The worst time to start may actually be the best time

Don’t postpone making a change or trying something new because you think this is the worst time to start. Whether it’s a career change or launching a creative project, the worst time may prove to be the best.

broken clock - worst time to start

Some “Worst-time” scenarios

Do you find yourself saying …

“I don’t have time to look for a new job.”

“My family relies on my income, I can’t quit now.”

“My kid needs me right now, I can’t add anything new.”

“I’m dealing with a crisis. I don’t have the bandwidth.”

“This time of year is the worst time for me.”

I get it. You have a lot going on now.

And, you might be holding yourself back because of perfectionistic thinking. Remember, it’s not that perfectionists are perfect. (No one is.) People are perfectionists when they hold themselves up to unreasonably high standards.

So, if you’re thinking you can only start when everything is just right, your standards are getting in the way. You may think that it’s wiser or safer to first have your perfect plan or clear the decks, or put your ducks in a row before you start something new. But, in reality, you might be procrastinating or, worse yet, getting yourself stuck.

Or, it could be that you’re making the assumption that a big change will require a lot from you.

Why the worst time to start might be optimal

Time and again, I’ve seen that big change starts with baby steps. It’s small actions, little tweaks, and tiny habits, that add up to big change.

I always say,

Baby steps are better than leaps not taken.

And, it is during the worst times that we are forced to do small things.

When we face crises, our priorities become more clear.

Most importantly, during such times, when you, a caring and compassionate individual, are putting other people’s needs first, you need small escapes or little distractions.

It becomes even more critical to have something of your own.

While this requires a bit of your time–precisely when the commodity feels more precious and scarce–there is a benefit. What you get back is energy. You feel nourished, knowing you are working towards something new that you want, even if those steps seem small.

When you see even small progress forward, it feels good.

An example of my worst time

When my younger daughter was diagnosed with cancer, our family had to abandon our usual routines. My husband and I reduced our workloads and cut back on various responsibilities. My older daughter gave up free time with friends. For our entire family, caring for her overwhelmed us.

Having observed my clients in crisis situations, I knew my family could easily be engulfed with cancer. If that happened, it would hurt all of us. So, while the battle was our primary concern, we couldn’t let it be our only concern. Every member of our family needed to preserve something of our own. That became my focus as a spouse and as a mother, but also for myself.

Knowing I needed something that would distract me and give me energy, I started writing. It was something I had long wanted but never gave myself permission to pursue.

To be honest, I didn’t start with clear intentions, or any plan to write. I happened to be scribbling notes in a little red notebook, my friend had given me. I needed to keep track of bits of information that doctors and nurses were giving me, what time my daughter could ask for additional pain relievers, etc. Then, I started adding other little things like the kind things they said or the funny things I overheard in the hallways or over the hospital curtain.

I could never write for long stretches of time. We were constantly being interrupted at the hospital. But, I think that actually helped me, because I didn’t know what the end goal was or where my writing was going, I was just taking notes.

But, the more I scribbled, the more curious I got about other people’s writing habits. I found a podcast where I could listen to short bits here about how authors wrote and practiced their craft. I listened to books about writing, again in small snatches of time. Thank goodness for the pause and playback-10-second buttons!

The good news is that my daughter got better. As time freed up, I could do more. I could begin to see how the bits and pieces might together. I took a writing class that gave me deadlines and feedback to improve. After several failed attempts, I finally published essays in outlets I had only dreamed of doing.

Most importantly, I was able to give myself permission to do something I dreamed of doing because as my skills built up over time, my confidence did too.

The little bits of note-taking took care of me, giving me an outlet and a distraction during the most difficult time in my life. Once again teaching me the power of starting with baby steps.

Your turn

Right now, you might be feeling, this is the worst time to start something new. But, I hope you’ll consider that it might be the best time to take little baby steps in the right direction.

You may find starting something in small ways nourishes you when you need it most. And, so it is during difficult times, you can get closer to something you didn’t even realize you wanted.

Designed for the smart and caring, this four-week self-study online course shows you step-by-step how to move forward with your endeavors, whether it’s finding rewarding work, starting a new business, or launching a creative project. You’ll learn small tweaks that are easy to incorporate to work on your priorities…even if you’re caring for others, short on time, or don’t know what you want.