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How to Take Action on a Daunting Project

Take Action on Daunting Projects.

As children, projects were usually fun, creative activities that allowed us to explore ourselves and the world around us. As adults, our projects become a bit more complex-and often downright frightening.

Personally, I seem to commit subconsciously to daunting projects on a regular basis. I enjoy the fear and excitement that accompanies projects that are not predefined.

Yet when faced with a project that seems completely overwhelming and practically impossible, it's easy to become paralyzed by fear and resist engaging with it altogether.

So how do we move past feeling powerless in order to begin taking action? Below are some of the methods I rely on to turn fear into action.

-> Recognize the Daunting Project.

What projects are you resisting? Write down one project that you would particularly like to begin working on. Now that you have formally recognized that the project is a bit daunting, you have taken the first (and often the most difficult) step towards taking action.

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-> Define Completion.

It's very hard to take a trip when you don't know your destination, and the same goes for an action about which you are unsure. So define a specific, measurable, and exciting goal for the completion of that project. Of course, that daunting project may have specific milestones or goals defined by a boss or team, but redefine that goal into one that will motivate you personally. Steve Chandler, the author of 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself, explains why he believes goals are often not reached. He writes,

Usually, a goal is just a goal. But a power goal is a goal that takes on a huge reality. It lives and breathes. It provides motivational energy. It gets you up in the morning. You can taste it, smell it, and feel it. You've got it clearly pictured in your mind. You've got it written down. And you love writing it down because every time you do it fills you with clarity of purpose.

In essence, you want to define completion objectively so that you know exactly what you're working towards. You need to define it subjectively as well so that you are motivated and excited to take action. This combination taps into the strengths of both your left and right brain.

-> Cross-Examine Your Fears.

Knowledge is power; however, some knowledge can reduce our personal power if it remains out of sight. With that in mind, write down all of the fears you've associated with the project. Then, take all of these fears and cross-examine them. Be ruthless. Determine how you can turn these strength-sapping thoughts into powerful, positive motivators for action. Yes, it sounds a bit far-fetched, but redefining your perspective to enable you to focus on creating-rather than worrying-is essential for personal success. For example, how often do you fear failure, imperfection, or the judgment of others? These fears are draining and really don't do much to help you feel powerful and ready to tackle a daunting project. When I fear failure, I find it helpful to flip the switch and think about what I will do to create success. In essence, I define what will make me feel successful with regard to a specific project. What can I do to be proud of my work? I acknowledge the fears I have and then remove the power I've attached to them. It's important to remember that we always have the ability to choose our personal perspective.

-> Create a Personal Road Map.

As we start our trip, we must know at least two key points on the map: our place of departure and our destination. The area in between these two points represents the land of uncertainty. In order to take action, we must first plan a successful strategy. To do that, we need to divide our completion goal into more manageable sub-goals. Not sure how to begin? Research some ideas by looking online, offline, and asking others. But don't let "research" overwhelm you. Create limits on how much time you're willing to spend on that research and when the time is up, stop! Then, explore what you found by creating mind maps, outlines, charts, or any other method that allows you to be creative and put the pieces together in a way that makes sense to you. Next, use all of this knowledge to determine mini-goals that you'll use as benchmarks for your completion goal. Typically, I create 5 to 10 mini-goals for complex projects. A mini-goal may be to write the outline for a novel (main goal: write a novel) or determine the right project management system for your business (main goal: create a virtual business). Then, focus on one mini-goal at a time and break it down into specific, daily action items. These action items and mini-goals will help you create a personal road map for the project. The key is to ensure that you create a map that is capable of changing. As obstacles arise, you must be able to modify your map. With this map, you should be able to see the details of the project and the big picture-both perspectives are critical when working on a complex project.

-> Track your Progress.

Keep a daily action log so that you recognize that you are indeed taking action. Clearly, it's sometimes difficult to understand that we're taking action when the results are not immediate; after all, we're very accustomed to instant gratification. A daily action log will also help you see what's working and what still needs some tweaking. It's helpful to be able to understand when something seems to be preventing you from moving forward. Most importantly, track your progress so that you can reward yourself for taking action. Positive reinforcement is essential to overall success both personally and professionally.

How do you take action on daunting projects? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section!

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Each day, I post inspiring tips focused on turning knowledge into action and action into change. You can read these tips and much more on carolynrubenstein.com.

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Carolyn Rubenstein is the author of Perseverance, a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. student at Harvard, and the Founder/President of a non-profit organization for young adult cancer survivors.

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