Monday Motivation: Practice Persistent Starting
(Note: this is part of a new series called Monday Motivation. For many people, Monday’s are a tough day to get going. On a semi regular basis, I will post articles on Monday mornings designed to get you pumped, make you laugh, or do both!)
Quick question: What’s the one thing you must always do before you finish achieving your goals?
That’s right, it’s a trick question.
The answer is, “you have to start.”
It’s true. Nothing gets finished until something gets started.
Every time you sit down to work on a project, you must start. This is true whether you are at the beginning, in the middle, or just about to finish. Starting is something you must do over and over, day after day.
If you fail to achieve a goal or complete a project, it’s not that you didn’t finish. It’s that you stopped starting.
In a previous post I mentioned one of the key things I discovered when it came to increasing productivity was the idea of Persistent Starting. (You can read the post here: 8 Ways to Do Something Great (point #3))
Persistent Starting is a concept from Neil Fiore in his excellent book, The Now Habit. This book is one of the best on overcoming procrastination I have ever read. If you struggle with procrastination, I highly suggest you check it out.
The idea is that one of the thought processes that leads to procrastination is the fear of finishing. The fear of finishing comes from a few places:
- Looking at the size of the project and feeling that it is so large that you will never finish
- Feeling that you still need to do more prep work
- Guilt and self-anger at not having started earlier
- Doubt as to whether what you are doing is any good or actually working
The more you focus on these things, the more overwhelmed and negative you feel, and the more likely you are to procrastinate.
The solution to that is to practice the skill of Persistent Starting.
Persistent Starting simply involves shifting your focus from finishing to starting. In Fiore’s words, you change you self-talk from, “I must finish,” to “when can I start?”
The only way to get anything done is to keep starting. Every day you sit down to work, or prepare to workout, or pursue a passion, it is simply another day where you need to start again.
Even on the last day, when you actually finish the report, the book, the project, the class, etc., even that day begins with the act of starting.
I have found Persistent Starting to be one of the most useful productivity/anti-procrastination tools I have ever come across.
You can apply it to so many different areas of life:
- Have a big report for work? Don’t focus on getting it all done – just start.
- Data entry? Yeah, it’s boring and repetitive. Don’t think about what a pain in the ass it is – just start.
- Cleaning the home? I hate cleaning too. Don’t whine about it – just start.
- Need to work out? Don’t obsess with finishing a marathon or completing 100 reps – just start.
- Have a creative project you’ve been meaning to work on? Don’t worry about the fact that it will take a year to complete – just start.
Shift your focus from finishing to starting, and you may be shocked at how much you can get done. If you want to become a productivity machine, become mildly obsessed with becoming a serial persistent starter…
Like many of you reading this, I find myself in situations where I have way too much to do in way too short a time. Ironically, in those situations, my instinct is often to avoid doing anything at all. That, my friends, is classic self-destructive procrastination.
Persistent Starting is a great way to combat that. When overwhelm creeps in, stop thinking about how much you have to do and how you’ll never get it all done. Just start.
Then start again. Then start again. Then keep starting until the project is complete. Then start on the next one.
Question: What have you started today?
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By Avish Parashar. As the world's only Motivational Improviser, Avish uses techniques from the world of improv comedy to engage, entertain, and educate audiences on ideas around change, creativity, and motivation.
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