How to Get Started - A Magic Bullet That Works (Really!)
I've always had a hard time getting started. If I can only get started, I'll keep going. But often getting started can feel all but impossible.
I recently found a solution that is startlingly effective. I hope I can do a good job explaining how it works because the first time it was explained to me, by a coach, I didn't get it. Later I stumbled upon it myself by accident, and then realized it was what that coach years ago was trying to explain to me.
She said I should create an association - didn't matter what it was - but whenever I sat down to work I should do this thing. For example, whenever I sat down to work I might wear a particular shirt. She said when she sat down to write she always put a particular barrette in her hair. Somehow doing this would put you in "the zone" and you'd magically start working. This made no sense to me at all - until, by accident, I experienced it.
My "barrette" is Law and Order reruns. It doesn't matter which flavor - the original, SVU, CI. I hear Cha-Ching and I'm like Pavlov's dog - sitting at my computer and focusing like I'm supposed to. How did this happen? Let me explain.
How I Created My Magic Bullet
Twice in my life I've gotten years behind in filing tax returns. I'm not proud of this. I'm especially embarrassed that I let it happen twice. See, the thing is, I've been self-employed for most of my life, the bookkeeping for self-employed people is onerous, and I'm not especially enamored of bookkeeping. If I allow myself to put it off and it starts to build up, then it feels overwhelming and I put it off even longer. You can see where that goes. (I'm all caught up now, I'm happy to say.)
The first time I caught up on back tax returns, I had the TV on for background distraction (bookkeeping is deadly boring) and L&O SVU reruns just happened to be on. I'd actually never seen L&O before (this was a long time ago), so I was interested and kept it on. By sheer dumb luck, my magic bullet was created - though I didn't realize for a while that I had it.
These are the key features for creating the magic bullet:
- Somehow, by hook or by crook, get yourself to do the work - even if it's just a five-minute microburst.
- While doing the work, wear, listen to, or otherwise experience your chosen association.
With enough association experiences, you will be able to invoke the mindset that allows you to work just through the association.
I didn't realize I had this association with L&O until I got behind on my tax returns again ((blush)) and the consequences of not filing became so dire that even I couldn't put it off any longer. While I was frantically floundering around in a sea of paper, a L&O rerun came on TV and it immediately calmed me - so noticeably that I started recording every rerun I could find. Then I discovered I could stream L&O reruns through Netflix. And only then did I remember what that coach told me years ago about the barrette.
I'm all caught up on my tax returns now, but no matter what it is that I have to do, I know that if I'm having trouble getting started, turning on L&O will get me unstuck. It's like magic. I can be sitting at my desk, staring and frozen and unable to start. Then I remember the trick. I turn on L&O and it immediately calms me down and helps me to focus. I start right in.
How to Create Your Magic Bullet
I would have to say that of all the tools I've learned to deal with my tendency to procrastinate, this is by far the most effective. I'm not behind in anything anymore, and L&O reruns have a lot to do with that. Or rather, I should say, the magic bullet of "association" has a lot to do with that. Mine just happens to be L&O reruns.
Pick something and work on creating an association. Maybe it's wearing a particular shirt, or a particular barrette in your hair, or listening to a particular type of music. Then when the to-be-associated thing is happening, move heaven and earth to work on your project, even in microbursts of five minutes. Use the PA chatbox (another extremely effective tool) to forge that initial association. You can do anything for five minutes. You can create this association and make your own magic bullet!