You have big ideas, big plans, huge goals! But, first you have to check your email…again. Hey, your daughter needs help with her homework. The lawn isn’t going to mow itself, you know. Your desk is so disorganized, you won’t be able to get anything done until you fix that. Hey, it’s time to update your LinkedIn profile…and check Facebook.
Why do we procrastinate from the things we know will make our lives so much better? Why is it so hard to get started on something we really want to do? What can we do about it?
1) Make sure you really want it.
The first thing to do is make sure this is something you really want to do. Are you procrastinating because this idea/plan/project/goal doesn’t line up with your values? Is it really your Passionate Purpose? If it isn’t, why are you planning to do it?
(Of course, sometimes you just have to get something done – whether you want to or not – whether you like the task or not.)
If you know this is what you really want, then what is stopping you? Is it a physical, emotional, or mental reason? You need to drill down and ask the question behind the question on what’s getting in your way.
Once you’ve decided you definitely want to do this, move to step two.
2) Only work on it for 15 minutes.
What? I won’t get anything important done in 15 minutes. That makes no sense!
Hey, I used to think that. But then I thought to myself, “Self, I can get a lot more done in 15 minutes than I can get done in zero minutes.” (Sometimes I’m really smart when I talk to myself.)
Sometimes we have trouble getting started because it just seems like too big of a task. Research shows our minds tend to focus on all the difficulties and complexities of a project or task before we start to do it. So, we tend to avoid starting big projects.
Last week my youngest daughter was a perfect example of this. She was having a self-pity party over all the homework, projects, and studying for finals she had to do. She went on for several minutes and even began to cry.
We then acknowledged she had a lot of work to do, but that getting started is the hardest part. We then organized her work, decided what to do when, and came up with a manageable plan. Then we decided she would work on her first project for 15 minutes and take a break. The idea was to just get started, then she would see it wasn’t as hard as she thought.
It worked great! She ended up working much longer on it and didn’t even realize she had gone past her 15 minutes. It dawned on her that it wasn’t as hard as she thought and that she was getting a lot done.
You aren’t going to finish in 15 minutes, but that’s not the point. We’re just trying to get started. We’re taking action so we can get going. Then we’ll work on the things we need to do to keep going and finish.
3) Use the Zeigarnik Effect
Ah, yes, the Zeigfarkle..the Zeegurn…the what now? the Zeigarnik (zī-ˈgär-nik) Effect. It’s the tendency to remember projects/tasks/goals that you haven’t completed. In fact, research shows your mind keeps coming back to uncompleted tasks. So, once you get started on what you really want to do, your mind has a tendency to keep coming back to it until you complete it.
Isn’t that great? It’s almost like someone designed us to get important things done. Hmm….wonder who might have done that…
So once you get started – even if it’s just for 15 minutes – your brain will keep pulling you back until you finish. Awesome!
I’m using this a lot right now. As I’m ramping up my professional and personal development business I often feel overwhelmed. I have big ideas for my speaking, coaching, and podcasting. I’m working on creating online podcasting and coaching courses. I’m helping small businesses create and edit podcasts to attract their ideal clients and grow their brand. I’m constantly learning new ways to market digiatally and have big plans I need to start implementing.
Each of these ideas will take a lot of work. Many of them will require me to do things I’m not quite sure how to do yet. So, I sometimes find myself doing busywork instead of getting started.
But, once I start, I get on a roll.
4) Break it Down
Another great technique is to break down the task into smaller bites and just do one bite. Your little successes will lead to big ones.
You don’t need to know how to do it all before you start. Get started and you’ll learn what you need as you go.
Questions for comments:
What do you do to get started?
Which of these techniques have helped you?