It is said that if you put a plank in front of the wheels of a train standing still, the train won’t even be able to start moving. However, if you put a steel wall in front of a train moving at full speed, the train will punch right through the wall. What gave the train power to punch through the wall? It’s called Momentum. If you have ever helped someone push a car, you know it requires a stronger push to get the car moving but once the wheels start turning, it gets easier especially if you are pushing downhill.
“The most important thing you can do to achieve your goals is to make sure that as soon as you set them, you immediately begin to create momentum.”
– Tony Robbins.
Sometimes, the most difficult part of any task is simply getting started. There are many excuses (not reasons) to procrastinate. If you are waiting for the perfect opportunity to start, you must realise perfect conditions never align. We often have to start with what we have. If you aren’t getting started because you feel you can’t create the perfect results just yet, remember we are only human. It’s alright to start and review as necessary with the view to improve.
The next time you set a task for yourself yet find yourself unwilling to start, you should consider the following:
Take the first step
The act of sitting down with purpose to get started on a task does wonders to your brain, especially if you have created a workspace free of all distractions. Once you sit down, your brain automatically shifts into serious mode because it has come to associate your workspace with where tasks get completed. If you need an extra push, identify the absolute first task that you need to get you started. Agree to work on that task and nothing else for just 20 minutes. That’s often enough time to create the momentum to keep you going.
Break complex tasks into smaller tasks
Sometimes, procrastination is simply the fear of a task that seems too big. A 2,000 page textbook with small print seems really daunting. What if you committed to just reading 20 pages (1%) per day. You’d finish reading that book in 100 days (less than 3 months). That doesn’t seem so daunting, does it? Chances are there will be days you surprise yourself and end up reading more than 20 pages.
Don’t expect miracles
People often give up after starting because they expected quick results. If you start working out today, because you want to lose weight, it might take a few weeks before you start seeing the results. Athletes don’t win Olympic medals overnight. They train every day for many years to get their body in peak condition. Committing to a task and doing it every day gives you small wins. Eventually, these small wins add up over time to give you a big advantage over those who failed to start.
Momentum is what you create when you get started on tasks. It is the wonderful feeling you get just for getting started. When you complete the first task, that feeling encourages you to get started on the next task and the next so you can continue to feel good. To give you an example of the power of momentum, one of my greatest fears when it comes to this blog is about publishing a poorly written post. Yet I also accept the only way to make a post better is to write it down in the first place, no matter how bad it is. After the first draft is ready, I can edit as many times as I need until I am satisfied. With this in mind, the first task I focus on is typing out the first draft. It’s rarely gold but by the time I am done with it, momentum keeps me editing until I have something I feel comfortable submitting.
What are the things that stop you getting started? Is the task really as insurmountable as you think? Or is it simply perfection paranoia that is keeping you from getting started? It seems counterintuitive but sometimes the best way to get a task finished is to simply get started. What are you waiting for?