Starting something is hard.

Talking about a great idea or how passionate you are about something, or even when you’re going to start and how you’re going to start can be fun, exciting, and EASY. But actually starting? Not so much.

There’s a great book by Jon Acuff called Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters. In fact, this is the book that lit the fire under my ass to build my hobby into a business so I could quit my full-time job at a great company to do what I REALLY loved: building websites.

So whoop-dee-doo, I started my own business. That was just one thing I started in a world full of to-dos.

I still have difficulty starting every project, but I have found a tactic that has helped enormously.

I build websites, and I pride myself in not just taking information a client gives me and pasting it into the predetermined area for content on a webpage. I do some serious thinking and structure work before I even touch a computer. The weight of this initial work is heavy on me, because I know it takes focused time (and I have a baby, so finding focused time in itself is a farse), and at least a couple of hours to really do it right. But once I have this initial work done, the rest flies.

So what do I do?

After I’ve done the reading and prep work required to have digested the information I need to incorporate into the website, I start with a pencil and a blank piece of paper (yes out of the printer tray… why I don’t have a stack just for this purpose not already inside the printer, I do not know) AND I SKETCH. 

I sketch horrible, childish, imperfect boxes and menu bars that are crooked and sidebars that unintentionally taper off as you move down the piece of paper, but none of that matters.

What matters is that for some reason if I have a pencil and a piece of paper, I feel absolutely ZERO barrier or hesitation to start.

All that is in my head flows out through the pencil and before I know it, I have a plan, and I’m making progress on the project.

I heard a talk by Jason Santa Maria at An Event Apart Chicago, 2013 on “The Nimble Process: Think Before You Design.” In this talk he suggests the same thing. In his talk, Jason said:

Ideas are supposed to be ugly – they are just the start of an idea of communication, a spark.  

In fact, now that I think about it, I heard that talk before I opened my business, and I can probably completely attribute my sketching routine to Jason. So thanks, Jason!

It surprises most people I tell this to that I build websites yet I start with physical pencil and paper. The secret isn’t in the sketch, or the pencil, or the paper; The secret is in finding the method that has the least barrier for you to start. If there’s an app that really jives with how your brain works and you use that, or you sketch in your iPhone notes, or you use your kid’s chalk and the sidewalk to get your ideas out, WHATEVER. Just find something that works for you and feels easy.

Now away with you, and go start something!

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