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From Dream to Done: 3 Essential Ingredients

21 Sep 2012 | Business Life, Personal Productivity

Have you ever had a dream? One that you keep somewhere in the back of your mind as something you’d love to do ‘someday’?

Someday is a safe place to hide dreams. Safe from the scrutiny of whether it’s doable, if you have what it takes, whether it would work. Safe from the pressures of having to justify or validate your dream, answering to questions of ‘how’, ‘when’, ‘where’ or even ‘why’.

Someday is where dreams are safe. Where everything is possible, but nothing ever gets done.

Writing a book was one of my ‘someday’ dreams. It’s a huge achievement for me; something I’ve wanted to do since I was that quiet girl you’d find at the edge of the playground with her glasses buried in a book.

Something I’m also very proud of – and very relevant, given the title and topic of my book* – is the fact that I wrote it all in 40 days. Does that mean that I’m super organised, a fast writer or a hermit who can lock herself away for days on end? Far from it (although the latter does appeal occasionally!)

So how exactly does a naturally disorganised, busy business owner and mum of two write a book in 40 days whilst juggling children, clients and other commitments?

I’ve found it boils down to three essential ingredients. Let me share them with you.

Definition creates do-ability

Possibility is a wonderful thing. I love it. I thrive on possibility. But too much possibility can sometimes keep you stuck in that someday world where you have so many ideas, you don’t know where to start.

I’ve met some incredibly talented people, with wisdom, experience and insight that would be so helpful to others. People who say “I know I have a book in me” but are completely daunted by the prospect of trying to sift through their entirety and variety of what they know and condense it into one book.

The difference that gave me definition is that my book is part of a series of ’21 Ways’ books. The structure, style and length of the book was already defined. I had a very clear remit that helped me to whittle down ‘all the things I could possibly write about’ into 21 Ways to Manage the Stuff That Sucks Up Your Time.

That meant that I could start planning. Work out what goes in, and what stays out. What points I need to make, and how much I need to write.

Lack of definition can lead to overwhelm. When you don’t know what’s involved and where to start, it’s too big. Definition makes it more doable, gives boundaries and makes it easier to break down into baby steps.

Deadline makes it real

If you’ve ever had to work to a deadline, whether for a client, sales proposal, tax return, dissertation or job application, you’ll know that when a deadline is impending, it spurs action.

In fact, they say that the most productive day of the working calendar is the day before you go on holiday. Now there’s a deadline you wouldn’t want to move!

There’s nothing quite like a deadline to move something out of someday and into real days on the calendar. It sets the clock ticking. It creates urgency, makes it real.

My deadline came from my publisher. If it was up to me, I would have suggested at least a year or 18 months! But as much as it took my breath away, my 40 day deadline got my mind working and wondering, “How could I do that?” It’s often the outrageous deadlines that get us to challenge our own limiting beliefs and discover more of what we are really capable of.

What’s more, I made my deadline public. I’ve found nothing quite like public accountability to make sure I get things done. So when my publisher later said that she could be flexible on the deadline, I replied “well that’s great, but I can’t because I’ve made it public already!”

Demand gives purpose

Demand is what makes businesses work. If you’ve been meaning to do something, demand takes you out of dream mode and into delivery mode.

A new business could spend months designing and developing a business plan, a price list and a website, but if a potential customer came along and asked them to quote for a job, they’d probably get their offerings finalised pretty pronto!

The fact that a publisher wanted me to write this meant that it wasn’t just my bright idea. Someone else wanted me to do this. Someone else was willing to invest time, energy and money into this. When you realise that your dream isn’t just about you – when there are others who want what you have to give, other people who stand to benefit from it, people who are expecting you to deliver – your purpose gets a whole lot bigger.

But my journey didn’t start with that kind of demand. If I started out thinking “I know, I’ll write a book on time management” I probably would have been completely overwhelmed, paralysed and out of my depth. I’d probably still be waiting for an opportunity to come along.

Instead I’ve focused on taking action, serving my customers and meeting their demands and needs with what I could give.

Two things happen when you take action in the here and now, rather than waiting for opportunity to knock: you get to know what’s wanted; and you get to know what you bring to the table.

As I worked with my clients, busy people juggling business, family and more, I discovered that their biggest question was “How do I fit everything in when I don’t have enough time?” Answering that question is what got me here.

By the time this book opportunity appeared, in a casual comment on Facebook, I was ready and well placed to go for it. Out of various people who saw it as a good idea, I believe I was the only one to actually pursue the opportunity and submit a proposal.

Which makes me wonder, how many opportunities are already there in front of us, every day, which we just don’t notice for what they are? What if we actually have many more opportunities than we think?

Something happens when you stop waiting for things to happen. When you start taking action right where you are, with what you have in your hand, right now. You start building and planting seeds. When those seeds start bearing fruit, you recognise them. You recognise opportunities for what they are.

So, what’s your dream? What would give it more definition and do-ability? What demand can you start acting on, right here and now? And what deadlines are you going to set, to start moving it from ‘someday’ into today?

Let me know in the comments box below – I’d love to hear from you!

* 21 Ways to Manage the Stuff That Sucks Up Your Time is available on for £3.97, for $5.97 and other online book sites. 


  1. Wendy V

    On the nail as usual, Grace!

    • Grace Marshall

      Thanks Wendy! Hope all is well with you?

  2. Fiona

    “Definition makes it do-able” …a fab phrase and so true – I can get too distracted with possibility and am always amazed at how much I get done when I focus on specifics.

    • Grace Marshall

      Right, and focusing on specifics means you can get it done, then move on to the next possibility too (have your cake and eat it!). Glad that phrase works for you Fiona, and thanks for your comment!

  3. Lorraine

    Thanks for your encouraging articles, Grace. I’ve always had a dream to show-jump, and I realised a couple weeks ago that if I really want to do it I’m going to have to focus on it right now and do something to make it happen. So I booked up some lessons, bought some new gear and got excited – I’ve had 2 lessons now and I’m coming on in leaps and bounds : )

    • Grace Marshall

      Wow fantastic action Lorraine – well done!

  4. Naomi Richards

    Grace thats told me! I work to deadlines all the time. I set mine everyday and for the future. I have a six month plan that is fairly fluid as you have to allow for changes of some sort. I think it is always good to have a dream and have an aim. Well done on the book again.

    • Grace Marshall

      Thanks again Naomi! I agree, plans need to be fluid to allow for change – both unexpected obstacles and unexpected opportunities. I can see why you get so much done in your business 🙂

  5. KathyB194

    Ah well you see I already published my book in 2006 so did I beat you to it? 😀 Well done with yours. Great feeling, isn’t it? But your points apply to business too of course. Deadlines, yes, I need to create my own. I can be a bit hit and miss at times. Could do with a bit of tweaking here and there I think!

    • Grace Marshall

      Kathy, belated congratulations on your book! As I wrote at the beginning of mine, I’m grateful to all those who have written before me and shown me how it can be done 🙂 Are you more likely to hit your deadlines if you have public accountability?

Image if author Grace Marshall

About Grace

I coach, train, write and speak on productivity. I help people adopt new ways of working and thinking about their work to replace stress, overwhelm and frustration with success, sanity and satisfaction.

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