Procrastinators Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from chronic procrastination.

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!


Thanks for this reading, it's

Thanks for this reading, it's very helpful!  I love the idea of working through those 'microbursts' with the association occuring and doings it's own magical work for  the next time.  (double blush - I have taxes also to do ) 


Thanks for this reading, it's

Thanks for this reading, it's very helpful!  I love the idea of working through those 'microbursts' with the association occuring and doings it's own magical work for  the next time.  (double blush - I have taxes also to do ) 


Magic Bullet

Interesting. Wha you describe is a tool in NLP (neurolinguistic programing) called an anchor.  

I fiind that certain music gets me into a productive mood and helps me write. 

Thank you!

This article is great ... how did I reach my 40s and never hear of this "demand resistance" problem (that I clearly have) and "microbursts"??? Awesome!

tax returns....magic bullet

HI all...I'm new to the site and I'm you haven't heard that one before, right? My life is in a total shambles...I keep saying this is not who I am. There was a time when I had it all together now everything is falling apart. Clutter, unopened mail-too frozen to open, phone turned off, threats, etc.

I can relate to about half of what you said....oh, how I need a magic bullet...or needed one a year ago....

I either didn't file 2 years or they were lost...(long story-short version - I have a brain tumor that was unnoticed for several's benign but has caused many problems with short term memory....). Anyway...I expected a refund both years but the IRS went into my bank account and TOOK  nearly $15,000 - taxing at the highest rate without any deductions or credits. I was too much of a procrastinator to open letters and return calls---frozen in fear----and they've wiped my account out. Now I'm floundering trying to shuffle bills and in a "rob peter to pay paul mode"....all because of my procrastination. 


Hi there wvmom, i posted a welcome to you here:




So funny: Law and Order has been my magic bullet as well for taxes and have begun to create other associations to get me in the zone. I have Pandora on my smart phone and if I turn on particular stations I begin to associate the music with actions. Govinda brings on my morning exercise routine, 1980's dance music for powering through house cleaning. When I was really really struggling to take any action logging into PA chat was the key to taking action.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal

This works

Last week as I read this I realized that whenever I put on certain music I can focus on my paperwork. So I put on that music and set the timer for one hour, and worked. After one hour I stopped, although I felt like wanted to keep going. Today I plan to do the same thing.


Magic Bullet

Thank you for the tip. I just put on a ring and neclace that I used to wear when I was in a better place. I'm going to work right now for 15 minutes (that's all I have before I need to leave for work). But I'm going to commit to using this for the next 5 days and let you know my success.

First thing i come to knew

new to this site and this is the first thing i read

i will try this

take ur help in finding my magic bullet

may be i need to look around when i am productive

Welcome kaviprakash

I know it's never too late to make a brand new start - from "Brand New Start" by Paul Weller

11th_hour Tried it, liked it

Thanks Pro!  I did try this magic bullet last week, and it DID work!  For me, when I arrived at work I put a pencil behind my ear.  That would be my magic bullet.  I associate that pencil behind the ear with smart people (an accountant, the efficient secretary).  That's the picture I have in my mind.  Well, I did it and I was determined and focused with my work.  I did it correctly and quickly.  Usually, I'll labor needlessly, wanting it to be thorough and PERFECT.  But correct was good enough!  I was very pleased with myself, however I was still avoiding the MAJOR PROJECT I have been procrastinating on. 

The pencil only seemed to work for me that one day.  I guess that wasn't my thing and I have to find a better/permanent one.  (Also, while I had the pencil behind my ear I knew it wasn't really me---I don't use pencils.  Pencils have erasers on the end and are for when people make a mistake.  I don't make mistakes.  I do everything slow and PERFECT.  That's why I always use a PEN!)

Agnus thanks pro

Just reading this and it really helps - I seem to work better having my window open, or working on the back porch - thought it was all about light and fresh air but now methinks this is my "association."  In fact, I just opened the window and already feel better!  Thanks, pro.

Journey waves at Agnus

Hi, Ag, nice to see you! 

We won't be afraid of being sweet to ourselves.  - Her Space Holiday

Back atcha, Jo!

Good to "see" a favorite friend still here, yay! 


Thank you so much for taking the time to put that together.  I have so many tacks that are overwhelming me, I thin i can start to use this one now.  Smile

Tax Returns are just one "project" I need to start

The IRS is sending me nasty letters.  I hope I can find an association.  Four years are actually done; I just need to mail them in.  If they were not so late, I would be getting a refund (so it is not that I owe $).  Another barrier is now I can't find the required attachments.  Why?  Because I am a paper hoarder.  The third problem is, I procrastinate about going to the Post Office.  (Afraid not correct/perfect?-- who knows). 




Don't get me started...

I too have a problem doing taxes.  I file the extension on April 15, then do my taxes on Oct 15.  I hate taxes!

Also, I totally understand about going to the Post Office.  Sometimes, that is all I have to do one day is go to the Post Office.  If I stay home from work, I only have until 5:00 pm before they close.  I will get there a few minutes before closing, if I make it at all.  If it's Saturday, I only have until NOON and again will get there a few minutes before closing if I make it at all.  With me, everything I mail has to be PERFECT.  Tax returns neatly/correctly typed.  Rebate offers neatly/correctly filled out.  Bill payments, etc.  EVERYTHING must be neat, correct, I make sure all envelopes have a piece of tape on back to secure flap.  Also, if I have to provide my own envelope, I make sure the mailing and return addresses are typed and put tape over them so they don't get smudged if it rains!   Don't get me started on mailing packages...  They are the worst for me.  I almost give myself a stroke wanting everything packed, wrapped, labeled, postaged PERFECTLY.  Oh, and if I have to include customs forms... Don't get me started!   gdblawyer, I feel your pain! (saying it in Bill Clinton's voice)


pro wrote, "I'm not behind in anything anymore..."

Wow! That is fantastic. Congratulations! You truly inspire me. I am so grateful to you for this article, and for all you do.

brilliant, but I could use help in implementing

This is brilliant! It definitely works for me: my trick is to eat gummy bears to get myself to work.

Only problem is I just managed to lose a fair amount of weight (15 pounds), and I don't want to eat all that back on again. Any suggestions for either training myself to only eat gummy bears while *starting*, or finding a healthier alternative that snacks away just as easily as gummy bears?

fudoshin: 3:13am: associations

Baby carrots?  Celery?  Blackberries? 

million thanks

I am going to experiment with this idea and see what works. Many thanks for sharing. Being self-employed I have a lot of these same bookkeeping dreads. I have a bookkeepter which helps but I have billing and other tasks that get behind.

Brilliant Tool

Thanks for that article, Pro :) It's really helped me get fired up to start working on a project that I've been putting off all day. I think my "Magic Bullet" is simply shifting from working on my bed to working while sitting on my bean bag. So far microbursting my way through the project and making progress :D Thanks for sharing!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action - Walter Anderson

post your ideas for magic bullets (see article)

Sarito in the chatbox just posted this:

> i alway light a scented candle before i set to work...

Chickadee in the chatbox posted this:

I've been using same method as part of my morning routine w a fave CD.

These are great ideas. What are some more magic bullets you can associate with working to get you going?

Gwen D's Magic Bullets

Hi Pro,

Totally understand the L&O trigger. I have a similar response to The West Wing. Good opening title theme, lots of smart professional people talking ethically and solving big problems. Gets me going every time. I have all the reruns. Thank you for reminding me!

 I have also put together an iTunes playlist I called "time passing" that contains songs that talk about time. It's kind of ambient, so I can ignore it and focus on work, but also, if I think about what I'm listening to, I can dive in to another burst. 

 West Wing reruns are good for starting and getting the workstation up and running and feeling comfortable about working. Playlist is good for "putting pixels down..." and planning.

 For me, there is something to multitasking with a layer of media --- I am so much less anxious if there's music or video playing. 


Gnothi Seauton ~ Know Thyself