March 14, 2008 6:23 AM   Subscribe

I have many great ideas but I am a terrible personal and professional implementer. How can I do better now?
posted by parmanparman to Human Relations (19 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Can you be a little more specific? It's hard to tell exactly what the problem is without a detailed description of what is going wrong.
posted by burnmp3s at 6:31 AM on March 14, 2008

Response by poster: I am really good at giving other people (and myself) great ideas for business and marketing. But, when it comes to using these ideas myself, I might take step one, acquisition of supplies, and step two, advice, but then I kind of stop doing what I intended. I don't know why, because most of these projects are not something that are monumental but things like building a website or learning CSS or just putting a podcast.
posted by parmanparman at 6:39 AM on March 14, 2008

Response by poster: ...or just putting a podcast together.
posted by parmanparman at 6:39 AM on March 14, 2008

Create a schedule for yourself and stick to it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:45 AM on March 14, 2008

Response by poster: Create a schedule for yourself and stick to it.

No, I do that. Half of my job is scheduling. It's not scheduling that's the issue. It's personal completion of large tasks for growth. Like, I've got a blog and I blog everyday, but I want to learn Textpattern but can't seem to start on that path even though I know it will help me to learn it.
posted by parmanparman at 6:57 AM on March 14, 2008

But it kind of is scheduling that's the issue -- I mean, it's just a matter of breaking the task down to X number of hours a day, and actually putting in that many hours a day. If you look at it all as one huge mountain to climb, then no, you'll never do it. I know this sounds simplistic, but there really isn't any other way.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:03 AM on March 14, 2008

Maybe make giving the ideas into your goal, ala someone like Seth Godin?
posted by drezdn at 7:10 AM on March 14, 2008

Part of the problem might be that you have too many ideas that you start on. You might want to limit yourself to one project at a time. For example, you could set a rule for yourself that you can't start working on any new websites until you build one particular website that you want to build. Doing that sort of thing can help you get to 50% done on one project rather than 5% done on 10 projects.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:10 AM on March 14, 2008

I feel like the question depends on age/stage of development a little bit. I would guess that for people in their early-to-mid 20s, getting on top of the minutiae of executing their own projects might be yet another acquirable skill among the many other skills they are acquiring. But if you're 30-ish or later, you might just be beating your head against the wall trying to go against type (I know this notion is a little at odds with the GTD 'anyone can eventually pick up organization/execution skills' thing so feel free to disregard me if you have faith in that model). From what I can tell, a lot of big idea people have done great things when they've been able to pair up with execution people, and vice versa. Maybe instead of not having found the right approach for overcoming your nature, you haven't found the right collaborator?
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 7:26 AM on March 14, 2008

For example, you could set a rule for yourself that you can't start working on any new websites until you build one particular website that you want to build.

Yes. If you keep some kind of current-projects/to-do list, remove from it everything that it's not currently absolutely essential that you complete, and keep a second list of what you've removed. Then move ONE of your inspiring new projects back onto the main list. The rule is, that project only comes off the list, to be replaced by another from the holding queue, when it's finished, or if there is a really strongly compelling reason to put it back into holding. The point is not that you never admit defeat on a project, but that you do so consciously, rather than just letting things slide when other whims take over.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:04 AM on March 14, 2008

Find a project manager.

I just started working with a friend who was a project manager at an agency we both worked at. She and I check in by phone three times a week to review my business and personal tasks on a shared Google spreadsheet. It has pages for my long-term goals, and for goals and tasks for this week and this month.

It's early days yet, but I think this is really going to help with my chronic get-it-done problems.
posted by ottereroticist at 8:10 AM on March 14, 2008

Getting Things Done
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:59 AM on March 14, 2008

Best answer: I know you personally, so I feel justified in saying this. If you really want to know what your problem is, it's not talent or ability or professionalism or work ethic. It's that you don't slow down and listen to people. When we spent time together, every topic was a means to and end to discuss your work. You are incredibly self-absorbed, to the point that others must explicitly object and redirect the conversation so that they are allowed to be heard, to share, to discuss things concerning themselves. It's exhausting, and it is the exact reason why I did not make more effort to spend time with you while you were in California. At a certain point, there was nothing in it for me, yet you still made requests for me to help you with your work, after I specifically explained this to you.

Look at your posting history. Compare it to the type of questions others ask. Just about every single question is focused on YOU ("you" not as opposed to others, but "you" as opposed to asking questions about songs, things, cats, curiosities, things in the world, etc.). Even comments you make in other people's threads almost always refer back to problems you have or accomplishments you've made (ex. "I am a radio producer, and...")

You asked a similar question a while back, and Jessamyn NAILED it. Granted, her advice was focused around balancing relationships and work, but pretend that the "relationship" she's referring to is one with your coworker, employer, whomever you pitch an idea to. Because this is where your problem lies; I will bet big money on it. Please reread the answers people have given you previously and follow them. Put yourself aside and listen.

I'm sorry to be so harsh. I have just seen this general question come up again and again from you and I feel like you need to hear an answer straight up. I do think you are an inventive, smart, funny, and wonderful person, but...the rest of what I wrote explains why these great qualities are trumped by other, less desirable ones. :(
posted by iamkimiam at 9:55 AM on March 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: most of these projects are not something that are monumental but things like building a website or learning CSS or just putting a podcast

My guess is that you may be underestimating and undervaluing these challenges (learning CSS is a big deal, IMO). If you can learn to approach them with a bit more humility you might find that you experience less cognitive dissonance when you run into problems.
posted by tomcooke at 10:48 AM on March 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Kim:

When I read your post the first time, I immediately went to the link, and read Jessamyn's response to my earlier question and was sort of blown away I didn't notice it the first time; I checked answers in that thread to answer an immediate concern rather than what is in reality a long-term issue with incredible implications. Then, I came back here and read your post and a chill went up my spine when I realized it was from you. I realized I hadn't changed a bit. I still put myself and my work first, even when I am really committed to something I feel is important. I'll help people, but I need to see the reward. I am consumed by the gimme-gimme I often claim to be against.

I'm sitting at my desk now at my lunch hour writing this and just spent the last five minutes considering whether to delete it as "I'll tarnish my armor." But, God, Kim, it's really time I gave up this charade and got on with a life I want rather than a life I tread through, stop, go back, and start up again.

You are right when you say you were tired in the end. I would be too, it's difficult being around me. I can be intense but usually I am just boring. I have great tales, but they get wound up in miscellany. I am charming but I fall on my sword. And, I am a hypocrite, I can't stand people talking about work. Having spent the better part of a decade undervaluing people I don't think I have gained any personal value to others. But now I'm just talking in platitudes, which doesn't help anyone.

What's really difficult is finding a way out of this ditch. I don't want to wait seven days to ask, "how do I become less narcissistic?"

I joined Metafilter because I was starving for ideas at the BBC and was tired of spending hours before work huddled in my cold slum of a house in Birmingham reading several newspapers for story ideas I knew others in my producing group would have before I even got on the bus for Downtown. Inevitably, I joined the conversation - commenting - and started enjoying that process of circling back to see who made my posts a favorite. I rarely go through my own favorites to see what I can find is useful. Instead I go through a pattern of immediate gratification rather than long-term opportunity. I think of all the chances I have started up, put on hold, and thrown away, regretfully in some cases.

I don't need to look carefully to see, as you do, the great personality I put into most of my posts. Moments when I am clearly talking about myself to no one's benefit. It's not rare, unfortunately.

For example, now, I have landed in the incredible opportunity to finish my masters or do a masters of my own choosing at a very good school in the northeast. Yet, I can't bring myself my take the GMAT to do the Strategic Marketing and Planning MBA I want so badly. I hold myself back, generally because of a completely psychological and often temporary feeling of personal inadequacy toward growth. I keep going in lean and difficult situations because I don't see my personal improvement helping brighten the situation. Yes, I've done some good by staying sometimes, but there are situations I should have fled a lot sooner and would have been better off for it (my job in CA springs to mind.)

Thank you for your note. This will help a lot.

posted by parmanparman at 12:56 PM on March 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would just like to point out that you could be a bad implementer and narcissistic, so you don't need to cancel your first question. Speaking as a total stranger, there are a few threads running through all this:
- defining yourself by your work
- being super excited about the next project
- flaking on projects and flaking on people
So the question for you is, what's all this about? (Are you afraid of something? Afraid of failing? Proving something? Covering over insecurity? Simply flaky? Have you taken an ADD online screening?)

But more important than all of that introspection, just buckle down and change it. You can figure out the underlying issues as you go along, but in the meantime, develop the discipline to stick with a project. Constantly starting new projects and then not following through is like living from sugar-high to sugar-high while your teeth rot. (I'm speaking as someone who has struggled with this herself.)

I'd redefine yourself not around your work but around being a person of integrity who keeps his commitments to himself and others and who develops balanced and mutually beneficial relationships. If you read any business literature, you'll see a lot about integrity and authenticity. Yes, this whole paragraph sounds like corporate buzzwords, but it's really important to actually be what you say you are (or even undersell your skills), and actually do what you say you're going to do. Try to learn your business skills from people who have been working in the same industry for 10 or 20 years. Anyone can get that first contract.
posted by salvia at 7:21 PM on March 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Do all the life-management stuff first. Gym, work, dishes, laundry, etc. Figure that out using whatever method suits you. I need checklists. Once you have done all the "have to" tasks for the day, now you have time to do all the longer term things. DO NOT get distracted by the other stuff.

If the problem after doing that is "what now", I can't help you. Spend some quiet time figuring out who you want to be and what it will take to be that person. Break it down into "but firsts" until you get to the beginning.


I want to be a teacher. So I need a teaching cert. But first, I need to finish my degree. But first, I need to figure out where. And then I need to get into that school. But first I need to apply to the school. But first I need to clean up my debt so I can pay for it. Or I need to apply for loans/grants. But first I need to do a budget for myself. That's what you do tonight.

If you keep working the problem backwards, you'll know what you can do right now to further your goal.
posted by gjc at 9:27 PM on March 14, 2008

As a brief and timewasting aside I have to say the exchange between Kim and John had me gripped for a few minutes! It's the one thing about Ask MeFi that is it's greatest strength and it's weakness (in my opinion); subjectivity vs. objectivity.

A delightful exchange, I hope in the long term John conquers his shortcomings; good to see the criticism was well dealt with, and bravo to Kim's strength of character. :)
posted by rc55 at 5:14 PM on March 17, 2008

A little late to the party, and this may be a bit of an digression, but: parmanparman (John), I would suggest counseling. I say this with the caveat that it may not be for you, but because it has worked so well for me I feel like it's worth bringing up. I feel like, about four years ago, I realized that I needed a change in my life--desperately--and didn't know how to go about actualizing that change (forgive the pop culture psych-speak, I'm being sincere). At first I was focused on my relationship and blaming my partner for the problems with our relationship. After some real work with a good therapist (and it took a few tries to find the right one for me and for us) I realized that there was a whole lot of other stuff going on and that I could either choose to sincerely work through some of it and investigate my motivations and change my life, or sit on my thumb for the next span of time (i.e. the rest of my life). I guess perhaps because I desired real change and luckily had good people in my life willing to put up with me and give me honest feedback (like iamkimiam with you, apparently), including my excellent therapist and my long-term partner, I made progress. Of course there is still work to do, but I'm much happier now than I was then, and I feel like I can get things done in a very positive way now, in general.

I suppose it requires a certain personality to thrive in counseling, and I guess probably some counseling styles or theoretical approaches are going to work better for some people vs. others. My therapist is trained in the psychoanalytic tradition, which works well for me I guess because I find the notion that I had repressed issues that needed to be brought to light to be compelling. I'm not going to claim that it is the only way to understand one's behavior and modify it, but it worked for me. In any case it might be helpful to have someone to talk at for an hour or so a week (or whatever, that's what I did for a while) just to get things out and hear an objective response.

Good luck with this! You can figure it out if you are honest with yourself and, perhaps more importantly, if you are willing to work at it and not complacently beat up on yourself. Don't bother with that crap; it's just as selfish and pointless. Make a decision and do something--it really is that simple in the end, I believe.
posted by dubitable at 11:24 AM on March 18, 2008

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