Starting is the hardest part. Newton’s first law of motion probably explains it. “An object at rest will stay at rest unless an external force acts upon it.”
The reality is that to get ahead in life, you have to do things no one else is telling you to do. You’ve got to become your own external force.
You must practice the art of the start.
This is something you can learn, even if you’re not a natural self-starter. I know because I was a deadline-driven guy (procrastinator) most of my life. Since then, I’ve learned to become my own external force. Here’s a few things I’d recommend to practice the art of the start:
1. Set deadlines.
Yes, this can be torture. I’ve always been a free spirit that dislikes routines. One day I realized my free spirit didn’t live for free and I disliked being routinely broke. Now I use this definition:
- goal (n.) – a dream with a deadline
Setting deadlines forces me to schedule blocks of time on my calendar. I have a very project-driven life. If something doesn’t get on my calendar, it just doesn’t get done. Deadlines are mile markers. I need them because most projects are marathons, not sprints. If I simply move towards that first mile marker, I’ve started!
2. Plan work in pieces.
I’ve always been able to start with the end in mind, a la The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Problem is I’m really impatient. When I used to write music, I’d finish a song and literally want the CD in my hand the next moment. It was great for casting vision. It was a nightmare in executing vision.
This is why working in 15-minute increments works great. It helps me take small bites. I can focus since it’s just 15 minutes. Short projects become doable. Long-term projects just become a series of short ones. If I simply start the first 15 minutes, I’ve started.
3. Change the environment.
Projects often involve working in a particular place with particular equipment. My MacBook and office are synonymous with work.
Try different tools and environments to engage your mind in different ways. It makes starting the project less monotonous. I’m notorious for randomly working in the conference room, a reception desk, or in the stairwell. I brainstorm on legal pads, posters on our walls, or classroom chalkboards.
And though I create better in solitude, talking to someone about my project really helps. It makes me feel like I’m not alone, even if I’m doing all the work. I talk with or iMessage my fellow creatives all the time, even if we’re not working on the same project.
Most of the time, you’ve got to just suck it up and start. Remember Newton’s law: you have to provide some sort of external force. Force is forceful. Overthinking things will just get you to think about how you need to clean your house, do errands, or any other random thing. Get these 3 things in place, then start with the first 15 minutes. If you do, you’ve started!
Question: How do you practice the art of the start? Share them below!
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