[William Shakespeare]: The best way to get started as a writer is to start writing.
– All is true (2018)
Have you ever found yourself staring at a blank page, knowing you have a task to complete, but unable to take that first step?
You’re not alone.
Procrastination is a common hurdle that many of us face when it comes to starting something new, whether it’s a work project, a fitness routine, or a personal goal.
However, there is a science behind getting started, and understanding it can help you overcome procrastination and turn your aspirations into reality.
The Procrastination Challenge
Procrastination is a psychological phenomenon that often occurs when we delay tasks we know we should be doing.
It can be frustrating, demotivating, and hinder our progress toward achieving our goals. However, there’s a reason behind this behavior, rooted in the way our brains are wired.
“Motivation follows action, yet most of us are seeking motivation that creates action.”
― Patrick King, The Science of Getting Started: How to Beat Procrastination, Summon Productivity, and Stop Self-Sabotage
The Science Behind Getting Started
- Activation Energy: The concept of activation energy in chemistry applies to human behavior as well. It’s the energy required to initiate a chemical reaction. In the context of procrastination, getting started requires overcoming a mental activation energy barrier. The key is to reduce this barrier.
- The Zeigarnik Effect: The Zeigarnik Effect is a psychological phenomenon that suggests people tend to remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed ones. This effect can create a sense of unease or tension, motivating you to start and finish what you’ve begun.
- The Two-Minute Rule: This rule, popularized by productivity expert David Allen, suggests that if a task takes less than two minutes to complete, do it immediately. This small win can create momentum and make it easier to tackle more significant tasks.
- Parkinson’s Law: Formulated by British historian and author Cyril Northcote Parkinson, states that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” In simpler terms, if you give yourself a week to complete a task that could be done in a day, you’ll likely take the full week to finish it.
- The 40/70 Rule: The 40/70 Rule, often attributed to former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, suggests that making decisions with only 40-70% of the information you need is often sufficient. Waiting for 100% of the information can lead to paralysis by analysis and missed opportunities.
Strategies to Get Started
- Set Clear Goals: Define your goals precisely and break them down into smaller, manageable steps. Clear goals provide a sense of direction and purpose.
- Create a To-Do List: Organize your tasks and prioritize them on a to-do list. Crossing off completed tasks can be motivating.
- Use the Pomodoro Technique: This time management method involves working for a set period (typically 25 minutes) and then taking a short break. It can help you focus and maintain motivation.
- Visualize Success: Imagine yourself successfully completing the task or achieving your goal. Visualization can reduce anxiety and increase motivation.
- Establish a Routine: Incorporate tasks into your daily routine to create consistency. Habitual actions require less activation energy.
- Embrace Imperfection: Understand that perfectionism can lead to procrastination. Accept that your first steps might not be flawless, but they are essential.
- Seek Accountability: Share your goals with a friend or mentor who can hold you accountable. Knowing someone is watching can motivate you to get started.
Related content: Essential Tools And Techniques To Improve Your Productivity
Getting started is often the most challenging part of any endeavor, but it’s also the most crucial.
By understanding the science behind procrastination and employing effective strategies, you can reduce the mental barriers that prevent you from taking that first step.
The journey to achieving your goals begins with a single action. So, go ahead, reduce the activation energy, and start working towards your dreams today.