You only think you CAN'T!

I bet all of you reading this have some of those tasks that just look impossible and  you think you can’t possibly do them, right?

For me, gardening and specifically gardening as organically as possible is one of the things I enjoy.

Last summer, I had my in-house carpenter team finally build the compost bins that I have been begging to have built for years. They sit at the back of our yard in the corner about 50 yards from my office door and the large tiered deck outside my office.

We have been composting for years but I was throwing kitchen scraps into the garden in a pile all of the prior years so I have been excited to be using my compost bins this winter.

Inspired by those who understand all the components in composting like Brent Pohlman from Midwest Labs, I have been faithfully dumping the eggs shells, coffee grounds, vegetable and fruit peelings into the pile so I can get this microbe metabolism going.

I live in Wisconsin but even that didn’t stop me from faithfully emptying the scraps into the bin regularly all winter long. However, I had the deck clear or at least Teddy was there to stomp a path for me. This last snowfall on Sunday dumped a new 14 inches of heavy, wet snow on the deck.

Impossible Task

Suddenly those 50 or so yards seemed like miles to me. I was doing the whole “I Can’t!” song in my head. The snow was too heavy. It was too wet. It was too far to the bins. I’ll get all wet. I can’t lift that stuff. You know the “I Can’t” song?

Believing a task is too difficult is easy.

I knew I had to at least shovel a path off the deck and probably somewhat further across the grass in order to get to the bins. This whole compost idea is my project and I wasn’t getting enthusiastic support from anyone else who would come out and be my knight in shining armor and shovel it for me.

It seemed impossible because I was looking at the snow. I was looking at how deep it was, thinking about how wet it was, and convincing myself that I could not manage the task.

Finally, I grabbed the shovel one more time and pushed through a path.  It didn’t take me more than 10 minutes to get a path off the deck, across part of the grass and then I just tramped through the rest of the way to get to the bins.


That sounds really basic but when you are telling yourself in your mind that you can’t do something, the best thing to do is start. You probably will find it is not so hard of a job as you are making it.

Breaking the “I Can’t” into achievable steps

We convince ourselves that we cannot do something because we make the project too big in our minds. In order to get to the bins, I reminded myself that I needed a path. I’d like the whole deck clear but I didn’t need it clear today to get to my goal. I needed a path.

Give yourself a Reward

Whenever I have a job that I don’t want to do, I figure out a reward. It might be as simple as a lunch break or even a nap or a time to read one of my favorite books. Whatever makes you happy, give yourself a reward to look forward to when you get done.

Give this a try on the next project you are procrastinating or dreading and let me know your results!




  1. DorleeM on February 23, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Hi Julie,

    Thanks for your sharing your story of how you succeeded in creating a necessary path through the snow and piles of compost.

    It was a great illustration of the message you are trying to convey – to master a task that feels overwhelming, break it down into small, reasonable-size tasks.

    This is a strategy that I tend to find effective when I’m having a hard time starting a new (big) project.

    An additional method that I sometimes use to help myself get started is that I tell myself that the beginning/first step may be edited/modified later. In essence, I’ve removed the necessity for the first step to be perfect.

    Thanks again for this inspiring post 🙂

  2. Julie Walraven on February 24, 2011 at 5:45 am

    Thanks so much for stopping by, Dorlee! You speak of perfectionism… I think that is a trait that many of us who are self-employed struggle with and many who are employed too. We want it to be perfect so we find it hard to start. You are very right in your tip. It lets us move on.

  3. Melissa Cooley on February 24, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Julie, this speaks so well to the saying “If you think you can’t do it, you’re probably right.” It’s far easier to think about a project so much that we talk ourselves out of it than to overcome the inertia that keeps our backsides stuck to the seat (or to type in the URL to a website that will get that job search underway).

    Great reminder for breaking a task down and just starting to do it to be able to make progress!

    • Julie Walraven on February 24, 2011 at 7:14 pm

      Been practicing what I preach all day, Melissa and got twice as much done as usual and feel better about myself. Thanks for all the support lately!

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