Starting the new year right may mean getting a solid footing on the process of ‘STARTING’ altogether. I have written about how starting helps with the finishing in a previous post – so I am backing up a bit now, and addressing the ‘starting’ process itself.

Starting is often challenging for us. No one is immune to this I have noticed. Whether it be starting a project, a report, an employee evaluation, a research paper, or a blog post – the very idea of starting can be daunting. And it isn’t always the ‘starting’ that is the culprit – it is the emotional or mental ‘stuck-ness’ when thinking about the sheer magnitude of the project overall, right? Those thoughts of “oh wow, this is going to be a lot of work” or “I don’t have the multiple hours this will probably take to finish” or “what if I do a bad job after putting in all the time,” or the ever-famous “I don’t know what to do first.” Yeh, there are those concerns – but they are simply limiting beliefs. You probably can ascertain from previous experiences that most of those thoughts have no real foundation or legitimacy. So. Let’s Start. (Pun intended).

Regardless on what you need to begin working on – get your DAY off to a good start. Begin by creating and implementing a sustainable and efficient morning ritual. Why? Because when we have success doing something at the beginning of our day, we feel a sense of accomplishment and it propels us to have more of that feeling. This is a great way to begin the day! This is what a morning ritual/routine may look like:

6:15 Get out of bed/Make bed
6:20 Use Bathroom/change clothes
6:25 Have Coffee/Tea
6:40 Exercise/Walk dog, etc.
7:10 Shower/Dress for the day
7:30 Eat Breakfast/Make & Pack lunch
7:50 Brush teeth, hair, etc.
8:00 Begin Your Day

Modify this to reflect your mornings – but write out what your morning routine includes, and be intentional about how you begin your day — every day. This daily ritual of starting off your day by doing these tasks actually launches you to start other things. Just making one’s bed (which in reality only takes 1-2 minutes to do) will give you a sense of accomplishment which has been scientifically shown to move us forward onto another task (Nunes & Dréze, 2006). So, just do that. Don’t think about it. Be the Nike® commercial and “Just Do It®” as I often say.

When faced with a task you keep putting off, try this:
Let’s say you have to write a report at work, or create a presentation slide-deck. Chances are you have some idea of what needs to be included in that document. So, do what I do: Open a blank page and do these three things:

1. Title it.
2. Save it. (Now it’s official – you are off to the races!)
3. Copy and paste the list of content parts that are needed right away and place at the beginning or on the draft page/slide.

Now you have begun!
By adding a couple of extra steps or tasks around a project – like writing the title – helps us feel like we have started (because we have) and spurs us on to the next step. Doing SOMETHING is progress – so do anything toward the goal so you can stop dancing around the task and get to it. When I make a slide deck, I create a temporary first slide with a list of the content I need/want to include so it is right there in my face reminding me. Same goes for an article I want to write. I will put a list of points I want to make at the top. These ‘guides’ get deleted afterwards, of course, but they act as a launching pad from which to start. Then you are not facing a blank page.

Two Quick Productivity Tips:

I have said this before in other articles and it warrants repeating:
~ First, schedule the time in your calendar to write, create, design whatever it is you need to do. Don’t just add it to your never-ending ‘to-do’ list. (Yes, I knew you were thinking of doing that).
~ Second, if you have to stop mid-way while doing the task – leave your work at a point that is super-easy to resume. AND make a note to yourself what the next step is before closing up the document. This way when you resume – you ramp up much more quickly.

The next time you need to start something – anything – do ONE THING toward the end result. Anything is better than nothing – and we all feel more motivated to ‘continue’ something we started already, versus facing a blank slate. Remember you don’t have to know ALL the steps to take before starting — you just need to know the FIRST one or two. Do that and the finishing will generally take care of itself.

If I can be helpful to you in getting started with any intention – Call me: 805-570-6660 or Email me: [email protected]

Nunes, J. C., & Dréze, X. (2006). The Endowed Progress Effect: How artificial advancement increases effort. Journal of Consumer Research, 32(4), 504–512.