When we start a new creative project–whether it’s writing a book, designing a quilt or painting a landscape—there is some necessary prep time. To plan. To think it through. To buy supplies. All of that is necessary and important, because without good planning you end up with lots of frustrating rework and do-overs.

But at some point, you have to stop preparing and start doing. There has to be a definite move from one phase of the project to the other, from thinking to action. Often, that’s one of the hardest parts. How do we know when we’re done preparing? When is it time to start? Do we have everything in place?

Consider this as you push through: “Tasks expand to fill the allotted time.”

I’ve proven this with every project and in almost every circumstance. It will take me as long to do something as the time I’ve budgeted for the task. If I have an hour to prepare for guests, the house will be presentable in an hour. If I have three days, it’ll be clean in three days. Maybe more clean, but not necessarily so, because of rabbit trails and squirrel moments.

You know about those, right? You’re busy bopping down the preparation trail and suddenly some stray thought or idea pops into your head and sends you scurrying off in another direction. Sometimes we run down this new path for a long time before we remember what we were doing before we got sidetracked.

Take an honest look at your project. Are you done preparing?

If so, start. Today. Right now. Cross the line and take the scary plunge into unfamiliar territory. Begin.

If you’re truly not quite done yet, make a list of specific tasks still to do and then–here’s the important part–set a deadline and get them done. Then start. Dive in.

It’s time to leave the harbor and set sail for places unknown. To stop clearing our throats and speak.

Each of us is uniquely gifted. No one else can bring life to the stories and the art we are called to create. The world needs our gifts.

Stop stalling and start doing.

Today.

If you’ve taken the plunge into your new project today, let me know. I want to celebrate with you!