Chris Hannah
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When the Hardest Part Is Starting

Shawn Blanc wrote a short post today regarding procrastination, and how he has a “Five-Minute Rule” (which he has written about separately) to deal with it. It reminded me of something I thought about a while ago, which was a rather large piece on things that you can do to trick yourself into becoming productive.

In his post, he explains that there are some tasks that, although can be worth doing, aren’t easy to start. I bet quite a lot of people can relate to that.

Sometimes it can be chores that need to be done, or it can also be an activity like reading a book, which may take some initial effort to get into.

One of the things I wrote about in my previously mentioned post, was that I tried to forget about the “bigger picture” of a certain task or activity, and focus on something easily achievable:

So if I want to tidy up the kitchen, I’d tell myself, “I’m just going to put away all of the rubbish in the bin and then I’m done”. If I’m writing a blog post, I’d probably aim to write either a first sentence or maybe even just to get an idea down somewhere. No matter what it is, I find forgetting about the big picture for a second can help. The goal is to get that one thing done, and then you can either finish or just one more thing. After a while, it creates a snowball effect, where after every small task you complete, you’re more likely to do the next thing and the next thing until you may as well just finish it.

That was my approach to starting more chore like activities, but it might not be the best attitude for everything.

This is where I believe Shawn Blanc’s method is much more flexible, as his rule is that he decides to commit just 5 minutes:

I’ll spend 5 minutes putting away the dishes; 5 minutes warming up; or 5 minutes writing whatever crappy prose comes to mind.Then, after those first 5 minutes, if I’m still not into it I give myself permission to move on to something else. But most of the time, it only takes a few minutes for the momentum to kick in.

I love these types of rules because they’re simple enough to perform and to remember for the future, and it’s also great when they’re effective, too.

I’m a pretty lazy person when it comes to doing chores, and also starting fun activities, but tricks like these usually get me over the initial hurdle. And from there, it’s definitely a lot easier to carry on.

When you agree with yourself that you are going to commit some effort, but only a limited amount of it, it’s very liberating. Since you aren’t tied to any precomposed expectations of what a task may entail, and you have an easy way out.