Illustration: Oscar Ramos Orozco

Breaking Out Of A Destructive Do-It-Yourself Mentality

When you see yourself as a creative, intuitive, independent person, your default response to challenging scenarios is often to push yourself harder to get everything done on your own. Sometimes this works.

Most of the time, it backfires. The “I-can-do-it-myself” approach typically leads to an enormous amount of unnecessary pressure, stress, and procrastination that could have been avoided by building in the right support structure early on.

So how can we address the problem before you end up in a blind panic after realizing that you can’t do everything on your own? Below, I outline some common scenarios in which we tend to overreach and exhibit destructive “Do-It-Myself” behavior, and propose ideas for how you can take a healthier “Support Structure” approach instead.

Scenario 1: The Soul-Crushing Side Project

You have responsibility for a major project, event, or trip that involves loads of communicating details, sending reminders, following up, picking up supplies, shipping items, visiting spaces, or making travel arrangements.

Do-It-Myself Approach: Particularly if this project, event, or trip falls outside of your normal scope of work, trying to manage everything on your own can lead to you pulling long hours, getting cranky, racing across town, and losing focus on your other important projects.

Support Structure Approach: Make a list of everything that needs to be done and then mark what someone other than yourself can do. This usually means any type of task that you can explain quickly or describe once and someone can repeat many times. Then you can hire someone on a project basis, such as a virtual assistant, by getting a referral or searching online channels like odesk.com, elance.com, and craigslist.org. Or you can bring on an intern who can get class credit for the experience.

Make a list of everything that needs to be done and then mark what someone other than yourself can do.

Scenario 2: The Big, Meaningful Project You’re Avoiding

You are really struggling with motivation on an important, long-term project. Although you know you should spend more consistent time on moving it forward (and only you can actually complete the work), you find yourself doing everything but writing your thesis, finishing your painting series, wrapping up your portfolio, or whatever major creative endeavor you want to move forward.

Do-It-Myself Approach: Punish yourself for lack of motivation by holing yourself away in your office or studio and not allowing yourself to “waste” time interacting with others until you finish your major projects. Don’t allow yourself to work on anything else until you make progress on your main project, which can then lead to not doing much of value at all if you procrastinate on your super-scary, super-big goal.

Support Structure Approach: You can begin by reconnecting with the peers you already know in the field, and then branch out to organized groups that you can interact with on a regular basis to keep you motivated, accountable, encouraged, and getting outside feedback and support. You can also search for individuals and groups through sites like Behance, Twitter, or Meetup.com.

Begin by reconnecting with the peers you already know in the field, and then branch out to organized groups.

Scenario 3: The Utterly New, Anxiety-Inducing Project

You are facing the great unknown as you begin something you have never done before like opening a store or managing a team. Although you have a desire to serve and a general knowledge of the field, you have no specific experience on how to approach these new activities.

Do-It-Myself Approach: Pretend you know what you are doing, skim through a few books and blogs on the subject, close your eyes, jump in, and hope for the best. When you feel confused or don’t get the results you seek, you try to avoid letting anyone know what’s going on and just put in more hours.

Support Structure Approach: Find a mentor, coach, or trainer who has done what you would like to do. Ask them to explain the steps they followed, challenges they faced, and lessons they learned. When you get lost or confused, come back to them for advice, support, and direction. Typically these situation-bound relationships inspire you to complete a specific project, make it through a transition, or master a certain skill.

As the African proverb goes: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The proper support at all levels is an essential component of unleashing your creative genius.

Over To You…

Do you have a strong support network?

If so, how have you built and maintained it?

Elizabeth Grace Saunders

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Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the founder of Real Life E Time Coaching & Training and author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success With Less Stress. Find out how you can accomplish more with peace and confidence at www.ScheduleMakeover.com.
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