Even the most motivated of people will find themselves putting things off. Maybe it’s that presentation you have to do for next week, or perhaps it’s tidying the garage. Either way it’s not getting done.
Generally speaking we don’t start things because the thought of doing them feels more overwhelming than the thought of not doing them. Eventually of course we reach the night before the presentation or are struggling to find anything in our garage and our hand is forced. Often however, with great stress involved.
So how can you break the cycle?
Open a loop!
Every time we start a new activity our brain opens a loop which doesn’t get closed until the task is finished. Your mind will keep nudging you to finish what you started as long as the loop remains open. So if you want to get something done the best thing you can do is simply get started. Commencing the process will greatly increase the likelihood of you finishing it.
Just do five minutes
Of course you may be thinking “but that’s the whole problem, I can’t get started”. A great way to break the paralysis of taking that first step is limiting the amount of time you spend on it. If you’re tackling something that feels overwhelming you are less likely to get started. If however, you tell yourself “I just have to ten minutes” or “only half an hour and then I’ll stop” it feels more achievable. Because the brain responds to urgency (artificial or not) you will not only be amazed at what you achieve in that short timeframe but again, once you get started you’re much more likely to keep going.
Another way to boost the likelihood of you doing something is to schedule it into your diary. By choosing a date and time, and putting it in writing you are making a mental commitment to getting the task done. As the saying goes “if it’s not in your calendar it doesn’t exist and it’s not going to happen”. Rather than have a to-do list, allocate it time in your diary.
So to get started why not take a few minutes right now to jot down a few things you need to get done and consider which ones you can schedule, and which ones you could put 5 or 10 minutes work into right now. You will be amazed how quickly you can break the cycle of procrastination.