March 20, 2020

Starting a Difficult Project

If you have ever taken on a monumental task you probably didn’t go into it expecting it to be easy. If anything, it was put off because you knew it would be difficult. Procrastination at it’s finest; I know I’m guilty. From years of pushing back projects I’ve learned a few tricks to overcome this. I’d like to lend a few of those.

My first bit of advice is to determine one piece of the puzzle that you already know how to do. Even if your project looks impossible from the surface, there has got to be small parts that you can complete without much effort. For a school research easy that might be as simple as formatting a word document. A relevant example is building a modular synthesizer. Don’t start by trying to build the whole system at once! Start with one module, one circuit, one component. Break your project into infinitesimally small pieces and integrate across them; but start with a piece you know how to do. Ask yourself “What do I already know how to do?”

Sometimes you may be just short on ideas. Making a list of 10 of whatever you need ideas for. I like to use this to generate sections of long-form essays, product names, and creative projects. This is a powerful brainstorming tool. There’s a few rules to make this work. First, you must write down 10 or more ideas, you're not done until you have 10. Most of your ideas will be bad from the start, those are the most important ones! If you can’t come up with 10, make 20 instead. Writing more will turn off your brain's “bad idea filter.” Sometimes ideas that make no practical sense will lead to good ones that you can implement into a project. Once you have 10 or more ideas written down, choose one to start with. If you can’t choose, close your eyes and put your finger down on a random spot on the list. Wherever it lands is the idea you start with.

Whats the point of this? Neither of these process solve the hard problems or get you any noticable amount closer to a finial product. What both of these tricks do is produce a starting point. Once you are able to get over the inital hump you will inevitably see a path to the next step. One thing leads to another, and without much more work you will have a well-laid-out road map taking you to the finish line. Allways remember that every worth while task you’ve done and will do seems inpossible at some point or another. The more impossible it seems, the bigger the challenge, and the greater the gratification you will enjoy at the end.