Have you ever wanted to start something – a project, business, or task – and couldn’t figure out where to start? Me, too. But lately, I’ve been asking myself a simple question to help me start a project, business or even an article when things become overwhelming. This simple exercise has helped me re-focus, cut out information overload and make more progress on my goals, and it’s helped many of my coaching clients, too. I want to share it with you so you can cut through all the noise and finally get started on the business you’ve been dreaming about.

How to Take Action Using This One Simple Question

I used this strategy to kick start my eCourse, my blog, and even this article. I call it the MVA exercise, and it will help you work your way out of overwhelm and actually start. See, most of the things that we let hold us back from starting our projects or our businesses are made bigger by our own minds.

  • We think we don’t know where to start because it seems like there’s just so much to do, when in reality we know exactly where to start.
  • We start to doubt projects before we’ve even started them because we take in too much information and it gets overwhelming.
  • We second-guess whether our ideas will really work because other things compete for our attention.

The funny thing is, we’ll never stop second-guessing ourselves or stop doubting ourselves until we prove that our ideas will work, and we can’t prove our ideas will work unless we act on them. That’s where the MVA exercise comes in. MVA stands for “Minimum Viable Action”. You’ve probably heard of other “Minimum Viable” things before: MVP (minimum viable product if you’re an entrepreneur, or minimum viable population if you’re a scientist). Here’s how I’ve adapted the MV model to get started on things:

When I have a project I want to start and I feel overwhelmed, I sit down and ask myself: what is the minimum viable action I can take on this project to get started?

In other words: What can I do right now to move this project forward? For example, when I was in the planning stages of Unsettle, I remember panicking. I had the idea for it, but I doubted whether it would work. My mind was racing with the overwhelm of guest blogging, monetizing, building an email list, writing schedules, daily habits, success routines, social media, conferences, technique, split testing, landing pages… Then I realized that I was jumping the gun. I hadn’t even registered a domain yet. Social media, split testing and guest blogging were challenges for Future Sarah. I was borrowing my future challenges to prove to myself that my current self didn’t have it in her to proceed. So, I stopped. I took a deep breath. And I asked myself: what was my MVA? What was one thing I could do right at that moment to move my idea forward? In this case, I decided that my MVA was to write my “About” page. That’s one thing that I could do at that time within the next hour to get the ball rolling and the momentum started. Of course, your entire project can’t be finished right now. That’s not the point of this exercise. But every single project has a Minimum Viable Action. Every single project, business, and task has something that you can do right now (or this evening, or tomorrow morning) to move it forward.

  • If you’ve been thinking of starting an Etsy shop, what is one thing you can do right now to move forward? Could you sign up for an account, choose a shop name, make a prototype of your product?
  • If you’ve been thinking of starting a blog, what is one thing you can do right now to move forward? Could you register your domain name, write your about page, write your first article, reserve your Twitter account?
  • If you want to become a freelancerwhat is one thing you can do right now to move forward? Could you send one pitch, enroll in a freelance course, find one event in your area to attend?

Don’t get weighed down with the future to-do list related to the project. Don’t procrastinate by “researching” or questioning yourself. Just start with that simple MVA.

The Best Part About the MVA Exercise?

I noticed something wonderful as I began to use the MVA exercise in my own projects: There is always a minimum viable action. After you finish your first MVA, you can move onto the next MVA. The MVAs compound and build upon each other. After I wrote the “About” page for Unsettle, I asked myself again: What was one thing I could do right at that moment to move my idea forward?

  • I could choose and register my domain name.

And after I chose and registered my domain name, again… What was one thing I could do right at that moment to move my idea forward?

  • I could load WordPress into my web hosting service.

And after I loaded WordPress into my web hosting service, again… What was one thing I could do right at that moment to move my idea forward? You get the idea. So, Unsettler. What is one thing you can do right now to move your project forward? What is your MVA?

11 thoughts on “How to Start Your Business Using One Simple Exercise

  1. Lauren Hayes says:

    I really like your articles Sarah. They are straight to the point, but informative with simple steps to follow. This one in particular though, hit home with me. I find myself giving up to quickly because I focus most of my time on the future goals instead of the smaller, here and now goals. I hope I can start to work on this exercise.

    • Sarah says:

      Hey Lauren – don’t hope to start to work on it, start by asking yourself what is one thing you can do today to start 🙂 Haha!

  2. Liv Faye says:

    Hi Sarah!
    This is a great strategy not only for moving forward, but for avoiding procrastination. I’ve been reading about how to get focused and stop procrastinating, and Leo Babauta has similar suggestions. If you can figure out one simple thing to do, it’s easier to stay focused and not drift off. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind whenever I feel overwhelmed. I love the post is short and to the point. Bookmarked!
    My MVA today is to pick the two topics for the guest posts to write this week 🙂

    • Sarah says:

      One thing that’s also been really helpful for me, Liv, has been working out in the morning. It’s helped me focus, be more productive and feel happier overall. Try it out! And awesome about the guest posts.

  3. Naomi Dinsmore says:

    Hi Sarah,
    Great advice. It’s always important to stay moving forwards and progressing. Otherwise you can easily get bogged down by stress and eventually quit!
    I really like your simple but useful advice 🙂
    Thanks
    Naomi

  4. Diana Carson-Walker says:

    Oh Sarah, you genius, you did it again! Read my mind. I’ve been struggling with this SO much, and had come around to this idea, but not in such a tidy package. I love how you put a handle on it so I can retrieve it again when I need it! MVA!!!!

    • Sarah says:

      Diana! I’m far from genius – I just write about what I have struggled with in the past and how I’ve conquered it (or how I’m still wallowing in it, haha). So I hear you – but I am excited to see how you use the MVA structure.

  5. Renee Buffington says:

    I followed your advice and finally got my domain. It’s so true that the overwhelming future tasks have been holding me up – there are so many things to do and so much time that has to be devoted. The MVA method is going to help me get this project off the ground. Looking forward to sharing soon!

    • Sarah says:

      Amazing, Renee! Seriously – I’m so happy that you got your domain. Now that you did that… what’s one thing you can do today? Haha. I’m rooting for you!

  6. camillus says:

    Hi sarah, I really appreciate your commitment and concern towards your audience. I firt read your article on bbt before following you here. your articles are insightful. but I still have a problem which I know you can help.
    when it comes to starting a blog, my main difficulty lies on the technical aspect of it. how do u get your article organised beautifully like the ones here on your site.? how do you get your social media and email icons placed at the right positions? getting your site well arranged and many others technical issues are the reasons I have not gotten a domain till now as I don’t want to create somthing foolish and ridiculous.
    how I wish u can teach me all these on a practical platform
    Camillus

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