The First Step

For the past year or two, I’ve been contemplating my next move, debating the options in my head, and making a decision only to back step or fail to start it. Why was I looking for something? I was looking to supplement my income. The reasons nothing got started are simple and straightforward: priorities, time management, and motivation. Of course, not every idea was created equal. Some of these options that I dreamed up required much more time and effort develop and turn into realities than others. As an avid woodworker and generally handy guy the first ventures that I came up with were directly related to these skills of mine. I went from thinking of woodworking projects to knife making to cornering the aluminum can market.

It wasn’t that I don’t like doing all those things I mentioned above, because I do. It’s not because they couldn’t make money; most could garner a nice profit. The reasons I never really launched those ideas were because I had conflicts with my priorities, wasn’t making time for these projects largely because they weren’t priorities, and overall didn’t feel I needed to put the work in. The time management aspect also wasn’t helped any by my additional, self-imposed workload as well as primary profession. While all these ideas were swirling through my head I was going through train-up cycles with my unit, applying to business school, and trying to force myself to study for a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. So, I didn’t do anything I planned, brainstormed, or even started. (I actually made an store for the woodturnings and a website for the knives) If I was going to get motivated to do something extra, I need to change things up a bit.

PRIORITIES:¬†The first event that needs to take place if you’re having trouble completing any task, implanting any idea, or working towards any project is setting your priorities straight. I know that everyone has heard this before, but it’s very much true. While I mulled over all those ideas and more in my head, I didn’t need the extra cash Meanwhile at the rest of my life other events were happening that took over more of the limited brain power. I didn’t like it at all. As I was working through the night at the TOC (Tactical Operations Center) and starting work again at 7 after 3 hours of sleep, it’s safe to say that my priorities were still hidden in that uniform. Having your job as your primary priority isn’t a bad thing. It just limited me from being able to pursue anything extra.

One method of implementing new priorities that I think of comes out of my mental resiliency model. The first step is to set reasonable goals that can be accomplished. That may be all the changing of the priorities shake up you need. Or you may need to quit your job and go all out if your ambitions are leading you in that direction. You might say that I went all out to start this blog, but I didn’t. I just finally realized an achievable goal that I had previously considered not worth the effort. It just so happens that I’m also leaving the military service, which certainly has added some urgency to get started.

TIME¬†MANAGEMENT:This is a big one. It also comes with experience. As I mentioned above, I was more than filling my time up with the “important” tasks that I didn’t even have time to think any more about these additional tasks. Personally, I think that the time management can be developed through the same process as before by realigning goals and priorities. Great! But that doesn’t really help. Yep, that’s right. Time management is not nearly as large and overarching as priorities are. Instead, time management is much more tactical instead of strategic.

Earlier tonight I was talking to a fellow MBA student about time management during studying. Knowing and adhering to a set time management plan will pay dividends to you in the long run, whether during study or work. The long and short of time management is setting a plan and sticking to the plan. Multiple times in my career when going through a difficult course a professor would come and speak to us about study habits. All they were are time management skills: identify your goals, set time limits on each step of the process you’ve identified to meet your goals, stick to your timeline, and don’t forget to give yourself a break. Obviously, the first time that you make a time management plan, the times will be all wrong either too short or too long. However, just like anything else in life the more you work at it the better your estimates will become. If I had actually made myself some time management plans, I would have found time to complete some of the ideas that I had come up with before.

MOTIVATION:¬†Here we come to the tricky aspect of getting things done. Motivation is difficult to understand and even more difficult to find if you don’t have it. Without some motivation, there’s no way that you will finish or even begin either of the other two steps. I’m a little sparse on the advice I can give in this area. But I can offer this: tie whatever your goals are to something relevant and urgent. The surest way to lose motivation for a project is if it is irrelevant or not needed. When I was brainstorming all my ideas, there was no current relevance or necessity behind doing any of it so I simply didn’t do it. If I had needed to start those business ideas because I needed the money or had a boss telling me to start them the chances they would have got off the ground are much higher.

Another something that you can try for motivation is faking it until you make it. If you haven’t heard of this concept before or are skeptical don’t worry. There are plenty of studies out there showing the value of things like power posing and showing “false confidence” when public speaking and whatnot. The first time I encountered false motivation was when I was brand new in the military and was told that fake motivation is better than no motivation. Once you force yourself to start pretending like you care, are excited, have energy, or want to do something you’ll actually begin to change your outlook on it. Eventually, that false or fake motivation will turn into real motivation.

So why did I end up with this blog instead of making and selling high-end kitchen knives? The answer is that I had a change in my environment and shifted my priorities around. I’m still busy. Transitioning out of the military can be a full-time job on its own not to mention my full time military job, business school, and running a house while trying to sell it. Needing a supplemental income just became more important to me. Because this earning of a second income has become more important, I’ve forced myself to manage my time so that I can fit the writing of this into my day. And probably most importantly, I’ve found some motivation to use behind this endeavor. As I mentioned earlier, I need it to help my resume and eventually give me some cash back for my time and effort. I won’t lie to you though, the hardest part about this whole process is pulling the trigger on it. So, go ahead, kick things off by taking that first step.