Stop Procrastinating - Get Started Now!
How do we get started when we have a task we want to - or need to - complete? Well, the hardest part is getting started. Once we actually get started, it's a lot easier to keep going.
But oh, my goodness! Getting started can really suck sometimes, can't it!!
It's a lot easier to get going when you "set the bar low" and here's what I mean by that. The principle is to set small, very achievable goals, and chain them together, one after the other.
Why is "goal chaining" so effective?
First of all, it's a lot easier to deal with feelings like dislike or boredom if we tell ourselves we only have to put up with it for a very limited amount of time.
Secondly, every time you achieve one of your small goals, your brain rewards you with a pleasant hit of dopamine. Not only does dopamine feel yummy, it is the neurochemical most responsible for motivation - making it a lot easier to keep going!
And as an added benefit, dopamine regulates our motor movements making it easier and smoother to "do" anything! And it improves attention too! Dopamine ROCKS.
Ridiculously Simple Step Strategies!
I call the little "micro" goals in the goal chaining process, Ridiculously Simple Steps!
Because of our natural processing style - the unique way we make sense of the world - one of the following ways of thinking about Ridiculously Simple Step strategies may resonate more easily for you, and therefore it will be more likely that you'll remember it and use it make your life easier. So here are several ways to think about using Ridiculously Simple Step strategies:
Limit the scope of the task
In this version of the Ridiculously Simple Step strategies, you decide to work for a limited amount of time, or you decide to do a limited number of actions. Here are two examples:
Limited time approach
Promise yourself you'll work on the task for an "honest" 5 minutes (or other suitable amount of time), which means eliminate distractions and bring your thoughts and attention to the task.
At the end of 5 minutes, you can choose - to continue completing the task or choose to quit. By that time dopamine will have been released and you very well may be cruisin' on to completion!
Limited number of actions approach
In this version of the limited scope approach, you promise to complete a certain number of actions. A good example is clearing up a room. Commit to putting away 3 items, or 10 items, or 1 item, whatever number you feel comfortable with. After that is completed, you can choose to put away another 3 items, or you can choose to stop.
The "If X, then Y" Strategy
In this version of the Ridiculously Simple Step strategy, you will be adding another motivational dimension into the mix. This is the principle that you know for sure you can accomplish the step you define for yourself - you have the certainty of being able to complete it. You capitalize on your self-efficacy and your knowledge of prior achievements. These are small achievements to be sure, but this approach often resonates with people in a different way than the other Ridiculously Simple Step strategies. Try it for yourself and see if you like it!
Let's say for example that you are composing a memo, report, essay, whatever - it's something you need to write. You say to yourself, "If I can sit in this chair, then I can turn on the computer." Now you are capitalizing on the fact that you are sure that you can sit in a chair, and further that you can turn on a computer! You know that you have the skills to do the task, so you don't have any doubts. Capitalize on that certainty! Feel the power of being able to handle that.
Sure it's ridiculously simple, but knowing you can do it, will help generate serotonin (the significance chemical) and that will feel nice and it will get you going! Hack into your brain chemistry in a strategic way. Make it work for you.
OK, let's look at a full chain of "if X, then Y" strategies to get going in writing this report.
"If I can sit in this chair, then I can turn on the computer. If I can turn on the computer, then I can open the document. If I can open the document, then I can read what I wrote last time. If I can read what I wrote last time, then I can write one new sentence. If I can write one new sentence, then I can write a second new sentence." And so on and so on.
You don't need to continue defining the small tasks any longer than necessary. You just need to keep yourself going until you are involved in the task and the natural rhythm of the activity takes over.
Eat an Elephant Strategy
Here's another example of breaking a larger, "dreaded" task into mico-small bites so you can push past the initial hump of getting started. I like to think of this as the Eat an Elephant Strategy. It's just like the other Ridiculously Simple Step strategies - it makes uses of precisely the same principles. It just takes a different slant on the challenge of large tasks.
Think of it this way, how would one eat an elephant? An elephant is very, very large! So naturally, we'd need to eat it one bite at a time. A task that seems overwhelming is very similar to an elephant. It looms large and daunting. So you'll "consume this task" one bite at a time!
Feeling overwhelmed by a big task will stop you in your tracks, but you can focus on a process of step by step actions. The larger task is made up of many tiny action steps. You'll just chain the pieces together one after the other to create the overall task.
We chain together a series of very small, ridiculously easy tasks, one after the other. Here's an example. Suppose you need to "clean the kitchen." Ok, that doesn't sound fun - and it doesn't give me any place to start and get my footing. I need that task broken down into chunks I can swallow easily!
Instead of focusing on the outcome - the kitchen being clean - let's focus on a process that will lead to the outcome. Let's break it into a series of steps we can take. We can make these steps as small as necessary so we feel that we are able to get rolling on this task.
We could break it down like this:
1. Take the clean dishes out of the dishwasher and put them in cupboard
2. Put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher
3. Wipe the counters
4. Sweep the floor
5. Take out the garbage
Each of these steps could be broken down as small as necessary to make the "elephant" easier to swallow. For example, let's break down step number 1 - take the clean dishes out of the dishwasher and put in the cupboard - into a series of mini steps:
1. Open the dishwasher door
2. Pull out the top rack
3. Pick up one dish
4. Put that dish in the correct cupboard
You see, any step can be broken down into a set of ridiculously simple smaller tasks. The point is to make the steps small enough that you feel comfortable taking that action. I could even break down the first mini step - open the dishwasher door - even further if I needed to. Ok so let's break down that step into smaller steps:
1. Enter the kitchen
2. Go over to the dishwasher
3. Face the dishwasher
4. Bend over and open the door
So now we eat our elephant in an easy manner, and as we eat each bite, we feel a sense of accomplishment and we remember how much brain chemistry is on our side!
We remember we are free to choose to stop at any time, and since we are successfully accomplishing a task we care about doing, we know that we are living closer to full expression of our values! And that generates more positive brain chemistry for us to enjoy!
Make the steps as small as necessary to get moving forward!
Remember, we are focusing on the next step, not the outcome. "Put your blinders on" - don't think about the entire task. Think only about the next step.
The power of all of these Ridiculously Simple Step Strategies is that you can get an uncomfortable task cut down to size to the point where doing it isn't overwhelming. You also realize that you can stop at any time - so you don't feel disempowered!
You have the power of brain chemistry behind you as you accomplish each easy step - increasing the fluidity of the movements of your muscles, increasing your motivation to continue, and rewarding you with a pleasant burst of a "chemical high" that comes from accomplishment!
Try one or more of these strategies for pushing past that initial hump of overwhelm, or boredom, or fatigue, or any other feeling or thought that has you stuck and not wanting to do what your values say you want to be doing.
Want to learn more effective ways to stop procrastinating and get stuff done? Get started today with my free e-course,
Dr. Kari Miller - ADHD & Productivity Coaching For Women and Students
Imagine finally feeling focused, confident and in control of your time and your tasks. What would it be like to release the frustration and shame and finally be able to skillfully manage your home, your career and your life! If you've tried all the "traditional" approaches to time and task management, but the pieces haven't come together for you yet, contact me - I can help!