What I'm curious about right now
5 ways to quit procrastinating on that thing you keep saying you want to do

5 ways to quit procrastinating on that thing you keep saying you want to do

(Right after you read this one article, that is.)

For those times when you know what you want to do, and you just can’t seem to get off your ass (or onto it) to get The Thing done: a compendium of techniques that actually work.

Note: I’m assuming that you have time and the capacity to actually do this thing, and are simply struggling with follow-through, for whatever reason. If your thing is not getting done because you have no time or space in your life for it, that’s a different issue entirely.

1. Remember WHY you want to do it.

Write that down, or speak it aloud. What will it do for you (or for others)? What goal will you be closer to when it’s done? What practice will you be cultivating? How will you feel in your body when it’s underway, nearly done, finished? Remember all this and feel your commitment renew itself.

2. Set a realistic deadline and tell someone about it.

Stop feeling stupid that you need an accountability buddy; according to my entirely unscientific research, approximately 99% of people do better when we feel like we made a promise to someone. We don’t like letting each other down. Go post your deadline on Facebook, or text a friend, and then celebrate with them when it’s done.

3. Design carrots and/or sticks.

I’ve come to believe that some people are Carrot People: they are motivated by rewards. And the rest of us are Stick People: we’re more motivated by fear of punishment. Whatever your driver, sit yourself down and make yourself a promise. When you finish The Thing, you will reward yourself with… fill in the blank: an afternoon spent on your favourite activity, a date with your favourite person, a delicious treat of your choice, et cetera.

Or, for the Stick People among us (hiiiiiiiii!), if you don’t finish by your self-assigned deadline, you will do An Onerous Thing. Some examples of Onerous Things that have worked for me and folks I know:

  • Making a painfully large donation to a cause you do NOT support.
  • Sacrificing or postponing something you’ve been looking forward to: e.g. a vacation, the new season of your favourite show, etc.
  • Giving up a favourite activity for a set period of time (e.g. “If I don’t get this done on time, I’ll go a month without chocolate” sounds painful enough that it would motivate me).

4. Play a theme song.

Find yourself some motivating music to get you pumped — or background music to help you focus.

5. Floss one tooth.

My friend Sarah Bray has an excellent method for unsticking yourself, if you’re someone with multiple projects on the go, which is to spend just 15 minutes a day on each of your projects. You’re allowed to go over 15 minutes, if you like, but the idea is to make the commitment small enough that you feel silly blowing it off. I think of this as the creative person’s version of Leo Babauta’s habit-building method (hence, flossing one tooth).

5 ways to quit procrastinating recap - Lauren Bacon

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

To recap:

  1. Articulate your why.
  2. Be accountable to someone.
  3. Promise yourself a carrot — or a stick, whichever works better for you.
  4. Music helps.
  5. Try just 15 minutes.

And then, let me know how it goes.

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

Essential Resources for Diversifying Your Team

I’ve been putting together an instalment of my Web Career Clinic wherein I discuss – in very broad brushstrokes – how to make your tech team more diverse and inclusive, and in it I share a few of my go-to resources on the subject. This is a huge topic, but if you have limited time and want a short reading list to get you started, here are the first four places I suggest you go:

10 Actionable Ways To Actually Increase Diversity In Tech

This round-up of practical recommendations comes from a researcher at the National Center for Women & Information Technology.

How Etsy Truly Prioritizes Diversity: An Inside Look Into Company Culture

Insightful article on a company that has made significant progress on improving both diversity and inclusion, particularly on its engineering team. I always feel it’s helpful to read about concrete steps taken by real-life organizations.

Project Include

Aimed especially at CEOs and managers of early to mid-stage tech startups, but many of the recommendations apply to other kinds of teams. Warning: this is an extensive project, with a ton of excellent insights, but can be overwhelming if you don’t pace yourself. 

Iris Bohnet: What Works: Gender Equality By Design

This book by a Harvard behavioral psychologist (Harvard UP | Amazon | Powells) is specific to gender diversity, but is a fantastic guide to concrete examples of organizations and projects that have successfully improved diversity and equality. Of note: according to research by Bohnet and her colleagues, while diversity training is not very effective, concrete process changes like blind application processes can make a huge difference to who gets hired and promoted. Also recommended: this video of Bohnet from Google’s speaker series.

7 Questions to Ask Before Committing to a Business Collaboration or Partnership

7 Questions to Ask Before Committing to a Business Collaboration or Partnership

A lot of people will tell you that business partnerships are like marriages. They’re right, in many regards: they’re a long-term commitment; the best ones are built on a foundation of deep trust, openness and respect; and you end up spending an immense amount of time together, so if you don’t like each other an awful lot, they tend not to end well.

At worst, they go down in flames. And the fallout from a bad business breakup can be miserable: unmet expectations, resentment, one person running off with all the money… basically, all the worst aspects of those group projects you had to do in school, except with cash and public reputations at stake. (I could tell you some horror stories, but that’s not the point of this post.) At best, though, you gain an expanded skill set; creative give-and-take; an expanded network; and perhaps the most under-appreciated upside, camaraderie as you build, succeed, fail, and bounce back together.

So how do you maximize the upsides and minimize the risks of the whole thing falling apart? As someone whose career has featured more than a couple of partnerships and collaborations, I’ve learned there are a few key questions to answer if you want to enter into a business arrangement with clarity and confidence, beginning with one you must answer for yourself:

1. How much psychological safety exists here?

Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson MIT Sloan School of Management professor Edgar Schein coined the term “psychological safety” to denote a quality that Google and other companies have discovered is foundational to team success: it’s a “shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking,” and “a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up.”

When you’re considering making a serious commitment to a business colleague, this is the first and most essential question to consider. If your answer isn’t an enthusiastic one, you may just need more time to build trust, or it could be a serious red flag.

If you think it might be a red flag, do not pass Go, and do not invest $200 (or $200k). And if you need to build more trust, consider making a short-term, temporary commitment instead: sign on for a joint project that will allow you to test the waters.

On the other hand, if you’re confident that you and your prospective collaborator score high marks for psychological safety, then it’s time to sit down together and explore some deeper questions.

7 questions to ask before committing to a business partnership or collaboration

There are two layers to the discussion: figuring out the logistics of working together, and gauging how much ease and flow exists between you.

A note on process: You might not want to tackle all of these in a single session, but I definitely recommend discussing all of them. Set aside a generous chunk of time, pair with food and/or a beverage of your choice – personally, I think nothing beats doing this over a glass of good red wine or a cocktail, but that’s just my taste – and take turns asking and answering.

Remember: if you encounter any surprises that give you a sinking feeling, that doesn’t mean you can’t collaborate on something short-term and well-defined. And it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t remain friends. It just means that you’ve identified important concerns that need to be addressed before making a bigger commitment. This is a good thing! It’s like the “Do you want kids?” conversation; if you have different answers to that question, then you either have some intense negotiations ahead, or you know to save yourselves further heartbreak by stringing each other along.

OK, on with the questions.

2. What is our shared purpose?

Have you taken the time to articulate your common vision, and make sure you’re both on the same page? If not, now’s the time.

I can’t tell you how many business partnerships I’ve seen go south because the partners had different ideas about where they wanted to go, but just assumed they were on the same page. And I don’t mean shared goal, as in the concrete thing you’re building; I mean, what do you want the impact of that achievement to be? Where do you want it to take you?

3. What skills and resources do each of us bring to the table?

If you were an heiress and you were getting married to someone of modest means, someone in your circles would advise you to sign a pre-nup. And in business partnerships, the same principle is true when it comes to financial investments. But when you’re dealing with intangibles – the size of your mailing list, say, or the fact that one of you has ten years’ experience to apply to building and coding the app you’ve dreamed up together while the other is just starting to teach himself to code – it can be harder to quantify.

Nevertheless, if you want to avoid resentment and difficult conversations down the road, it makes sense to make an inventory of the resources you’re each bringing into the collaboration, and having a frank discussion of the implications for how you’ll be proceeding. You might decide to adjust the distribution of profits or shares to reflect the difference in investment. (For more on that, see Question 7.)

4. What roles and responsibilities does each of us want to take on?

This is often one of the first conversations that takes place between prospective collaborators – “I could do this, and you could do that, and together we’ll take over the world!” – but it’s worth spending some time itemizing all of the work that needs to get done in order to reach your initial goals, and who’s going to do what (and what, if anything, you want to outsource).

This is your chance to be 100% clear about what you’re most excited about doing, what you’re willing to do short-term or in a pinch, and what stuff is totally out of your wheelhouse. It should be a clarifying, trust-building, and energizing conversation.

5. What does success look like for each of us?

What kind of financial return do you need in order to call this a success (or at least, not a complete failure)? What returns would constitute exciting levels of success? What are some other measures of success – such as gaining experience & expertise, exposure, etc.?

And if this thing takes off, what’s your dream scenario? Is it short-term or long-term? What would growth look like? What else do you picture in your mind’s eye when you think about a successful outcome?

6. How much time and energy can each of us commit to this project?

An overly-optimistic answer to this question has sunk many otherwise promising partnerships. Think back to those group projects in school: remember how much last-minute scrambling you had to do when other people mismanaged their time? The worst.

Nobody wants to be the one pulling all-nighters to make up for someone who over-promised and under-delivered. And nobody really enjoys being the disappointer, either.

So be realistic – cautious, even. What can you truly commit to? Give that. And listen for potential mismatches between the needs of the project and your capacity to work on it.

And finally:

7. What does a fair and equitable distribution of shares (or share of revenues, if you’re not going to incorporate) look like?

For this, you’ll want to think hard about the relationship between each person’s skills, time commitment, the resources they bring, and what they’re expecting to get out of it. (Notice how I’ve been cueing you up for this with the preceding questions? Soooo sneaky.)

This can be a minefield of a question, so I suggest tackling it this way: first, start by considering what you think is a non-negotiable percentage for the other party. What’s the minimum you would consider fair, given what they’re contributing to the partnership? Next, what’s the most you can imagine offering them, without feeling like you’re giving too much away? Now you’ve got a range in mind.

Then do the same for yourself: what’s the low end of your comfort zone, and what’s the high end?

Once you’ve both taken this approach, write down your numbers and show each other what you wrote. Odds are, if you’re simpatico, your ranges will be pretty similar, and you can negotiate within a pretty narrow window, which should minimize your discomfort. And if it turns out you’ve written down very different numbers, then that’s fodder for a bigger conversation about assumptions: go back through the preceding questions and make sure you’re 100% clear on what each partner intends to contribute.

While this conversation may seem tricky, my bottom line is that the people I do business with must have clear boundaries, and be able to speak directly about what they want out of the relationship, while respecting my needs as well. That doesn’t preclude having an emotional and intuitive layer to the relationship, but it does mean taking the time to communicate clearly and to be clear about what’s entailed in making a business partnership work.

And there are two layers to the discussion: the surface layer, where you’re answering questions and getting clarity on what each of you is contributing and expects to take away; and the emotional/energetic layer, where you’ll be sussing out how easy it is to talk about these kinds of things, and whether the discussion is respectful, positive and generative. You want both things in any business partnership: clarity on the logistics of working together, and ease and flow in the relationship between you.

Hi. I'm Lauren.

I'm a seasoned tech entrepreneur and author who asks a lot of questions. I offer strategy and coaching for creatives, entrepreneurs, and accidental bosses who want to infuse more joy, curiosity, and ease into their lives and work – and create growth that has meaning and purpose. More about me…

Special Delivery

If you like what you see here, get on my email list to get new articles delivered right to your inbox.