Getting started on a task is so freakin hard sometimes! Especially if it’s an important task. Or a dreaded one. I hate when I catch myself procrastinating on …anything really, to keep myself from doing stuff that matters. Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube… even cleaning and watching documentaries! It’s insane how well I distract myself. This is autopilot in action. I don’t even make a conscious decision to distract myself and procrastinate. I just do. And at the end of the day, when I can’t distract myself anymore, I realize just how little I’ve accomplished. Frustrating!
But I’ve found a solution! It works for me and I hope it works for you as well. If you struggle to get things done, that is.

The ignition spark

I’ve observed my own behavious time and time again. The one thing that keeps holding me back is the inability to get started. We’re even talking about things that I know I enjoy doing once I get started. For whatever reason I just don’t get started. I’ve learned that having some kind of initial spark actually keeps the engine going and it applies to all things I need or want to do:

  • Tasks, that might initially be a little uncomfortable, but that I enjoy doing (after finally starting)
  • Tasks, that need to be done, like taxes, paying the bills and stuff like that
  • Tasks, that require me to get out of my comfort zone, like making phone calls (…I hate phone calls).

To be clear: The act to get started in itself somehow seems to be out of my comfort zone as well! Which is why instant gratification is so alluring: scrolling through Pinterest requires nothing and stimulates my brain. Facebook isn’t uncomfortable, it even gives me a false sense of connectedness. You get the picture.

I know I’ve been mentioning Newton’s First Law before, but even though he’s talking about physics, I cannot help myself from applying it on human behaviour. It fits perfectly.
To get you a little reminder on what the actual conclusion is:

An object that is at rest, stays at rest, while an object in motion stays in motion. Unless acted upon by some kind of force.

You see? When we are at rest of some sort, it’s the natural tendency to stay at rest. The contrary is true as well. For me at least. When I’ve finally started working on something, I tend to stick with it over a long period of time and it needs exhaustion or some other strong force to actually make me stop. Which brings me to the actual mechanism that will get us to move:

You do need some kind of force to get you started.

A push of sorts. Anything to disrupt your Status Quo and gets your energies flowing and moving. One thing that’s been working quite wonderful for me is to use the 5 minute rule. Whatever the task, I commit to working on it for 5 minutes. That’s all it needs. 5 minutes of concentrated work is all it takes to get myself in action mode. And to not procrastinate to do those 5 minutes, I set a timer. When the timer starts, I stop thinking about the task and start actually doing the task! It works!

Here is how you do it

1. Be clear about your task. If you don’t know, what you have to do, you will start procrastinating, because you don’t know where to put your energy.

2. Set a timer to 5 minutes. You can also start with 2 or 3 minutes, if 5 is too intimidating. Your game, your rules. Whatever works is the way to go.

3. Start. Do. Act. For those 5 minutes you don’t think about the task, you do the task.

4. Continue. After getting into the flow it would be a pity to force yourself out of it. Continue for as long as you want.

Another thing: If you’re actually procrastinating, because you set a goal to work for 2, 3, 5, 10 hours on something, you might just be overwhelming yourself. Don’t do that to yourself. For now, the goal is to work on your task for 5 minutes. If you manage to continue, perfect. If not, don’t fret. You can try again whenever you want. And you can extend the time to whatever time frame fits your concentration. You can even switch over to the Pomodoro method.

I’m so glad that I’ve found a mechanism that gets me started. It lifted a huge burden off of my shoulders and I feel in control of my actions again. Tell me, do you have problems getting started? Or is there something else standing in your way? Let me know, I’m eager to hear about it!

If you want to learn more about achieving your goals you may want to take a look at No Excuses! The Power of Self-Discipline by Brian Tracy. I’ve enjoyed the read and learned useful strategies along the way.

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