9 Ways to Get Started Even When You Don't Feel Like It | Issue 289
Summary: Do you struggle to get going even when you know it matters? Leverage our proven tips to see your momentum build.
Estimated read time: Less than five minutes if you start right now.
By Gayle Scroggs, Ph.D., P.C.C., Editor
"Procrastination is, hands down, our favorite form of self-sabotage." ~ Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby
Struggling to get started on your dissertation? Dreading getting to work on an important task because it seems too hard or too boring? Are you turning into a master procrastinator?
As Christopher Parker observed, "Procrastination is like a credit card: it's a lot of fun until you get the bill."
The next time you are tempted to procrastinate, experiment with these hacks instead. Contributed by expert coaches and productivity gurus, some will ring a bell, but others will surprise you. Besides, what have you got to lose besides that sense of impending doom?
1. EAT THAT FROG FIRST.
A proven strategy, this involves identifying the big priority item you've been putting off. Then do it first thing in the morning. Otherwise less critical things such as interruptions, impulses, and other distractions magically take precedence.
"The secret to getting ahead is getting started." ~Mark Twain
2. BE KIND TO YOUR FUTURE SELF.
You wouldn't leave the dishes in the sink for your roommate, would you? Then stop shifting undesirable tasks to your future self. Think it doesn't matter? It does because your behavior is quietly training your brain and body. As James Clear wrote, "Every action you take is a vote for the kind of person you will become." Do you want to create a slacker or a dependable person?
3. CALENDARIZE THE START TIME.
Leverage the fact that your mind abhors open loops. Note how often your mind wanders to scheduled appointments before (but not after) they happen. Enter the task in your planner or calendar. If you fail to honor your appointment with yourself, note how your inner critic jumps on your case. Train your brain to expect to start work at the same time each day for more power.
4. SET A TIMER FOR 10 MINUTES.
Then get to work! Chances are high that when the bell rings, you'll be energized to work for 10 more. Similarly, you can tweak the classic Pomodoro technique (work for 25 minutes, then break for 5 minutes) to suit your needs. As Stephen King advises, "Don't wait for your muse." Taking action creates the momentum you need. Your muse will find you after you get started.
"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." ~ Arthur Ashe
5. TAKE JUST ONE SMALL STEP.
When the path up the mountain looks too steep or long, concentrate on your feet, not the peak. Identify one small task you can do without worrying about the entire project. Start anywhere you can, trusting that as you finish one step, the next one will become clearer.
6. SET AN END TIME.
Experience more energy and focus by pre-determining the end time. Your inner child finds it easier to settle down at the desk when she knows that recess is coming.
7. IGNORE YOUR INNER CRITIC.
You are not required to pay attention to unhealthy inner thoughts. Notice when you start leaning into perfectionism, and then pivot towards a growth mindset. Forget doing a perfect job—aim instead for getting better. Write a zero draft for later editing.
"You can always edit a bad page. You can't edit a blank page." ~ Jodi Picoult
8. CREATE ACCOUNTABILITY.
Make an appointment with a buddy. No one available? No problem—sign up for a free virtual buddy at FocusMate.com. A little sociability can make a dramatic difference.
9. PRACTICE WIN-WIN.
Use the acronym "WIN-WIN" to stay on track: What's Important Now? What's Important Next? Checking in with yourself at the top of each hour can help make sure you are investing your time in what matters most. Whenever you find yourself spinning your wheels, pause and ask yourself, "What would be the best use of my time right now?"
Finally, consider the high costs of unnecessary delays. The most important things in life do not have deadlines. No one will make you to finish your dissertation, find a mate, have children, find a job, or explore the world.
You have the power to shape your behavior to reach the goals you set. No one can do it for you.
You have an appointment with life—don't miss it.
Note: If you could use someone in your corner to help design your next steps, build momentum, and celebrate your progress, get a positive psychology coach. Free consultations here.
Photo credit: Above Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY
GAYLE SCROGGS, Ph.D., P.C.C., Editor, ABDSG.
An accomplished coach, workshop leader, keynote speaker, and educator, Gayle earned her doctorate in social psychology from the University of New Hampshire. Her deep expertise in positive psychology allows her to help clients build their personal strengths, positive habits, and confidence to overcome procrastination, self-doubts and other blocks in order to reach vital academic and personal goals. In addition to editing the ABD Survival Guide, she contributed two chapters to the positive psychology anthology, Women's Paths to Happiness. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for coaching, presentations, and workshops on thriving in graduate school and beyond, and find free resources essencecoaching.com.
BEN DEAN, Publisher, ABDSG
Ben holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He began writing the ABDSG in 1997. Over the years, the ABDSG has published hundreds of articles and provided thousands of hours of pro bono coaching and teleworkshops to ABDs all over the world. Ben is also the founder of MentorCoach (www.MentorCoach.com), a virtual university focused on training accomplished professionals to become part-time or full-time coaches. You may wish to subscribe to the Coaching Toward Happiness eNewsletter! It's on applying the science of Positive Psychology to your work and life (131,000 readers). Ben lives in suburban Maryland with his wife, Janice, their two children, and Dusty, their Norwegian dwarf bunny.
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