To be honest, not much. I don’t know if you’re the same way, but whenever I would hear of someone doing a year-long project, or about a friend wanting to start one, I would get anxiety. That’s a huge commitment!
You’re saying “In three, six, nine, and twelve months I’m still going to want to be doing the same things.” Maybe be because I was younger — I have no idea if that matters — the thought of committing myself to something everyday for the next 365 days was frightening! Turns out, it’s not that big of a deal.
Getting married in the interim probably helped that whole fear-of-commitment thing, but I think the biggest help was realizing that it’s actually rather easy to get started. It’s possible you’re in a situation where you need to think hard and thoroughly work through what you should be doing and why. But getting started is as easy as telling yourself (and a spouse or friend) “I want to do more of this thing.” That’s it.
4 1/2 years ago, a good friend of mine more or less woke up one day and said “I want to be better at photography.” So he started posting a photo of the day, and inevitably got better as the year went on. 4 years and 4 year-long projects later, he said to himself, “I want to get better at making videos,” so he started doing a daily vlog.
When I did my first year-long project, I was reading a book and thought, “I like this. I should do more of this. You know what would be cool? Being able to say I read over 50 books in a year.” And so I started. That’s the super simple key: starting. In every case I come across, you can get started doing a year-long project with nothing more than $20 (if that) and a little bit of your time.
Want to do a reading project? You probably have books lying around your house. If not, you can get 3 for $20 off Amazon. Want to do a photography project? Your iPhone has a great camera. Get a wide angle lens if you want. Painting? Woodwork? How much do you need for supplies? Writing? If you’ve got a pen and paper or a computer, you’re set.
If this seems like an oversimplification of a big deal, it’s not. You can do this, but a year-long project doesn’t necessitate a long planning process before you jump in. It’s actually quite impulsive. If you want to do something, do it. Worry about tomorrow after you’ve done it the first time. You’ve said you want to do this thing more, you’ve done it for one day, and now you need to make sure you can do it everyday for the next year, right? Not quite.
After you’ve done day one, focus on the next week. Just the next week. Look at what you’ve got going on, and ask yourself where you could fit in time for this project. Not necessarily when would you want to, but when could you. Is it before work? During lunch? Right after work? Once the kids finally go to sleep? When can you squeeze in 30 minutes or an hour? I know you’ve got time for it. You know deep down you’ve got time for it. So do it then.
After you’ve made it through your first week (congratulations!), do the exact same thing next week. Look at the week ahead, see when you’ve got time, and work on your project then. Now that you’ve gone this far, here’s what happens. This thing you’re doing everyday begins to become a habit. Like brushing your teeth before going to bed, you’ll start to feel bothered if you don’t work on your year-long project.
At this point it becomes another thing you do. And moving forward you’ll constantly be learning and getting better. The secret to doing a year-long project is that it’s not that big of a deal. The biggest part about it is getting started. And getting started is as easy as saying “I want to do that.”
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