It can be hard to know how to get started on something. Really hard.
Maybe you know a topic fairly well but aren’t sure exactly how to proceed with it to accomplish your goals. Maybe you don’t know it as well as you’d like and don’t know how to find the information you’d need. It could be that it’s just too hard and you’re not sure if you can do it… so you put it off for later, hoping that it just disappears or something.
I’ve still got until Friday morning to hand that in, right? I don’t really feel like it right now, and I’ve got a lot of other stuff to do, so I’ll handle it later when I have a bit more time. So you check your email for the 5th time… or the 10th time… or go put on a pot of coffee. Or maybe you spend your time doing all kinds of minor tasks instead of buckling down on the important project with the ever-closer looming deadline.
You run the dozen little errands your boss wants done because somebody’s got to do them. You double-check your bank account, calculating whether you’ll have enough money in the bank to go out with your friends after all your bills come out at the end of the week…
The next thing you know, it’s Lunchtime Thursday and you’re freaking out a little because you’re still not started. Crap!
Don’t beat yourself up over it.
These are all tricks your brain pulls on you in order to give you an excuse not to do something important. It happens to everyone! 95% of people admit to putting off work sometimes, according to Piers Steel.
There’s no need to tell yourself that you’re a shitty writer because you haven’t updated your blog this month. What’s important isn’t that you never have the desire to procrastinate. What’s important is that you recognize when it’s happening so you can take steps to avoid it.
Thoughts like “I’ll take care of this later” or “I don’t feel like this right now” are traps. The hardest part of any project is getting started, and important work doesn’t stop being important because you aren’t feeling it.
You don’t have to do everything in one sitting…
… but a tiresome task isn’t going to start itself. And who knows? It might not be as bad as you think it would be. I don’t like the idea of having to drive for over an hour to see my friends, but when we get together everyone always has a great time.
The idea of informational writing terrifies me, and so I put it off for months. I’m a storyteller, not an educator. How would I know what the hell to write? I’ve written this, and what would you know, and I haven’t even sold my soul or waved my cane at the kids to get off of my lawn yet. I haven’t adjusted my scholarly spectacles to peer knowingly over them. I don’t even have a cane or spectacles.
Focus on the long term benefits of the task. Will you be stressing over the fact that it isn’t done? If you get it done, it will remove stress from your life. Do you need to get this done in order to do something else that you would enjoy more, or that would make you more money? That enjoyable thing, or the money that lets you do the things you love (rather than just pay the bills you have to) should be what you focus on to get started.
I’ll cover more about how to approach building some momentum in the next entry. Take the time to recognize when you’re putting something off for later, and what kinds of thoughts or feelings come up that make you do that.
Awareness is the first step.