You're an ideas machine, a big dreamer, a go-getter. You can do everything—but right now it’s hard to do anything. You keep stuttering forward and sputtering out, like you’re learning to drive a stick shift, and those best-laid plans of yours are just...lying there.

Your assignment: Harness your energy and get down to the details.

1. Dig for the roots.

Instead of focusing on the solution, get to the fundamental problem—which may surprise you.

What's your biggest obstacle?
(e.g., I keep tearing up the last chapter of my novel.)

...And why is that?
(Because I want it to be great.)

...And why is that?
(Because I've been working on it for 20 years.)

...And why is that?
(Because it has to be brilliant.)

...And why is that?
(Because if it's not genius, it's a failure.)

Look at that last answer. Is it really true?

2. Live by the Play-Doh Principle.

The path to success isn’t always linear: Play-Doh was originally sold as a wallpaper cleaner. A not-so-effective blood pressure medication became the blockbuster drug Viagra. Stop trying to do things perfectly and instead just do them. Even if the results aren’t what you envision, they could lead to something even better.

3. Think like Ike.

President Dwight Eisenhower once passed along this wisdom: “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not importa nt, and the important are never urgent.” If you don’t know where to start with your to-do list, break it into categories:

High Alert
(Important—and the deadline's coming up fast)

Can Wait Till Tomorrow
(Important, but not time-sensitive)

Finish by Friday
(Time-sensitive, but not urgent)

When I Get to It
(Anything you can delegate—or delete?)

4. Take shelter from your brainstorms.

If all your new ideas keep you from following through on old ones, create an archive in a notebook or with an app like Evernote, which lets you access notes on all your devices. Put them away for safekeeping until you’ve made some progress on your current project.

5. Get a coach.

Idle achievers like talking about plans—so find a friend to be your sounding board. Ask her for help establishing realistic expectations, and set up regular check-ins.


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