You have a task that you know that you need to do. It sits there, staring you in the face, or lurks just around the corner. It weighs on your mind, causing stress and anxiety.
So often we wait for inspiration to strike to help us get started on a difficult task. The important task nags at your mind. You know that it needs to get done, but you are waiting for just the right time to do it. You need some sort of spark of motivation to get you started.
The problem is, that sometimes inspiration doesn’t strike.
Where does the motivational spark come from? How can you kindle it, and gain control over your life?
Here are four reasons why many people don’t get started, and what we can do about them:
1. You don’t have a strong reason why
Not having a strong reason to accomplish a task in the near future allows many tasks to slip to the back burner. Without a strong reason, it is easy to postpone the task, over and over again.
Search your mind for the reasons why a task is important. Think of your values and life goals. How will accomplishing this task help you a year from now, ten years from now, and in the overall context of your life?
Set a deadline for yourself, with intense personal reasons why you must meet that deadline. Be sure that you are committed to the deadline. An attitude of “I hope to get that done this year” won’t get you very far. You need an attitude of “I definitely will get that done by March because (insert important reason). In order to reach that deadline I need to complete this small step today.”
“There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.” – William Barclay
2. Lack of commitment
Lack of commitment can cause us to never start many tasks. Make a commitment to a time and a place, where and when you will do the task. If you tell yourself that you will do a task at 10:00 this morning from your desk, rather than a vague “I will do it today”, it will become more real in your mind. The more real it is, the more likely you are to actually do it.
Time acts as a trigger to get you started. When the appointed time rolls around, you will be thinking, it is 10:00, I must start the task now. Now is an important word. The only time you can actually start a task is now.
Setting a place where the task will be done helps to satisfy the “S” in SMART goals. Knowing where the task will take place makes it more specific. At a minimum, you know that in order to get started you must be in the proper place.
Fear may be holding you back. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear that the result of completing the action may make you have to face up to bad news. But ignoring fear does not make it go away. Fear needs special treatment to be overcome.
Realize that by completing the task and facing the consequences, you are almost always better off than if you hide your head in the sand waiting for the problem to go away. Usually, ignored problems only get worse. And even if they don’t get worse, living long term with the stress of the undone task hanging over you is not good for your health. Face a fear enough times and the fear reaction will nearly be gone.
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
4. A task may seem overwhelming
A task may seem overwhelming, making it hard to imagine getting it done. Your big goals in life can be like that. You have strong reasons why you want to accomplish the goal, but it is so big it is hard to see the end from where you currently stand.
Find small steps to get started. I love the term “baby chunks”, from Steve Robbins, the self-proclaimed Get It Done Guy. He uses the term to refer to a small chunk of time, say 10 minutes, in which we focus 100% on the task, makes getting started much more manageable.
However, I often think of the phrase as meaning a small piece of the task. I used that technique as a child when cleaning my room seemed overwhelming. I looked around the room and found one toy that I could pick up and put away. That was okay, so I looked for the next one, and the next, and so on.
Nowadays I usually break down any daunting task into small steps to get started. Look up the phone number. Set the time that I will call. Plan what I will say. At the appointed time, pick up the phone.
You can get your motivational spark by having strong enough reasons, by making a commitment, by overcoming fear, and by breaking the task down into manageable chunks.