Getting Started

Have you ever had so much to do that you had no idea where to start? Or been so busy that you suddenly felt paralyzed by it all? Maybe you’ve had a project you had to do and wanted to do, but just couldn’t seem to begin?

I’ll bet the answer is a big “Yes.” I think we all feel that way at times.

 Of course, we know that the solution is to “just do it.” But how? These three tips should help.

  1. Give Yourself a Little Space

 Mental space is what I mean. Sometimes, the best way to do something is to first do nothing.

We all have lives full of distractions and conflicting responsibilities that compete for our time. In spite of assistants, very successful people are no different. But these people have acquired the ability to take a mental step back, run through all that needs to be done (making a written list of those things helps) and choose which one to focus on first. This act clears your mind and gives you “permission” to focus and work on one thing.

2. Get Honest with Yourself

Ask yourself why you haven’t started the project. Here are a few things we often tell ourselves:

  • It’s not a good time
  • I’ll do it when I feel like it
  • I don’t have the tools I need.

It’s likely that no time will be ideal, that you will never feel like doing some things, and that if lack of tools is a problem, the first step is to get the tools… now.

The real issue is that many of us are masters at making excuses that let us put things off. We’re human, after all. But those excuses don’t get the job done.

I’m a big believer in the reward system. When I tackle something I’ve been putting off, I happily give myself a small reward when the job is completed. A second reward is inherent in the action of doing the job. Studies have shown that once we begin the work, we often start to enjoy the task.

3. Make It Easy on Yourself

Think small. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when confronted with a big project. It can be even worse if it’s important to us, a project we really care about. There is a solution. Take a few minutes to break the project into small, doable steps. This transforms the project from larger than life in our imagination to realistic and life sized. Each time we complete a task in the project, we feel a sense of accomplishment, which gives us impetus to get on with the next step.

Another very effective way to think small is to work for small periods of time. For instance, if there’s a cluttered room that needs cleaning, do it for just five or ten minutes at a time—you might be amazed by how much you get done and how good that makes you feel.

The Power of Momentum

Similarly, if you need to write a report but can’t get started, work on it for five to ten minutes. Work on the outline or any part of it that you want. This could give you the momentum you need to keep going.

Once we understand that much of what holds us back is irrational, it gives us the courage to face our demons and take action.

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