The Book Doctor | Don’t Sleep On It
Dear Book Doctor,
I’ve got an idea for an awesome app, but I’ve been sitting on it for about two years now. I still haven’t seen an innovation like it and I really believe in the idea. The problem is that when I think about getting the ball rolling, I get sick to my stomach and then I go do something else to take my mind off of it. I know that this could be my big break, and I want to get going, but I just don’t know where to start. My question is: how do I start when I don’t know how to get started, or it fills me with fear”
Thanks for the help,
Overwhelmed & frozen
Believe me, I know where you’re coming from. Whether the project in question is a novel, a new app, or even a self improvement goal like getting in shape or figuring out your finances, the hardest part is often just getting started. I, too, suffer from the occasional bout of beginning-itis.
Luckily, I’ve got a specialist on deck who can help us both.
For last month’s edition of Blinkist Magazine, we spoke to author, consultant, and productivity expert David Allen. I asked Allen (for a friend, of course) the following: if he could recommend one thing to someone who’s feeling overwhelmed by getting a particular project off the ground, what would it be? He recommended a tool called The Core Dump, and it sounds perfect for your situation! The gist of it is this: don’t sleep on it, dump it!
David: “Relax. Take a breath, get a pen and paper and dump everything out of your mind about it. Everything! Little, big, personal, professional. Just externalize it. Do a core dump. The core dump itself should not be your to-do list, it’s different than an organizing list. You need to give yourself the freedom to write down anything. Good or bad, big, indifferent, and then loop back around later on and decide exactly what those things mean and whether there is an action step you need to take. But you need to have the freedom to just jot down anything and everything.”
The Core Dump is a concept that comes up in Allen’s book Making it All Work, so start there. It’s a powerful starting place for organizing projects of any size. Once you’ve done your core dump, you should have a pile of actionable tasks—on post-its, in notebooks, maybe even hanging out in your calendar app—that add up in a meaningful way. If you’re David Allen, the next step is simple. “Usually I’ll take all those notes, throw all of them into my physical in-tray, and then I’ll zero that out by going through the notes and processing, clarifying, and organizing them,” he says.
But dear Frozen, I feel you—we’re not all productivity experts. Here’s a quick breakdown of what exactly Allen means, lifted directly from his book, Making it All Work.
First, divide your actionable tasks into three to-do lists: tasks to be done now, at a later time, or by someone else. The tasks in the “now” list are ones that can be done immediately, like “call mom about birthday celebration.” If you’ve got a task like “draft job application,” you could put it under the subcategory “later – tasks for when I’m at the computer.” Or if you see something that you’d like to read but don’t have the time, you can categorize it under “later—reading.” The third list should contain the tasks that you’ve delegated to someone else and whose results you’ll need to wait for.
I hope that’s a good start, Frozen! Give the Core Dump a try, and grab Making it All Work or Getting Things Done for a bit of further reading. You can also hear about the man himself in his own voice and words—have a listen to last month’s episode of the Blinkist podcast.
The Book Doctor