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The Complete Flake’s Guide to Getting Things Done

Are you smart and motivated and passionate ... with all kinds of cool things you’d like to get done running through your mind?

But somehow when it actually comes down to doing them, you just . . . don’t.

Maybe you’re great at ideas but lousy at execution. Maybe you talk a good game but don’t get the results you want. Maybe you spend a lot of time thinking about where you want to go, but not much time actually moving your ass down the road that would take you there.

If that sounds like you, then good news. +Sonia Simone's post tomorrow is for you.

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+Sonia Simone my problem is that while doing my simple "next step" I discover that there are really 2 other steps that need to happen.

Last night I was setting up a new site. But finishing my 20 minute Premise installation meant I had to create a new list in Mailchimp. And the new list needed a completely new email address. And the email address needed to be configured on my server and connected to Google Apps. 

Uh oh.

20 minutes turned into 3AM! I went to bed without finishing my set up. And I'm afraid to go back to it! #flaky

What's the flake's way of dealing with unknown unknowns that arise in the middle of a next step?
+Hashim Warren I think that's just the nature of that kind of task. Lots of small interconnected dependencies. Fortunately not everything we do is like that. 

I recommend more cookies, and a timer to work on it in 20-40 min. chunks depending on what you have time/energy for. Breaks will help! 
Great article +Sonia Simone, it felt like you were speaking directly to me. Like +Hashim Warren said, I take on tasks, then start feeling overwhelmed, then let things pile up. I've always been a "last minute doer" and it gets exhausting. 
I loved the 'Do what you feel like' idea. Over the years I've come to recognize that it is self preservation mechanism that prevents me from doing the wrong things.

For example, In a new project I am working on, my partner wanted to start building the website as soon as possible to 'shorten the time to market'. He even lined up a designer (a very good one). But my mind rejected the idea so I told him I'll feel more comfortable building the website once we completed the customers interviews we were conducting at the time.

As it turned out, the feedback we got from the customers completely changed the copy we're going to use and the mood and tone of the website. So my flakiness saved us many thousands of dollars and a LOT of work.

What I do when I either get or think of a task my mind 'resists' is to add it to my todo list and prioritize it for later. That way my mind relaxes (It doesn't have to juggle that task anymore) and I can focus on the 'immediate next step'.
Wow - thank you!!! This really helped with the overwhelm that I get into sometimes - and the spiral a good friend of mine constantly gets caught up in. Getting clear on the WHAT DO I WANT is super powerful. Thanks again!
+Yoav Ezer sounds like your decision to get customer insight was strategic, not flakey.
I've been flaking on creating my auto responder sequence.  Boo.  But I finally got going on it and am making some good progress - partly because I broke it out in chunks.  "Do just one draft today, and its ok if the draft is crappy."  WIth that change, I'm halfway through it - and I get the added joy of being able to check these smaller more manageable tasks off my to do list :)  Completed to do lists make me feel less flaky
Gary B
I laughed my way through this inspired posting. So clever, and so accurate!
My problem is I take literally months, maybe years to make a decision on what I want to do. I don't want to pump out all these tactics on a half hearted strategy. So I end up stuck in idle (with my own marketing). As I keep picking up new clients it seems like I will never have time to pick a place to go.

help me obi wan +Sonia Simone, your my only hope.
This was the most well-written description of my life...bravo!  You really made me smile...multiple times!  Love it!  Very helpful to me...will pass this along to fellow flakes.
I found out that this is what Kathy Kolbe calls quick start--all those great ideas that one never gets around to because we might have a weak follow-through. You might be interested in her site at that for a fee will help you see more about this behavior or any kind of behavior pattern and why everyone including flakes needs to do what they feel like doing. Thanks for the entertaining article. PS I am not an affiliate, just a person who has benefited from the test.
nice article...I read The Path of Least Resistance...nice still doesn't do the Steven Pressfield's "The War of Art" will answer all your questions and took me 66 years to find the answers...Pressfield answers them all...
So wonderful to know I'm not alone. Fabulous article!
I found myself nodding along through this entire piece. Which is scary. I guess it's time to just embrace it... thanks +Sonia Simone for showing that being a flake doesn't have to be bad :)
Flake reporting for duty. I absolutely loved that post.

I tried organizing things with Evernote but found it too messy. Then I discovered Trello, and while I still struggle with productivity, writing little tasks there and then dragging them from the "to do" pile to the "done" pile makes me extremely happy and encourage me to do more and more every day.
Wow. I feel seen! And to learn that I have superpowers! All this time, I thought they were character flaws. Getting permission to end the self-beat-up, priceless. Thanks.
It's my secret mission to build an army of My People. :D And by "army" I mean "group of highly diverse and non-manageable people engaged in various pursuits and occasionally getting things done."
Holy heck, I'm not lazy, I AM A FLAKE!

Thanks for nailing it and providing advice that actually resonates. 
Regarding time management, the pomodoro technique is pretty good for helping focus. Basically break your work into chunks and focus on one thing for a short (15-25 minute) period, then take a 5 minute break, and every 4th break take 15-30 minutes. The key is that for that 25 minutes you shut out everything else and focus on only that task.
+Darren DeMatas That can be a couple of things. You're probably trying to make too big a jump at once. We're fans of the "Minimum Viable Product" approach. What's the absolute smallest thing you can launch that would solve a customer problem? Launch that. See how it does. It has to be small enough that if it's a total flop and no one picks it up, you can see that as interesting data and not reason to jump off a bridge.

My guess is that your Flake Brain is keeping you from launching something huge because on some level, you either don't want to do it or you're worried it won't work. The answer to both is usually paring down to something smaller. 
Thanks Sonia. For example, I have written two unpublished ebooks. Both about integrated marketing. One for small local businesses and the other for ecommerce. If I launch both and build an audience of both, it will be hard to manage.
+Thomas Hayes Heretical, but I'm not a big fan of WOA. Different stuff works for different folks. :) 
+Ann Mullen One of these days I'll take the Kolbe test, I do know a lot of business owners who find her work super valuable. 
I love this so much I saved it to my Evernote compost pile. Also, I love Wunderlist for keeping track of goals for my fellow flakes out there. #flakepride  
No fan of #WOA, +Sonia Simone? Then let me also take this opportunity to say that Geth Sodin's books have become more and more condescending. "The Dip" was full of empathy, like your post. But since then Geth Sodin has become the nanny of marketing, wagging his finger at us cowards and #flakes.
+Hashim Warren Some people for me are like M. Night Shyamalan. If you made Sixth Sense, I'll forgive you Lady in the Water. 
First, I'm letting my flake flag fly. Thanks!

Second, major props for this line: "All you have to do is figure out what’s next. This comes from good old David Allen’s Getting Things Done, which is a terrific system if you’re mentally ill enough to do all the ritual." Still laughing.

I thought WOA described the problem well, but it didn't really help me DO anything about the problem.  I definitely want to check out Path of Least Resistance. 
I really need to finish reading this article but I am too much of a flake!!
Thank you. Your post inspired me to spend an hour on dog training. A task that day after day after day I flake out on. I think it was a combination of the words and the well chosen image. You spoke to my inner orangutan...whatever that means. 
+Erin Howard the idea behind War of Art and it seems like a whole branch of self help is that if you can clearly identify the problem, and even give it a name you are 95% closer to overcoming it with your own solution
Back in the Authority Q & A this past January, +Sonia Simone and +Chris Garrett talked about my "Ikea problem" and said that they needed to do a blog post on the subject. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED Oh, flakes are NOT lazy. No one works harder or puts in more hours than I do. But...something doesn't quite connect. It's as if all of the wheels, gears, and cogs are spinning but there isn't any friction. The rubber never meets the road. Mostly because I'm trying to search out the lay of the land before I "really begin." MVP. MVP. MVP. Has a nice mantra sounds about it. Now let me consult my subconscious mind for a few quality hours. :) Thank you for this, Sonia. 
Quite probably the Carlsberg of all +Copyblogger  posts and I nearly spilled my coffee nodding away in agreement and needed ear muffs for all the bells ringing in familiarity. 

I think for us #FlakeitTilYouMakeIt  people, the sense of achievement (once we do get our arses in gear and complete the dreaded task) is far greater because we had to overcome an inner battle to get here.
I am going to read the books you mentioned too I reck!

Keep motivated and inspired.. now on my to-do list :D

P.S I'd also like to add that we are easily distracted too.
Checking your email can lead to redesigning your entire life from one link click. I find that I have to have a bookmark folder called 'NOT now' for these temptations.. 
Can I just say: I think I love you. That article was fantastic. I'm such a flake I actually considered buying the ice cream, when I read it! I love these things about Copyblogger, there are just all these small little steps that help you along the way again and again and again. Its like having a friend whisper in your ear every day. Love you guys!
Whew! I avoided that deadline only by deciding +Sonia Simone 's post is where  I needed to be. Then off to Google plus for encouragement. Much better now. Thanks.
I'd say I'm a next level flake - after finding the right thing to do I like to tell to myself: "well done". And schedule THE THING for Thursday, 6:00PM. I mean next Thursday. And then postpone it. And then forget checking my calendar because of a long day at work. And then I'm pissed off with myself so I start over. Pheeeew.

Anyways, thank you +Sonia Simone for the article - I'll make good use of what I've learned from it! :)
I don't feel so bad now that I see my studio and office for what they are -- compost piles!  Great things grow from lots of fertilizer!  Thanks for the flake label -- and the solution -- they both fit perfectly.
Sonia, let me join the other flakes in this thread and say, "Thank you very much." I clicked on the title expecting another "visualize it and make it happen" post, but this was different. This was for "us" not "them." 

I've been struggling with focus, and paralysis of action when it comes to DOING.ALL.THE.THINGS. I want to design, write, film, edit, blah blah blah but mostly just to learn. The way you profiled flakes so accurately as experientially driven, and less prone to "stuff" floored me. I want to do all these things but my goals are not "drive" in the way other people talk about it - and that's never worried me until recently.

I'm at my first 9-5 writing job ever (I'm 32) and I feel like I'm catching up on corporate culture and resume building - but recently I realized that all of that is a waste of time. I want to just keep writing and designing to learn and make awesome things - not to build a sweet resume.

I want to buy a cello - know anyone selling?

So, I guess the takeaway from this article is a sense of belonging to a group of people that think - and act - erratically. I'm a flake, and that's ok! We do have a fresh take on things, and valuable unconscious insight to bring to problems - thanks for reminding me. 

I just want to say to everyone in this thread - let's all flake out together!

My "first step" in getting stuff done is recognizing how important community is in the creative process, it's what's been missing from a lot of my work lately. So I'm setting up a #FlakeGroup here on Google+ and you're all cordially invited!

Talk to you soon.
I'm still laughing at the David Allen comment "... a terrific system if you’re mentally ill enough to do all the ritual."

I hadn't recognised myself as a flake, I have a career record of making stuff happen, getting projects over the finish line, hitting my deliverables. Then I realised that was other people's stuff. When it comes to MY stuff, I'm a flake. Your description totally nailed me.
Now I'm going to have to embrace my inner flake ;)
Your post just read my flake personality, great insights and a practical action plan are my biggest takeaways :)
+Shawn Forno "This is for us, not them" Exactly. I think productivity books are nearly always written by people whose brain is wired quite differently from mine ...
+Colin Newlyn I'm the same! So much easier to stay on track for someone else's stuff -- less emotionally tricky territory, I think.
I did do strict Getting Things Done (except for the 43 folders because that's plain old
loopy) for ages, btw. :D 
+Benjamin Houy Trello is amazing for flakes. No guilt, just clarity on where you're at, and next steps.
Sonia, you've been watching me meander through life, with some great achievements and some failures, which happened because I did not really start on them. I thought I was an underachiever, so it is a relief to know that I have super powers and should do what I enjoy. Thank you.
+Sonia Simone Love this post! Seeing my flaky side deconstructed with acceptance instead of judgment is refreshing. 

I love how your post celebrates flakes, highlighting both our good sides and our bad sides. Normally this personality trait is framed as something to be overcome, but you frame it as something we can work with — something we can use to our advantage. 

And I love it.

Thank you for this post. 

I never knew I belonged to this breed of humanity, but now that I know, do the flakes have a clubhouse? I'd like to meet some more kindred spirits. 
Oh +Sonia Simone , thank you! Yes, I too am a flake!  Practical question - do you use evernote as your  generic "to do" list as well as your compost area.  I've used just about every "to do" list technique, on and offline, known to man. I end up with multiple to do lists on various platforms and in various notebooks. Severe flake.  
Flake: scatterbrain, airhead, fool - just about the first synonyms that appear in google. It's good to finally accept what you are. I also have been crazily looking for productivity models to get me into the rhythm, knowing that once I find it, it can propel me to make ideas happen. [I am particularly liking Scott Belsky's Making Ideas Happen]. There are so many productivity models that work. But at the end of the day, and you have mentioned it in the post, the more basic and radical aspects have to come in - self-discipline, will, drive. These "factory defaults" give some trouble at the start. When properly adjusted, maybe any system can work.
I saw this through Pamela Wilson's reposting. YOU NAILED IT! I was hysterically laughing with recognition the whole time through. And the timing couldn't have been better for me since I'm in the midst of a really big inspiration and figuring out how to keep myself on track with making it happen.THANK YOU!
Being a Flake is not failing, but a way of consistently trying a new way, a new method. What the hey, it did not work, but there is something learned in the process: about yourself or the 'Thing'. The Big Monster +Sonia Simone is being an Apathetic Flake: uneaten corn flakes in a bowl of milk. Mush. So Act More and Think Less(+Pamela Wilson )before you become the bowl of Mush. Onward #flakepride  
Finally. A list I can relate to. Man, that feels good... Thank you, my fellow Flake! Next time I see a list describing "14 Ways Highly Effective People Think" I will say "Good for Them!" and move on without bashing myself over the head with said list. I'll say: "Thank you, but I have my own list." And then, I'll go get some ice cream to enjoy while working on my next step.
Wow, I am a flake through and through.  I can relate to this post completely.  I'm a planner not a doer and I will use these steps to change that!  Thanks, +Sonia Simone!
LOVE this!! I'm a doer most of the time but then, when things get crazy as they often do, I tend to flake.. Glad to know am not alone!!  All for ACTION!! On my list is launching two social media eBooks in May...Oh, and HUGE fan of +Evernote here too!! 
The easiest thing to do is nothing.  I love your pivot.  That will get me going.  I'll let you know.  Right now I have a comment on a blog post to look at, next tape an audio file.  .
Ash Roy
+Sonia Simone The Pomodoro technique is very effective in creating short 'sprints' on tasks that I hate doing. I use it quite a bit. I've written a post about it on my site too. The other effective way to get to something is to to say to myself "this is hard and it's going to suck … but I'm going to do it anyway" … somehow acknowledging that it's hard before throwing myself at said awful task seems to galvanise me into action and hurdle that mental barrier. :-)
+Sonia Simone . I dont' know why I didn't discover this post back in's a godsend. I almost want to cry that I found it. Got Robert Fritz's book too just now via Kindle.
+Jeremy Whalen +Atia Ahmed +Ash Roy I love pomodoros!  It's gotten me to take steps forward on very challenging work.
+Sonia Simone I loved your post and felt I was described by a lot of it... but I'm wondering -- are all of "us" really flakes? Or just non-linear, creative types? B'c I do tend to do what I feel like doing over a specific plan, but I don't "flake out" of commitments. What do you think?
Ash Roy
Hey +Czarina Aggabao thanks for your thoughts.

Yes, Pomodoros are crazy good! There's an excellent app that I use to implement my pomodoro approach.

It's called Vitamin R. Have you heard of it? If not, and if you have a Mac, you should definitely check it out :-)

 Thanks for a great post +Sonia Simone :-)
What a great post! You know me :)
Your article is awesome^100 wrapped in bacon. I am moved to gush about it in all the nerdiest ways and I finally had to share some of that gushing here. Brilliant. For those who grok Myers-Briggs I have been calling it "candy-coated 'Remedial J for Ps'". (In fact, I think it should be required reading for every INTP in existence)
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