One productivity tip I’ve been practicing lately, and recommending to my clients, is what I call the “Just Get Started” approach. I’ve found it an effective way to deal with tasks you’ve been procrastinating on.
If you have an item on your to-do list that you see you’ve been putting off and avoiding doing, take a 5 or 10 minute chunk of time and start the task. Just spend those 5 or 10 minutes on it, then stop and put it away in a state in which you can easily return to it. Then go back to your to-do list and change the action item for that task by using the word “Finish”. For example, if the original task was
Write proposal for Smith Co.
the revised task would be
Finish writing proposal for Smith Co.
By taking this approach, you’re likely to find that it’s easier to go back and work on the task once it’s been started – you’ve short-circuited your procrastination by just getting started for those 5 to 10 minutes.
I think this works for a couple of reasons. First, before we begin something, it lives in the realm of “the unknown” – a place where uncertainty and apprehension are often present. Once we dive in, though, and focus our thoughts on the task, it quickly moves out of that realm, as our intellect, knowledge, skill, and experience take over.
Second, the human mind does not like “incompleteness”. When something is left incomplete or undone, our natural tendency is to want to complete it. In this way, the in-process task naturally draws you toward it to finish it later.
And as a bonus, updating your to-do item in the form of “Finish the task” provides an additional mental boost, as it’s easier to return to a task to finish it then to start it.
One final note: after your initial 5 to 10 minutes of work on the task, you may find you’ve been sufficiently drawn into it that you don’t want to stop. DON’T! If you have the time available to continue, by all means take advantage of the momentum you’ve generated, and keep going on it.
Try this tip out, then use the Comments section below to let me know how it worked for you!