going to sell on Etsy, pictures of the jungles in Brazil you plan to hike through. It’ll start to seem more real the more you look into it.

Tell everyone you know about it

So now you’re doing it: the research, the footwork, the wee, exploratory tendrils of progress. And it’s awesome! And you can’t wait to tell everybody about it! And you should. Anybody worth knowing will be excited for you and feed your enthusiasm.

Also: you’ll be a lot less likely to back out of your plan because everyone you know will be asking you about it. How ridiculous will you feel when your BFF inquires about your progress on NaNoWriMo and you get all “Welllll, I got really busy at work and….”? Shame can be a great motivator, yo.

Spend money on it

I don’t know about you, but I am exponentially more likely to complete my goal once I’ve spent money on it. Because then it’s for real, for real.

So buy the giant hiking backpack, the expensive paint brushes, a few pieces for your new work wardrobe. You’ll see them every day and think about the fantastic new life that you’re going to have and make even more steps towards getting there.

Make it irreversible

Go big or go home, right? When you’re really serious about something and you know, in your heart of hearts, that it’s the right choice, don’t allow yourself the luxury of a backup plan.

Buy a one-way, non-refundable ticket, slide your letter of resignation under your boss’s locked door, drop that love letter into one of those impenetrable blue mailboxes. You’ve put yourself at the mercy of fate and you are going to have so much fun!

Know that doing begets more doing. Click To Tweet

I’ve really found that one act of doing begets another. Once you’ve published your novella, you know that you are totally capable of moving to Hong Kong on your own. And after you’ve negotiated a lease in Cantonese, you can’t be deterred from starting an import business.

Hiking in Nepal, learning to speak Hindi, touring Paris in four-inch heels – all these things are totally doable, you go-getter, you!

What do you do to help bridge the gap between the exciting plans inside your head and your day-to-day life?

P.S. You can be inspiring just by being yourself + 16 questions that will make small talk a lot better

photo by marcelo quinan // cc

30 Comments

Gene

When I decided to go back to school, I listed all of the things that I needed to do and tried to do one thing every day to work toward my goal. My only thing left to do is register (on march 8), but I know what class I'm taking, when it's offered, and I've met with an advisor already. Your small actions create momentum which propels you.

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Helena

H to the ELLS YEAH.

I'm trying to get things going again after a year of not-so-goodness. I need to print this o0ut and stick it IN MY BRAIN.

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Chrissy

You give some excellent steps in achieving a goal… I know for me, I definitely have to feel right about it… Once that happens, well, I do what u have listed… for me logic plays a big part and if its illogical i ditch it…

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Mary

Fantastic post, again! Jeeze. I feel like I start all my comments with that now. Anyway, I do have some big plans that I'm having trouble committing to. In the past, I just jumped straight to the "make it irreversible" step without always doing the necessary research or even telling anyone about it. People were starting to think I was some kind of lose cannon. Right now, I'm doing research, research, research, and I'm just starting to tell people about my idea. Thanks for this so-helpful post. I'm putting a star on it in my RSS reader so I can refer to it often, and I'm sharing it with everyone. Roar!

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Katie

Your first sentence caught me by surprise. Because, erm, you were totally talking to me. Tomorrow I have a meeting with the panel who will decide whether or not to give me a loan to fund the small business I'm starting. I am a little bit nervous…

But your tips are great. I am a huge covert of telling EVERYONE what it is that I'm going to do. Why? Because I have a litttttle bit of a problem with pride, so I'd be far too ashamed to back down. Works every time.

xo

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Sarah Von Bargen

Darc,

My inspiration comes largely in the form of besties who appreciate feline fashion and cackle in unison at cheesy baristas. If you know what I mean. <3

Francine,
I totally hear you! I always Captain I'll Show You

Katie,
Best of luck with the loan!

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The New June

I love this! I've been seking self improvement for so long and never seem to get very far. You are so inspiring, I love your blog! Thanks, and good luck πŸ™‚

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Vanessa

Love this advice! Especially "make it irreversible." I'm really bad at asking people for things, and I get really anxious. I know the hardest thing is actually opening my mouth and forming words sometimes, even if the stakes aren't TOO high. For instance, right now I'm trying to work up the courage to ask my current roommate if she wants to room with me again next year, but I'm terribly nervous of being rejected. She's very nice, and I know if she said no it would probably be because she already has another plan. The worst thing that can happen is she says no and I find another person. The best case scenario is that she says "yes"– but if I keep being too scared to ask, I'll never know what could've happened.

That's the long way of saying this post is also helping me work up the courage to just do it and get it over with already.

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Catherine

I just read "Life Safari" by Jon Strelecky, a fable about finding and pursuing your "Big Five for Life." One thing the story says is not to ask "how" but to ask "who" – find people who have done what you want to do, see what they did, and there's your road map. I like this b/c asking "how" can make that mountain seem insurmountable ("I'll never have enough money/time/etc."). Cheers!

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Reyna

Brilliant! I just decided to complete a triathlon this year. I got a gym pass (because I spend the money, I go!), made a plan, and I am almost ready to win this thing! Or at least not come in last…

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Kristie Lynne

I've been wanting to lose weight for a long time, so I started a work out blog in addition to my normal one. It makes me feel more guilty if I'm not doing anything, because I know I have readers wanting to see my progress. I'm getting married in July and I'm GOING to look foxy naked. Haha.

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Whitters

Fantastic post! πŸ™‚ I'm thinking of moving to the Caribbean with my boyfriend while he goes to med. school and the thought of the actual DOING is terrifying!

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Diana

This is a fantastic post, and very motivating. There've been many times in my life where I was afraid to take the next step towards a goal – reading this would have helped me a lot.

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megan

I think having a person there to push you along helps–it does with me.

I love music. I listen to it, play it, sing it, write it (though I feel that I am still a bit of a toddler in these latter respects). Sometimes when I listen to a favorite song I zone out and can't focus on anything else, and when I finish writing anything for a song, even just a line or something small, I feel proud of myself.

But, though I could go to school for music, I didn't. I've been taking Japanese instead, because I thought, "Hey, this is something I'm interested in and it's probably more likely to get me established somewhere and then I can do my music on the side."

Though after some time, I realized I wasn't satisfied with this, and fell into a sort of "I don't know why the f**k I'm doing this, but I guess I'll figure it out eventually" state. So I've cried and complained to my boyfriend-roommate many a time (he looks like Cat Stevens).

On Monday, I was studying for my Japanese test and feeling sad so eventually I started crying a bit again. And he said something like (I, er, have a memory like a goldfish sometimes), "Look. I would rather see you take the time and focus on something you enjoy doing over beating yourself up over something like this."

That thought, of quitting my Japanese classes, is scary. Not only do I feel afraid of possibly making the wrong choice, but I am also afraid of of failing. Of feeling like I've failed. To counter this, dear Bryan said, "Your not with your parents anymore; you don't have to worry about that."

And I agree with him. I've held those thoughts all along, that we should do what we dream and f**ck everything else, all those standards, that "you graduate>go to college>get a degree>get a job" rule–throw it out (though, i do think things like college are important and everything works differently for everybody). I don't need that to be happy. I want to be fulfilled, not just satisfied.

So right after that, I looked up classes on my school's website. There's one for learning about recording techniques, and Music and Aural Theory classes that sound like they could be really useful too (though getting into those last two could be a bit sketchy because I don't know about other classes that you have to take and I don't really have the money to take more than one or maybe two). And I got the number for the music office as well.
So, when this semester is over, I'm going to call them and see if we can have a little meeting about what classes would be good to take and such. I don't plan on being a music major (at this point); I just want to learn more about music, so I can get better about it. I'm going to stop taking Japanese, though I'll still teach myself bits on my own. I feel positive about it. This life is the only chance I've, so what not take it the way I want it?

But, uh, anyway, sorry about the mini essay. I just think, without his help I would probably be too scared to make that jump, or it would take me a very long time to do so.

In addition to all that, I've been saving up for the equipment I'll need to record. Writing things down helps a lot too. And exposure to songs/stories I think are beautiful pushes me too, for example, I'm rereading the Fountainhead right now and a lot of times when I see my favorite musicians perform it reminds me, "Hey, remember that thing you wanted to do?"

Er, sorry about the rant!

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colleen e

SV, HOW U GET SO WIZE!?

in all seriousness, you know the felling of walking into a wall? reading this post kind of did that for me, in a good way. its so easy to let life slip away, to get bogged down in a routine of doing nothing and forgetting about all that's really possible. today (perfect! my university closed due to snow! its 2:30 and im still in pajamas!) once i get past miles of homework and am flying on the productivity high, im going to revive my list of what will be accomplished this year. i have to break big goals into smaller steps and get the ball rolling. no quarter-life-crisis for me, please!

wonderful post, as always.

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Fen

This is AWESOME! I feel like I put a lot of these techniques into play as it is, especially the single-minded planning. No need for a backup plan if you're really going to push yourself.

I think its important to remember that even if you fail at an exciting plan that you're really talked up, good friends will always have your back and help you get back on your feet.

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Raquel

I completely agree. In December, after breaking up with my boyfriend (who I was living with, EEEK!), I decided to move across the country to Wellington. I started out by feeling it out, researching the university, places to live, etc. etc. Then I enrolled at the university and transferred my credits from Auckland university so that I could continue with my degree. I found someone to adopt my cat, managed to pack my earthly possessions in my tiny car and drove across the country on my own (my family were difficult and refused to help me). A fair achievement for a 19 year old, I think! Haha it's been a bit crazy, but I'm really independent and my motto has been "if anyone can do this, it's me!"

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Jen

Sarah, I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I love your posts! All of these suggestions are spot on. SPOT ON.

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Luinae

Great tips!

When I bought myself hard shoes for Irish Dance, which were 175$, it was a signal to myself that I was going to be dedicated and work on it.

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Heidi Rose

Again, a great post. Thank you so much. I have a scholarship application essay to write based on Dr Seuss's 'Oh! The Places You'll Go!'
I think you've helped. πŸ™‚

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kathryn-louisa

Completely agree with so much of what you've said! The thing that always works for me is breaking a huge thing down into teeny tiny steps… Okay, so I'm going to move to another country where I barely speak the language and go to uni there and it's all absolutely terrifying, but first of all I just need to find somewhere to live. Then I need to buy a phone. Then open a bank account. Then register at my new university…

Take things one step at a time and all of a sudden you find you've done that thing that seemed so impossibly difficult!

x

http://sparklesmiledance.blogspot.com

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Kimberley

Great post Sarah. I totally agree with having to write plans down and even splitting a huge task into smaller chunks in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed. Thanks for your ideas! x

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Alexis

I definitely need to print this out & post it somewhere above my desk! Such wonderfully practical step for what I'm attempting to train myself to do. I've been making a lot of positive changes in the past year & am really excited about entering a "doing" stage that I want to make stick. Now that I got my head in the right mindset I want to move that forward & get to getting it done!

Thank you for sharing such simple & powerful wisdom. πŸ™‚

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