One year ago, my family and I were set to gather at a local pub to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day when we got the word that Mickey Cassidy’s wouldn’t be open. In fact, all restaurants would be closing their doors to inside dining.
Despite that being a year ago, I can remember that moment like it was yesterday, further amplifying the fact that “time” is just weird. It can go by in the blink of an eye while also feeling like it’s d-r-a-g-g-i-n-g.
The concept of time has become pretty hazy over the last 370+ days. Whether I’m struggling to remember what day of the week it is (I’ve come to call every day “blursday”) or what month (are we still in February? No? March?), it all seems fuzzy.
As I wrap my head around the fact that this crystal-clear memory is an entire year in the past, my mind goes to how different certain areas of my life could have been had I started work on them back then.
So how do I not make the same mistake I did a year ago and drag my feet again on some important goals?
As the old Chinese proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now,” so I get good at getting started.
When we focus solely on crossing the finish line, we can feel overwhelmed and end up freezing. After all, it’s hard to imagine being all the way over there when you’re way back here.
Instead, you come up with a plan to begin.
And to begin again.
Because guess what happens when you get lots of “starts” under your belt? You finish!
Here are three steps to help you start any project or task you’ve been avoiding:
1. Determine if it is something that needs doing. We often go through the motions of life, never stopping to evaluate if what we’re working on is even necessary or important.
Is the task you’re avoiding something that is even worth doing? Is it a vital component of the vision you have for your life?
If so, is there someone who could do it for you? Or help you complete it? Pro tip: You don’t have to do it all.
2. Identify your very first step and break it down. If you find you’re avoiding getting started, there’s a good chance the step you’re expecting yourself to take is too big. Break it down to what I call “stupid-small steps” — a step so small that you can complete it in under 10 minutes.
For example, if you have an intimidating phone call to make, start by writing the number down on a sticky note and put it on your desk.
Have some weight you’d like to lose? Find one healthy dinner recipe and make a shopping list for the ingredients.
3. Use the handy Pomodoro Technique®. Instead of thinking of all the work ahead of you, chunk it down into 25-minute rounds.
Time management tools typically do nothing for this big picture, right-brained, multitasking business owner. Then I found the Pomodoro Technique — one of the loves of my life.
It’s as simple as this: Pick a task to work on and set a timer for 25 minutes. Once the timer rings, take a 5-minute break away from the task at hand.
During my break, I’ll usually stand up and stretch, step outside for a breath of fresh air, throw in some laundry. Whatevs. Then, come back and do another round.
I promise you that you’ll make progress on even the most daunting of projects.
As Michael Altshuler said, “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”
So get out there and fly — one small step at a time.