If you have low self-esteem and constantly worry (like I do), your own thoughts might be the biggest obstacle preventing you from getting great things done. Here are 4 mental tips that I use to overcome my objections.
Start enough times
Don’t think about finishing a project. About the end of it. You will get there. Just start working. Because this is not how things get done most of the time:
If you start enough times, and continue making progress every time, you will eventually finish the task. So notice how you perceive time . and just start working on the next task. Without the promise or expectation that you will finish anything in current session.
Accept negative feelings and start working
Awful lot of people get stressed about their work before it even begins. Often in the mornings, during commuting, before you even open the door of your office. If you are like me, you might even get stressed the evening of one day before (especially on Sundays).
Do i have the skills to do this task? Will I have to use the library of framework I am not yet fully comfortable with? How long will it take? Will I end up writing code that I am not fond of? Maybe even ashamed? Will my coworkers like it? Will it work? Will it deploy without any problems?
When we worry we tend to avoid the job and procrastinate. We don’t want to be confrontend with the fact that it might not work, that are we not as good as we think we are. We don’t want our ego to get hurt.
Don’t run away from those feelings. They are real. Try to accept them.
Yes, I worry. Yes, I am not sure if I can do it. Even less sure if the end effect will be pretty and likeable. Accept it, confirm it, don’t deny it. But, start working. With the negative feelings, alongside with them. The only thing that makes them fade away is progress.
Love the grind
aka stack the bricks. Your success or failure don’t depend on one big thing. Your success or failure is compound of thousands (if not millions) of micro-failures and micro-successes.
It doesn’t matter what your job is. Even if you are working at your dream company (what is it nowdays? Tesla, Apple, Google, Airbnb …?) your job will still consist of some amount of repetitive tasks. Can you learn to love it? Could it be enjoyable like in games ?
Or could you do them anyway, despite your feelings? Because you care. You feed your animals even when you are tired and exhausted. You make sure that your kids are safe and loved even at the end of a very long day. Because you care.
If you are working on things that matter to you, that you care about, you can learn to love the grind. Why are you doing this blogpost, this side-project? Do you remember? Is that important to you?
Detach yourself from results
More than one year ago I wrote a rails related blogpost that is still visited by more than 4K developers every month. That’s a lot in my world. It set the bar very high for me. I am still trying to beat it.
But when I worry about pageviews, likes and upvotes on reddit and hackernews, it’s very hard to ship anything. So I lowered my expectations. I write a blog post to help a single person. If I helped one person, then I am good. It was worth writing, worth spending time, worth the effort.
Sure, from time to time you write a post or create a product that helps hundreds or thousands. But you might also get 4 upvotes, dozen of visits and that’s it.
Detach from results doesn’t mean to ignore the data. You can use it to get better, to improve (especially product). But your code is not you, and your upvotes are not you. That might sound obvious. But I still need to remind myself about it.
You might even start to believe that you are not helping anyone according to some random internet comments. But then one year after a not-much-noticed blogpost, someone writes you an email to say thank you and ask a very good question regarding the topic.
Remember, most of posts that were helpful to your readers won’t get a retweet, comment or upvote. I don’t jump quickly myself into saying thank you for every blogger that helped me today finish my task. Perfectly normal. But the appreciation is there.
Few weeks ago in a shopping-center I got a wristband from anti-cancer group for filling out a survey. It says best time for action is now.
I don’t want to wait till cancer to get myself into doing something meaningful. This wristband actually changed something in me for the better. I do more. Now.
That’s it, going back to writing a book.