You’ve got the creative itch. Maybe you want to write a book, start a company, learn a new programming language, or do anything else where you can leave your mark on the world. It’s new and you’re excited about this.
So what do you do first?
What else is out there? Who are the industry players? How can you implement best practices? You don’t want to waste time, so instead of jumping into your project, you head over to Google and start searching away.
Yet, while you need to do a bit of preliminary research in order to map the landscape and educate yourself, you can easily pass the point from being productive to flat out sabotaging yourself, where more research becomes another form of procrastination.
Welcome to the research death spiral abyss.
Just one more podcast! One more blog post! One more course by that new guru!
I know the feeling. You’re searching for the magic silver bullet. The one that will open up the gates of success so you can waltz through right into victory without any battle scars.
We research and research because we’re terrified of failing. So we procrastinate by thinking we need to know more.
Don’t get me wrong, I love learning as much as I can, but if you want to make any progress on your idea, it’s critical you know when you’re doing productive research, and when you’re burying your fear in the research death spiral abyss.
It’s actually easy to avoid this. Here’s the formula: learn, and then implement said learning. Rinse and repeat. The way to stay on track is to ask yourself, “have I implemented or discarded everything I’ve learned on this topic?” If the answer is yes, then go learn more. If the answer is no, then you are procrastinating.
Success requires taking action, and ultimately, research is preparation for taking action, not action itself. And that is a critical difference.
The truth is that avoiding the research death spiral abyss is easier said than done because your mind plays tricks on you, telling you that you need more knowledge to do what you’re setting out to do.
It’s much easier to set up a system that works around your fears rather than confront them head on.
So how is this done?
1) Clean Up Your Information Inputs
Unsubscribe from unhelpful email newsletters, and quit reading those that don’t add any real value to your life. The ones that don’t add value are those that don’t teach you or distract you from taking action on your creative pursuit.
Quit reading the news. It’s designed to make us stressed and anxious. 99% of the news has virtually no impact over the implementation of your creative pursuit. And, that 1% that may have an impact will surface later on when you need it.
2) Make Rules About Social Media Use
Social media is great for promoting your business or product, but personal use should be banned during the workday. It absolutely kills your productivity and inner peace. When you see posts from friends and colleagues, your mind will wander and you will lose focus. If you need a distraction, take a real break.
Easy wins are eliminating social apps from your mobile, and installing software to block social sites. Social media sites build their companies to be as addictive as possible, and your willpower isn’t strong enough to outmaneuver their powers, so avoid the fight all together.
3) Have Office Hours for Work and No Work
Separate time for work and time for play. Do this by using a calendar. Fill in the time slots on your calendar for what you want to do, when you want to do it.
If you go about your day with your calendar open, and you see an assignment, you can just go do it. Without this direction you’d easily fall into surfing the net or browsing social media. Keep yourself accountable by scheduling your work.
4) Become an Explorer
Change your mindset from anxiety ridden creative to courageous explorer learning about new territory, because that’s what you’re doing. When you’re doing something creative, you’re doing something that you’ve never done before. It’s brand new and so you don’t know exactly where you’re going.
Do you think Columbus failed when he hit an unexpected part of the New World? No, he simply adapted to the new circumstance. Change your mindset so instead of failing, you simply get unexpected results. Course correct and keep moving.
5) Talk to Your Research
When you come across a new blog post or new article, ask yourself, “is this information going to help me today?” If yes, then keep reading it. If no, then delete it. If maybe, then save the information in Evernote for future reference.
The research death spiral abyss loves new information. Especially information that your limiting beliefs think you might need. In truth, you either need it now or you don’t. If you don’t need it now, then save it and move on or delete it altogether.
Staying active helps calm your nerves, and you feel better in general. Physical accomplishments carry over into other accomplishments, because they boost your self-confidence.
When you feel good about yourself you have the confidence to courageously move forward on your idea in the face of uncertainty.
7) Hire a Coach
If you’re really stuck, then as a last resort pay for a coach. Remember, you’re paying them not only for their expertise, but you’re also paying them for you to stay accountable and disciplined.
Sometimes the pressure of having someone else to report to or please can make all the difference in the world when it comes to taking action on your dreams. A coach can help you get out of your own mind and push through.
Now go do it.
Bryan Leeds writes at Relationship Up, where he shares ideas for living a better life with the people that matter to you most.