01. 3 Steps Guide to Start Any Project

You feel like you were born to do something great? You feel like you are smart and capable enough to handle things on your own? Are you a Slytherin?

You may have just read the “best book ever,” you feel incredibly motivated. You just read “The 4-Hour Work Week” (or something similar) and that’s it: You are gonna quit your job, drop out of college to pursue the thing. You feel outstandingly motivated and inspired.

Well, hold on right there cowboy (or cowgirl)… Motivation is great, but it is no use if you don’t know were to go. It’s like building a house without blueprints, you may end up putting the toilet next to the kitchen and your bedroom somehow ended up being the living room… What?!

Trust me, you don’t want to be baking that lemon pie after dropping a highly lethal #2.

In my first projects of architecture the professor gave us the idea of the project before anything, for example: “a house in the beach for a chef and his family.” As explained by him, a chef in his beach house would love to prepare some food while having a broad view to the seashore — which meant the kitchen had to be facing the beach.

Based on the number of family members and their ages you understood how large the dining table should be, how many rooms the house should have and so on.

We had to sketch draft after draft before finding the right distribution of spaces and the overall form of the house. It comes from an architectural principle: “form follows function.” You have to know beforehand what you need and what you want to do before starting to do anything.

Be it a personal project, starting a relationship, signing up for college. You first need a draft — your idea — to then polish it and have a clear vision of the blueprint — your plan.

Photo by Sven Mieke on Unsplash

1. Have a true purpose

I am not an architect and you probably aren’t one either. The purpose of the architect is to create an attractive and functional place, that is what drives them, that’s what they dream about (almost) every night.

For you and I who don’t even have a degree, things aren’t as clear. We are still finding that thing.

You may want to become an athlete, a filmmaker, a lawyer, you may be interested in creating your own blog and write your own stuff. All those ideas are great but they are nothing if you don’t know WHY you are going into that direction.

You might say “I can do this” and I agree with you. But have you asked yourself:

Why you want to do that? and

Are you sure you want to do it?

Being capable of doing something doesn’t grant you success. You may prepare great smoothies but you’d hate to work at some place like Starbucks. Perhaps you love movies but you suck at acting and you hate shooting videos so, why are you doing it?

It is great deal to ask yourself these questions, to go deep and find out what drives you. Doing something you dislike or hate will bring nothing but misery into your life.

I’ve always enjoyed every form of visual arts. Animation, illustration, concept art, photography, landscaping, painting, filmmaking and so on. I could talk passionately about them for hours.

Architecture was the “most logical” option here where I live and I told myself “sure, I can draw some blueprints, I can design a house.”

Yes, I could. But I HATED it. It stressed me out and naturally, I dropped out of it. In fact, 70% of freshmen dropped out of architecture, I wasn’t alone. You either love it or you don’t.

So trust me when I tell you that being capable of doing something isn’t a guarantee for success. I could do it, but I didn’t even see myself as an architect in the future so what the hell was I doing there?

Do you see yourself doing that thing? Do you like the thing? Be honest with yourself, find your purpose.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

2. Have a clear plan

Okay, you have that idea that inner drive past inspiration, let’s be more concrete.

I recommend putting down your idea on paper, take a pencil or a pen and write it down. For me it was: “start writing blog posts”.

Why I started writing? Well I love reading, enjoy writing and wanted to help others by sharing my life experiences and the things I’ve learned year after year.

It can be anything. “Start a workout program,” “go out on a date” (be aware of COVID though,) “learn a new language.”

What language do you want to learn? Do you want to gain strength? Want to lose some weight or improve your overall health?

Well, write down all you want to do onto that paper sheet. Visualize it, your brain cells will start to work like minions.

French it is? What sources you have available? Ask a friend or someone you know that knows the language. Look for books, find an online course. You don’t even have to pay a single dollar, there are tones of free tools available out there.

Same with a training program, though you may want to ask a professional about a more detailed diet/workout program for you. Nonetheless, there are plenty of workouts and fitness sites online.

Narrow down all those things you wrote into a list of steps to follow. Like these:

  • Right down at least (5) five blog post ideas to begin with.
  • Do some research on the topics you want to address. (Productivity and language learning).
  • Look for sites to post free.
  • Create an account after choosing a site to post on.
  • Write down your first draft.
  • Edit your draft, add some images and post it. (Proofread x5).

That’s a basic rough list. Though there are more nuances (such as SEO, copyright, monetization and so on) but you get the idea. Make a list of actionable steps in order to start the production line.

Be specific.

Once again, be clear and intentional with the thing you want to do. The list must make sense and speak to you. “Download pdf” is not clear, from where? Where are you downloading it from?

“Read (3) three entrepreneurial blog post from Forbes.com” Much more clearer, you don’t have to think and wander around. See the “Captain America Method” by Thomas Frank — my internet dad/big bro.

Make a schedule.

Oh man, how important a calendar is. You can download an app, print one or even do your own with a ruler and some markers. The key thing of having a calendar is to visualize your time on a daily basis.

Observing what time you have available, where task #1 and task #2 fit in is huge, it will lower your anxiety. You’ll be more focused, just don’t relax too much.

Pro tip: don’t over schedule. What I mean is that don’t feel your time with 5 hours of nonstop work, that is neither realistic nor healthy. Start small. Leave some time to breath, drink water, have some tea. Eat that cookie, you earned it.

You know already what you want to do. You know why you want to do it. You’ve already listed some steps and managed to fit them into your schedule.

You are ready to start, right? Yeah! Of course.

Well, actually no…

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

3. Be ready to fail.

A few paragraphs ago I told you how much I enjoyed architecture (ha-ha, jk.) But I did not tell you what I did afterwards, or even better, what I did not do.

That was, being prepared to fail. I started college believing I was going to nail every single class. And we make that mistake quite often, more than we would like to admit it. But that’s just the way we humans function, we expect everything to go well — the best case scenario.

We leave our house in the morning expecting the traffic to be perfect. That you’ll catch a bus right after closing the front door. But when have that happened? We say “It will take me 30 minutes to finish this essay” and oops, it’s 2 a.m. and that word document is still blank, sounds familiar?

Hofstadter’s Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law. — Douglas Hofstadter

We are highly optimistic, so much we don’t even fight that mindset. Yet we struggle to make it on time in the morning, we fail to deliver that assignment on time and we don’t know what to do when your favorite shirt isn’t clean and you didn’t notice because you just wore it thrice in a row… yeah, thrice (do your laundry, pal).

I knew I had to prepare myself to give the news to my parents. That on itself was an awful experience because you don’t want to let down your parents like that, you feel guilty, useless and “a failure.” Lucky enough, my parents where very supportive and encouraged me to look for alternatives.

I knew my alternative, what I wanted to do. However, I was so self-absorbed worrying about telling my parents and how they would react that when I finally told them, the other college I was going to roll in had already enrolled and started its classes.

I had to wait three months before being able to sign up for that other major. That is time I’d saved if only had I checked their website early on when I knew already I was going to drop out of architecture.

It has happened many times in my life but after 7 mistakes you finally learn the lesson, am I right? I was luckily able to pinpoint this issue and address it here in this guide.

Let’s say you plan to workout 5 days a week. What would you do if you can’t workout one day? What if you skip twice?

This is what I call Chaos Control. For instance, one key habit for me is body training — working out. I have failed to stay consistent time after time after leaving the gym. I know a can train 5 days a week without a problem.

The first week begins high on motivation and excitement. Week 2 falls in and you feel too tired on Wednesday, you may have slept bad the night before so you decide to skip that day, go to bed earlier and hit harder next day.

Except, Thursday is game-day and your favorite team plays that day, your best friends are coming over, you cannot workout that day. And then, the weekend is here and you did 3/5 and on week 3 you tell yourself, “working out? I am too busy. I’ll get on that later.”

What just happened? Life itself.

You must be prepared for everything: a date, a family day, too much homework, an invasion, depression, an illness and the classic: what if a pandemic hits in?

That’s a mindset I’ve absorbed from Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg Mckeown and my own life experiences. I haven’t finished it yet but so far, is a great read.

Here’s another example: you open a store, your own business. Sales on the first quarter don’t go as expected, did you prepare for that? Or did you expect to sell everything in the first 2 months because your product if great?

Now you lost thousands of dollars for relying on your optimism. A business doesn’t not sustain on optimism. A good business is more than just a good product or service, it’s a whole net of processes and systems that make it flow through good and hard times.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)… approximately 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 45% during the first five years, and 65% during the first 10 years. Only 25% of new businesses make it to 15 years or more (source: investopedia).

Same happens with any project, optimism and motivation won’t help you cut through and remain through time, they fade out pretty fast and you must be aware of that fact. An idea does not hold itself on its own, it is useless unless you take action.

You, my friend, have to be ready. Here I leave the steps of the Chaos Control system I created to help you prevent the many peculiarities of life:

  1. Remember Why You Started. This is the same principle we started with. Is important to remind yourself why you started the project in the first place. We get so lost in routine we often forget why we even do things — or stop doing them.
  2. Revise your Priorities. What is that top thing you must get done? You got to start someone. Reminding yourself of those projects isn’t enough. Maybe that Apple Diet does you no good. Discard what is useless and keep those things that you are still interested in. Don’t forget to schedule, though.
  3. Reset your Routine. At what time you go to bed? Are you waking up on time? Remember to make good use of your time. Scrolling to Instagram until 11 p.m? Not good, block it or uninstalling while you restore your good habits. Make sure you are eating and sleeping enough. Cut on bad habits that absorb your soul like Dementors and drink enough water.
  4. Restart. Do the right things, all over again.

Another tip: copy those steps and leave the in a place of easy access to aid you in times of fire.

That’s it, those are my 3 steps to start any project. I hope you have found this guide useful, have a nice day. Until next time.

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