There's a folder on my computer dedicated to half-baked business ideas of mine. Though I haven't taken the next step in testing their underlying assumptions, saving them to a place I can easily access at a later date provides a misleading bit of comfort:
"I'm not giving up here, it's just not the right time to work on this right now. So this will be here until later when the time's right."
I'm self-aware enough to know I'm not being honest with myself. There are only imperfect and less imperfect times to start something new: a hobby, a business, a relationship. And because it's impossible to tell what "later" holds, the truth is that right now could be the least imperfect moment in time I'm going to get.
There are two main ways I've learned to defend against the lies of later:
- For Long Term Tasks: Break into smaller tasks and assign individual due dates. Intentionally design the first sub-task to be a "quick win" to provide a boost of forward momentum. Taking the example of one of my stale business ideas, a potential first subtask for me could be as simple as talking to one potential customer (maybe a friend, so it's not so intimidating) about the idea.
- For Shorter Term Tasks: Patrick Murphy, Alabama's legendary softball coach, gave me the below advice a while back. It's powerful in its simplicity—later can't happen if you just do it now:
The professional kitchen runs on a culture of "now" out of necessity. The huge walk-in fridge is full of carefully-labeled ingredients with handwritten dated labels. If the kitchen staff puts off using a particular ingredient, it will go bad and eat into the restaurant's already-thin margins.
There's something to be said about treating our new interests, business ideas, and budding relationships like life ingredients with a shelf life. Only their expiration dates aren't as predictable as food. An opportunity can open narrowly, just for a moment, and never reappear.
Try defending against later by completing the challenge below:
Defending Against Later
Active time to complete: 3 min
What's one thing you've been meaning to try/investigate/start?
If it's a longer-term project, try breaking it down into at least 3 individual pieces and giving them due dates on your calendar with reminders.
If it's something that can be done in a couple of hours, commit to it being the first thing you do tomorrow. It will set the pace for the day.