on letting tasks linger

This strategy for fighting procrastination aims particularly at the tasks we just can’t seem to start. Following through to completion is another challenge. But as they say, showing up is half the battle.

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What started as tiny as a bullet point on your to do list has grown into a slobbering, snarling monster after two months of neglect. It could be going to the DMV, filling out paper work, returning phone calls, reworking a budget or a cleaning out a closet.

Why do we avoid doing the tasks we once deemed as necessary or beneficial enough to put on a list? There are countless reasons. But in short, something about the task intimidates us. Every time I think about registering a new car, I imagine gathering countless documents that may or may not need notarization and then sitting in a cold, stale room for a whole day. The thought makes me roll my eyes and push the task to a different corner of my mind so I can think other, less overwhelming thoughts. In that case, it’s the amount of effort I’m intimidated by.

If the intimidation of a item to do is a balloon, we must deflate the balloon just enough for us to feel comfortable taking the first step. The intimidation need not be popped completely, but just enough so that we don’t feel it has control of us.

The opportunity for intimidation deflation lies in the very moment we think about the task we’re avoiding. Instead of contemplating on the amount of effort required to complete the task, we should think only about the very first step. We need not even take that first step, only imagine it. The goal of this exercise is not to complete the task or even to start it, but to deflate the intimidation just enough so that we no longer feel controlled by it. If the task at hand is to register a new car, instead of feeling overwhelmed about all that needs happen, I can imagine myself taking just the first step: getting online and determining which documents are needed for registration. I don’t even have to commit to taking action. I’m simply considering what would need to happen first if I was ready to start the task. Something magical happens in this moment: I realize that the first step isn’t so bad. I gain a bit of confidence. I begin to feel like I’m in control, so much so that I just might take action. And once that first step is taken, I’ll gain momentum. I’ll likely feel motivated to push further than step one.

But what if the very first step is just that damn dreadful? What if the first step of registering the car is going to the court and learning that I have to pay $2000 worth of traffic and parking tickets before I can even get my license reinstated? In that case, I would redirect my attention from the very first step and look further into the future. What will accomplishing this task enable me to do down the line? What is the reason I put the item on the to-do list in the first place? Maybe reinstating my license and registering my car means I can sign up to drive for Lyft, start saving at a faster rate and finally be able to invest in my business. The possibility of a greater freedom then, is what will inspire me to get started.

Remember, this is about the getting starting. The goal here is simply to deflate intimidation just enough to feel confident about getting one step closer to where we want to be.

 

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