In my letter last week, I shared tips on how to get good at getting started, and a reader responded with an interesting question:
“What if you have trouble stopping? I’ll keep going even if the party ended for me long ago!” — M
Great point! Yes, learning to stop is as important as getting good at getting started, and for the same reason — to deepen the trust you have for yourself.
That part of you who fights against progress is rooted in fear: fear of the unknown, fear of success, fear of failure. It likes to keep things status quo because it knows how to live there. Even though it also knows you can’t thrive there, because the fear is greater than the pain or discomfort, you likely procrastinate and avoid doing what it is you say you want to do.
Using the techniques to get started that I wrote about last week helps to gently guide your fear into motion. Your realistic expectations make it feel safe enough for your resistance to step forward with you.
When you resist getting started, it’s often partly due to you believing that once you do, you’re then sentenced to a long stretch of drudgery. You forget you have the power to stop and start as often as you want.
This is where the power of the Pomodoro Technique is amplified. By knowing you only need to focus for 25 minutes before you get a break can make getting started much more doable.
To M’s question above, if after your POM round, you’re feeling in the zone and want to keep going, I say go for it! With one caveat: at the first sign of exhaustion or frustration, you stop and take a break.
By ignoring strong signs to stop, you teach your resistance (fueled by your younger self who fears any kind of change and would much prefer you maintain the status quo) that they can’t count on you to take care of them. If your resistant self can’t trust you to break when needed, then they’re going to fight getting started at all.
While “Future You” can see the value in finishing a project, “Present You” is the one who has to do the work, and Present You loves immediate gratification.
This is why pausing to recognize small wins is vital. As you regularly acknowledge your successful action taking, and not just the finishing, you keep Present You in the game.
Both practices of starting with realistic expectations and stopping when needed helps your fear feel safe stepping out of your zone of stuck-ness, which ups your chances of seeing a project through to the end in however many rounds it takes.
An important note: There is a fine line between taking a needed break and giving in to your resistance, and only you will know where that line is for you. You’ll need to determine when it’s time to gently push and when it’s time to stop.
The best way to figure out this dance is with practice. Over time, you’ll be able to recognize when your resistance is looking to sabotage you and when it’s asking for a genuine break.
So yes, dear reader, pause you must! Otherwise, you’ll burn any bridge of trust and find yourself continuing to go in circles.
So are you ready?
On your mark….
And then stop. ☺️