The hardest part of doing something is getting started.
Some people call it inertia. Others call it Resistance. Whatever its name, it’s a force we must overcome in order to begin a task. And the more a task is good for us, the more a task is worth doing, the harder this force is to overcome.
Resistance is a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work. Steven Pressfield
But that force of Resistance can be overcome.
And here’s one simple strategy that helps me overcome it. I make it as easy as possible to begin, because the easier it is to take that first step, the more likely I am to start. To get around to it. To get my rear in gear. To write that first sentence, pick up the phone, or dig the first hole.
Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well: The easier it is to avoid a task, the more likely we are to fail. (Um, yeah. Been there, done that. Too many times to count.)
If we want to overcome resistance, we need to find ways to make it easy to take that first step.
What does that look like in real life?
1. Add the pertinent info to the to-do note.
I am an introvert. I hate making phone calls. It can take me days to get around to calling the vet or the hairdresser to make an appointment. But…when I write the phone number on the sticky note reminding me to “call vet tomorrow morning”, I am much more likely to make the call. Such a simple thing! But it makes a difference. Anytime we can eliminate a barrier to a task (such as looking up a phone number, or digging through the filing cabinet to find a particular form) we make it easier to succeed.
2. Set out the gear the night before.
I am not a morning person. My brain takes a while to wake up, and until it does even simple tasks like choosing an outfit become ridiculously difficult. I learned way back in middle school that setting things out the night before (when my brain was functioning normally) made life much easier. In a similar fashion, making a lunch the night before makes it easier to bring a healthy lunch to work, and setting the gym bag or running shoes beside the door makes it easier to actually do that exercise. The principal here is to prepare for a task when our brain power and motivation are high. That way, at a different time of day—when we may be weary or frazzled—the task is easy to begin because we don’t have to think.
3. Eliminate distractions and temptations.
It’s always easier to spend time on our favorite time-wasters than to begin an important task or develop a healthier habit. Therefore, the more distractions we eliminate, the fewer choices we have to do something other than the thing we should be doing. It may sound obvious, but don’t underestimate the power of this concept. Be merciless at eliminating everything that leads us astray from the task that must be done.
4. Rearrange your space.
Sometimes we avoid starting a task because it requires too much effort to gather the supplies or because it’s too much work to clear what’s already lying around in order to make room for the new project. Manufacturing companies combat this problem by hiring engineers to redesign work flow so processes can be performed more efficiently. We can apply the same principles in our homes and offices. A few changes in where and how items are stored may make all the difference.
5. Break it down.
Sometimes the task is never started because it’s simply too big. If we want to write a book, or start our own company, or some other ambitious task, we’ll never get started unless we break the task down into manageable chunks. When we break each task into subtasks, and then break each subtask into smaller subtasks, we eventually whittle the big scary goal down to some small task that we can do. Something that is easy to start because we know how to do it and succeed.
So what can you do to make it easier to succeed at the tasks in front of you? A few minutes of planning now may save a lot of time later.
The greatest amount of wasted time is the time not getting started. Dawson Trotman