The moment you sit down to write, your roommate starts making noise in the kitchen. A few minutes before your podcast interview with a guest that took you months to book, your neighbor’s lawnmower goes off. You finally did a good take for that YouTube video you're creating and then you realize your camera was dead.
The job you excelled at declared bankruptcy. The trip you spent months planning almost got canceled due to the pandemic. You feel clueless during your first month working at a marketing agency.
Life throws curveballs at you. You think you’re ready. You think you’ve seen it all until you get hit with the weirdest scenario that didn’t even cross your mind. But if you want to get things done, if you want to make progress toward your goals, you have to accept that the journey toward the completion of your tasks is always messy.
There’s no way around it. Trust me, I’ve tried. I’ve tried to be overprepared. I’ve tried to take courses, so I know what I’m doing. I’ve tried to research until I felt like I couldn't research anymore.
Even with all that work, I’ve realized that you never know all the variables. You start your journey with a makeshift map and think you’ll get from point A to point B without any major hiccups because . . . well . . . you prepared for them. It’s only when you get hit with something you’re not prepared for that you realize you have to adjust and optimize along the way.
So when your roommate starts making noise during your writing session, you grab earplugs. When your neighbor’s lawnmower goes off before an important interview, you rush outside and ask them to wait for fifteen minutes. When your camera dies during a good take, you go on Amazon and buy replacement batteries while you’re waiting for your current one to charge.
When the company you work for declares bankruptcy, you start job hunting that night. When the trip you spent months planning almost gets canceled, you take comfort in knowing you planned something else. When you don’t know what you’re doing at the marketing agency you work for, you study and bother your colleagues until you do. And as more challenges come up, you get better at solving them because you’re no longer expecting environments to be perfect—you’re focusing only on what you can control, your effort and progress, and that often means pivoting to keep things moving forward.
Being productive and effective is about knowing this timeless art of pivoting. It’s about understanding that your plans might (and probably will) change. It’s about being ready to come up with last-minute solutions. It’s about accepting that the journey is always messy.
Motivation is a myth.