Many of us prefer to wait until we have a significant chunk of time to start a project, especially if it feels like a big project or we’ve never done an activity like this before. We think it’s silly to spend a few minutes working on something that requires an hour—or five or 10.
I totally get this. I also get caught up in this trap, particularly as a parent whose time is limited. But what I’ve noticed is that tackling a tiny task of a massive project still feels good. Really good. And it doesn’t feel that overwhelming. Yes, the project isn’t finished, but at least I’ve done one part. And that’s still progress. And I feel inspired. And I’ve just created some momentum.
I love the saying included in the gorgeous, encouraging, practical new book Creativity Takes Courage: Dare to Think Differently by Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst: “A thread every day adds up to a shirtsleeve in a year.”
Don’t let time constraints stop you from creating before you even start. Don’t let them stop you from pursuing interesting experiences and curious subjects, from learning new things and connecting to your imagination and from letting yourself play.
In Creativity Takes Courage, Smit and van der Hulst, founders and creative directors of Flow magazine, share a variety of small projects you can start today. Here are my favorites:
- Take a 15-minute walk every day. When you get home, jot down a few lines about what you noticed. Or draw a map of where you walked.
- Photograph your breakfast every day.
- Pick an object, and put it in a different place every day. Snap a photo every time.
- Ask a different person every day to draw a line or doodle. Then turn it into a tiny drawing.
- In the evening, jot down three things (or one thing) that made you smile that day.
- Take a picture every day at the same time of day.
- Write your mood in one word, such as tired, giggly, driven, serious, ecstatic.
- Write down a sentence you overheard from someone else’s conversation.
- Create a drawing while listening to a song.
- Make a face out of items that are lying around, and snap a photo.
- Draw an object the way you think it’ll look in 50 years. (This is my absolute favorite!)
- Draw a cloud you see. (If there are no clouds, make one up.)
- Design a different label every day—such as a label for jam or a cleaning product.
- Make a mini collage of your day.
- Draw something you bought.
Are there certain projects you’ve been putting off because you don’t have enough time? Maybe your project has nothing to do with drawing or photo-taking. Maybe it’s decluttering your home office, and making it into a space you actually want to be. Maybe it’s writing a letter to your grandmother. Maybe it’s starting your memoir.
Set a timer for 10 minutes. Just 10 minutes. Right now. And see how much you can get done. Then return to the same project tomorrow, and spend another 10 minutes (or more if you have the time).
I recently wrote a piece on tips for stressed-out working moms. Katelyn Denning, a coach to new moms returning to work, regularly works with clients who put off projects until they have uninterrupted time. The problem is that this never happens. She told me: “I advocate for just starting. You’ll be 5 minutes further along than you were before and eventually those add up to a completed project.”
So stop overthinking it. Sink those sky-high expectations. Forget wanting your project to be perfect, or finished that day. Simply start. Just start. Right now.