How to Do Anything in 12 Steps

Treat yourself as kindly and compassionately as you would treat a friend who needed a restart button. And don't wait until Monday to start over. Start over right now.
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1. Forget that it's the starting that stops you. There's a storyline in your head that is not helping you. Every time it starts up ("I'm no good at this," "I tried this before," "Who am I to do this?" "I need more data"), simply say "thinking" and refocus on starting. No judgment, just the word, "thinking." And saying "thinking" is your trigger to get out of the story in your head and into the moment of starting, which is right now.

2. Start small or big. Even better, start in the middle; just start. Make a mark on the page, pick up the mandolin and feel it in your hands, make a bloody mess, just start.

3. Continue doing it when you don't feel like it. Getting things done -- writing a book, for example -- is not an act of convenience or inspiration. It's an act of habit. Create habitual pathways with consistency. If you wait for inspiration, you'll wait forever.

4. Ignore what people say about what you're doing or not doing. Comparisons are odious, as Shakespeare said. So are days spent wondering if anyone will even like what you are making (or, in most cases, what you are not yet making because you're too busy wondering if someone will like this invisible thing you're not making). Ignore everyone. Do your work. If you don't know what your work is, you will only find out by doing, not thinking about it.

5. Sit back down and keep doing it. As writer Ron Carlson says, "Stay in the room," even when the laundry suddenly becomes fascinating. See number 3.

6. Make time on your schedule for it. If you keep hoping for time to do this thing, it will never happen. You don't find time. You make time. Schedule it.

7. Keep your appointments with yourself. You don't cancel doctor's appointments at the last minute because of cancellation fees. Canceling your appointments with yourself has a price too; you just don't know it yet. And you won't know it until it's too late.

8. Celebrate every day's successes. Keep a chart of your progress. Celebrate more than is reasonable for keeping the streak going.

9. Don't waste energy making excuses. Nobody wants to hear them, and nobody believes them, least of all your Self.

10. Let yourself "fail" without demonizing failure. What we resist or demonize gets bigger. Befriend "failure" instead and consider it as an experiment, not a mistake.

11. Notice your habitual responses to things like set-backs. These habitual responses form the "structure of your land," which--in turn--determines your available responses. Like water follows the structure of the land (and the path of least resistance), so does our behavior. To truly change your responses, you have to name, own, and change the structure of the land itself. Choose an alternative response when you are triggered. Over time, this alternative response will form a new structure of your land. So if your usual response is to quit when you get criticism, choose to continue.

12. Start over as often as necessary, without judgment. Treat yourself as kindly and compassionately as you would treat a friend who needed a restart button. And don't wait until Monday to start over. Start over right now.