Don’t wait until the 1st to start that thing

All right, confession time. This post is equal parts a reminder to myself as it is advice for anyone else who might find it useful.

You know how, if you’re active on pages like instagram or something like that, you might run into inspirational quotes? One of them being something akin to “That blog, just start it. That book, just write it.”. I saw one recently and it made me think of just how many times I’ve let “not the perfect time” be an excuse for me not to do something. That is why I would like to encourage everyone, right here, right now, to be their complete, imperfect, authentic selves.

Perfection is the enemy

When I was a child, I used to tell myself a lot of reasons why I could never be “really good” at anything. For instance, I could want to learn to play the cello, but since I had not started at age 3 and became a prodigy, why bother? I wanted to skip a year ahead in school because I was bored, but I kept getting silly little mistakes on my tests, so that was obviously out, right? I liked to write, but it was never as good as what I read in my library books or borrowed from friends, to certainly being a writer was out of the question. I was too old to do X, it was too late to start Y – As a child!

Any of that sound familiar? If it does, at least let me assure you, you’re not alone.

On the other coin of that was what my mother would call my reckless attitude towards crafts. Now crafts, for whatever reason, was always something I did for my own, personal enjoyment. It didn’t have to be perfect, I was never aiming to become number one at it. So there, I would happily read a handful of How-tos online before seeing what I could scramble together out of old cardboard, mom’s leftover yarn or cobble together in dad’s workshop. When my little brother would ask my mother why he had to follow the recipe when I just bulled ahead, she would sigh a little and go “Sometimes, the path is created while we walk.”. As a big believer in recipes and proper procedures, my haphazard approach exasperated her, yet it is that haphazard approach that has taught me the most!

By not waiting until I could save up for the “proper” equipment or tools and just giving it a whirl, I could quickly assess whether it was something I enjoyed doing or not. By creating things out of old cardboard I knew that I didn’t need expensive tools to get the job done, even if they looked nicer and would last much longer. Plus, it just being cheap off-cuts and random junk meant that I was not afraid of playing with it or testing its limits, like I might have been if I had bought something “proper”.

Sometimes my projects failed because there was a crucial step in the procedure I had forgotten. Oftentimes, that meant I learned a whole bunch about why that step was there and certainly remembered for next time!

Don’t set yourself up for failure

Another thing I’ve noticed about trying to wait until the 1st, or until January or “next year” or whatever the choice may be, is that we set ourselves up for failure. Take the modest picture of my emergency fund savings tracker on the bottom of this blog post, for instance.

When you google “bullet journal” you get all these gorgeous, artistic, detailed and intricate designs. They look planned, they look gorgeous and they look, well, like nothing I’d have the patience to even aspire to for just a journal with the intent of keeping track of my appointments and maybe a goal or three. I didn’t need something perfectly colour coordinated (what about if I lost that pen or it ran out of ink?) or Instagram-share-worthy. I certainly want it to be pretty, but I know there will be mistakes in it and I will make uneven lines and it will be a little wonky. Life happens, and that is ok.

And that is exactly why I decided to start my new project straight away. Even though it was less than 2 months until 2018, I started it in November! I inked some pages and got going. Realised I didn’t like the first week-by-week setup that I tried… or the second. So I changed it going forward.

If I had waited until the 1st of January to start this thing, I would be much more upset if I made a typo or coloured outside the lines, or chose a design that didn’t actually work for me or I drew something non-symmetric or… you get the idea. And I would have done so, eventually (already have, to be honest).

I think that, by trying to make these big changes on the 1st or in January or “after summer” or whenever, we are essentially setting ourselves up for failure. Because we want to start with a clean slate and get everything right, we get so much more upset with even the slightest mishap or teeniest step backwards.

Take the oh, so common New Years resolution of exercising. Thousands of people start the new year with the very best of intentions, and a few weeks later, they’re all back to their old habits. They tried to do too much, too fast, too soon, and their expectations of themselves were too high. It was simply perfect or nothing, and since no one is perfect, it was doomed to fail. Discouraged and disappointed, we might not touch another exercise implement or Youtube exercise video until the very next January 1st. A whole year of opportunity, wasted!

So instead, I urge you, start today. Or perhaps on a Thursday. What about the 17th? Or any odd, normal November or December day? It doesn’t matter! Maybe if you start trying to get some healthy habits in now, you’ll be better armed when that New Year’s resolution of exercising 3 times a week or more comes around. Life is mostly normal days, after all, so make use of them.

My emergency fund savings page. Notice how the circles are uneven and in no way aligned or even the same size.

As a rule, when I just start something, my expectations are much lower than if I have been planning it for weeks. Perhaps controversially, what I end up producing in the end is of better quality than if I spend hours upon hours pouring over how-tos and what-nots until I’m all tied up in an anxious knot. Just giving it a go gives me tons more practice and experience, and without the anxiety and doom of failure. Not least importantly, I have about 100 times more fun, at least.

Do you have something you’ve been wanting to start for so long? Just give it a whirl! You’ll be infinitely further along than if you never start. You can always fix it later or redo.

16 Comments on “Don’t wait until the 1st to start that thing

  1. Are you actually me?! I can totally relate to what you wrote about finding reasons to think I wouldn’t be very good at things as a child, so not bothering to try.
    It’s so true what you say about it being best to just get started and give something a go. Procrastination is the enemy!

    • I know! Excuses and fear abounds, but it doesn’t actually help us get anywhere. Better to try and fail or start out stumbling and eventually get somewhere! 🙂

  2. Yes! Just freaking start already! I almost didn’t start my “no” spend month since we had a vacation and anniversary dinner planned so I figured it maybe wasn’t worth doing until after those had passed. SO glad I got my butt in gear – I can’t believe how much we saved in a month that should have been an expensive one.

    • I know! I’ve lost so many opportunities (and wasted so much money), just because I felt it was not the right time. Congrats on saving more than you thought you could!

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  5. Hey Kristine! Nicely written counter point to the concept of new year resolutions. I agree that a lot of times it just gives us an excuse to procastinate. For a long time I told myself I would start the blog only after completing CFP. However I started little before Exam 4/5 and I am so glad I did.

    However, while I agree with you about not using New Year’s as an excuse to procastinate I believe it is a great marker of time. It is a timeline which helps us set our goals and pace it out well. You could very well start something earlier and get a taste of it and maybe smooth out teething issues. To set and achieve goals, personally I think years help us keep data together well.

    • Thanks EM!

      I agree that years are good markers of time. My issue with that is that I would try too much, too fast, inevitably fail and get demotivated. Maybe it’s a thing that gets better with maturity, but I found removing a lot of the pressure of starting on the first of the month or first of the year removed a lot of the self-afflicted pressure. Your mileage might vary, of course.

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