I originally gave this talk at Chopped Conference on October 16, 2015. I got such great feedback that I wanted to share it here with you. As you’ll read below, the intended audience was food bloggers, but I truly feel that the concepts are universal. I hope you find something for yourself in it. #dothedamndishes
Hi, I’m Beth, and I am the Queen of Procrastinationland.
Oh, you didn’t know that you were in the presence of royalty?
Actually, my full name is Elizabeth, and I gave a report on England in the 4th grade while dressed up as Queen Elizabeth with the worst British accent you ever heard, but that is as far as the royalty connection goes.
However, I do know quite a bit about procrastination, being a habitual practicer for 36 years. And in that time, I have become exceptionally good at putting things off – especially when it comes to doing the dishes.
That whole “clean as you go” thing? I try. I really do. But somehow the kitchen still looks like a disaster zone every time I cook. It’s a cruel fate that I ended up as a food blogger. Here’s the little conversation I have with myself on the couch when I consider doing the dishes.
“I’ll do them at the next commercial. No, wait, we have a DVR, that doesn’t make any sense. Hey, I have a Facebook notification! Ok, after this show is over. Ok, I’ll get up really early in the morning and do them.”
This is when the internal monologue in my head turns into maniacal laughter.
A while back my friend Erin was over at my house. She’s one of the only people I allow inside my house when my kitchen is a mess. We were sitting on the couch talking and I was complaining about how I could never keep the kitchen clean and how I was never going to be one of those people whose house looked tidy at a moment’s notice, and suddenly I realized that I was talking about doing dishes when I should be DOING THE DAMN DISHES.
And it got me thinking. What would it look like if for every moment that I spent talking or thinking about doing something, I actually DID THAT THING.
Stay with me here. How many of you are dreamers? Yep, you are my people. All my life I’ve always been the one with the big ideas but when it came to execution…not so much. My Dad used to tell me I had more potential in my pinky finger than he had in his entire body (which is not true, but it was nice of him to say). If I had to recount all of the projects that I’ve started and abandoned over the years, it would take all day, so suffice it to say the fact that I have now been blogging for a year and a half (albeit inconsistently) is kind of a miracle. Let’s back up for a second.
At this time last year I was right here in this room for the first Chopped Conference, barely 6 months into blogging, and I was full of excitement and dreams about what Eat Within Your Means could be. The fact that I hadn’t given up on the blog after 6 months was pretty amazing in and of itself. I was starting to feel like this could really be a thing.
At the time I had a full-time job in the corporate world with a salary and benefits and stock options and all that jazz. I had also just found out that I was pregnant with my second child. By that point I had been a member at Food Blogger Pro for almost 10 months, and got to meet founders Bjork and Lindsay (aka Mr. and Mrs. Pinch of Yum) in person right here in this room (we all know them by their first names, right, like Sting and Madonna?). If you were here last year, then you know how awesome the conference was. One of the speakers was Milisa Armstrong from Miss in the Kitchen – she talked about how to be a virtual assistant, which was a totally new concept to me at the time. And my wheels started spinning. What if, just maybe, I could quit my full-time job, find a part-time job in the blogging world, and work from home? I could be with my kids more AND work on my own blog, with the goal of one day earning a full-time income. See? Big dreams.
But sometimes, my friends, dreams come true. In February I joined Food Blogger Pro as the Community Happiness Specialist (the coolest job title in the world), and then this July I left my corporate job. Now I fit in work time between bottles and diapers and preschool dropoff, and I still can’t quite believe that I get to do this.
I still struggle with procrastination, but over the past year I’ve learned some stuff that has been helping me better understand this fierce opponent so that I can beat it into submission.
Fear is at the root of procrastination.
Ok, maybe not when it comes to the dishes. Although the longer you leave them, the scarier they become. As bloggers we are always talking about the things that we need to do to build our business and take it to the next level and all of that important stuff. How many of you have this item on your “to-do” list:
“Make a freebie for my e-mail signup.”
It’s something we know will be helpful to both our readers and to us, but we keep putting it off. Why? Because we’re scared.
Scared that it won’t be “good enough”, or look just like so-and-so’s, or our readers will think it’s dumb, or whatever crappy excuse we can come up with to push it down the list.
But consider this:
What if Marly let fear keep her from starting Chopped Conference?
What if Kristen had never started Dine & Dish?
What if Bev had never posted her pictures of the twins on Instagram?
What if Amanda had believed that no one would want to read a blog about cupcakes and surprise inside cakes?
Leaving my job to take the plunge into a career that is decidedly less stable was absolutely scary. But what is on the other side of that fear is POSSIBILITY. Unlimited possibility. Don’t let fear stand in the way of doing what you love.
Overthinking can paralyze you.
Where are my fellow overthinkers? Isn’t it nice to know you’re not alone? But wouldn’t it also be nice to stop imagining the things that you want to do for your blog and instead DO those things?
What stops us? Two things – perfectionism and the comparison trap.
We’ll get an idea and think, “this is the best idea ever. But I need to think through every possible angle so that it will be perfect and then and only then can I see it through to completion. Oh, and let me Google the idea to make sure that no one else has done it yet. DANGIT, ”Blogger XYZ“ has already done it, and better than I ever could! I’m going to go plunge my face into the brownies I just baked for my blog post.”
And the world was just robbed of the unique perspective that only you could have brought to that awesome idea.
“The best is the enemy of the good. ”- Voltaire
Oh, I totally just had an idea. Now I can start a new trend to call recipes “good” instead of “best”.
“Good Chocolate Chip Cookies.” Right? This should happen. Anyway…
The point is that if we get in our heads too much about this stuff we can end up talking ourselves out of the very things that could make all the difference for our success. Of course you should still be analytical and think a project through before you pull the trigger. But if all you ever do is think about it, it won’t do anyone much good. Get the idea out of your head and into action. Action breeds growth and inaction breeds stagnancy.
Small victories add up to big changes over time.
On the Food Blogger Pro forum, we have a thread called “Little Victories”. It’s a place where people can share the successes they’re having on their blogs, and the victories range from the first Foodgawker acceptance to the first sponsored post to the first video recorded. Payton and Alexa Schirm will be speaking later today and they have shared quite a few successes on that thread along the way. It’s so fun to go back and see the progress over time – and celebrating your small victories is one of the best ways to spur yourself on. It’s also a powerful weapon against procrastination, because you can see the rewards that come from doing The Work (capital T, capital W).
There are things that aren’t fun about blogging. Things that stretch you beyond your comfort zone. And some stuff that is just boring, or tedious, or a time-suck. But putting those things off only means that you won’t enjoy doing what you truly love, if you even do it at all, because the weight of your “things I don’t want to do” list is always bearing down on you.
What’s the bottom line here?
“Do the hard stuff so that you can enjoy the easy stuff (the stuff you love to do).”
So write the damn blog post.
Take the damn photograph.
Send the damn e-mail.
Pitch the damn brand.
Make the damn phone call.
Write the damn ebook.
Record the damn video.
And, of course, say it with me now…
DO THE DAMN DISHES!