ABC’s of Getting Started

This is for those times when you’re just staring at a huge task or pile of todo’s and freeze up, paralyzed by the sheer mass of it all.

This post was actually inspired by someone (you know who you are, and thanks!) who reminded me that I’d promised to explain how to get started when you just don’t know where to start.

And actually, that’s where I was – 8 topics, bursting with ideas, and which one to pick? How was I going to structure the overall shape?

“If you’re going to sit around waiting for all the information to arrive perfectly-formed and ready to just work with, you’d better make sure you’re comfortable because MAN it’s going to be a looooooooong wait.”

If you’ve gone through the other reasons for procrastinating, and you’re up against “too many places to start, where do I start, what’s first? will I make a mistake by starting here and then realise I have to undo the work and start again?

Then it’s time to remember your A B Cs.




Tips for getting started: try these, then get back to me with what worked!

Have fun:

Could you start this at Starbucks? put on some music? Light candles? Pretend to be Darth Vader and get the Force to help? Mime it?

Get creative:
Think of some really really unusual way to start. Can you do it backwards? Standing on your head? while you are walking? with crayons? Trying the task in a new environment or a whole new way can create connections or inspiration you would never have thought of by just procrastinating.

Pretend you’re helping someone else:
If you were helping out a small child or friend or colleague who was doing the same thing, what would you say to them? If a friend came to you needing assistance with doing a presentation, what would you ask? what would you say? whatever the first instinct is, do it for yourself.

We are often kinder, more forgiving and more helpful to others than we are to ourselves when we’re DRIVING ourselves to do something. Spend less time telling yourself you’re bad or weak for not starting, and more energy can go to your project.

With yourself. Think of some of the tasks that need doing. If there are repetitive parts to the work, so much the better. Time how long it takes to do one, and then try to beat that time.

Food is tricky, but there are many other ways to reward yourself: 30 minutes of tv, a nap, a walk, a phonecall to a friend. Decide to do ONE TINY THING, so small that you KNOW you can do it.

Then do it.


Reward yourself.

This will actually help you to trust yourself to be able to get started. And trust yourself to allow you to have rewards. There’s more to this, but you know what you like as a reward, so try it.

Set a timer for 5 minutes: (my favourite!) And then just get going. DO ANYTHING to do with the task. For 5 minutes. When you get to the end of 5 minutes, you are allowed to stop, but you might just have started a task that you’ll want to work a few more minutes at. And if you hate hate hate doing it, hey, it’s only 5 minutes out of your life, right?

Fake it:
Think of someone you really admire. How do you think THEY would start this? How would Donald Trump approach this task? Oprah? What would the best programmer or horse-rider you know tackle first? Pretend for a moment that you are them, and start with where you imagine they would.

Try to do a lousy job:
What is the LEAST that you can get away with? For a document, sometimes it’s just a heading and some bullet points. For a website, you just need a domain and some text.

What’s a REALLY BAD way to do this task? Even a crappy way to do it? Would that really be so bad? Would it help you to at least find a starting point?

Tell someone else that you are going to do a specific thing. It helps if they will hold you accountable, and if they refuse to accept tears, bribery or even faking your own death as an excuse.


Once you have started with these techniques, you will quickly see what is working for you and what is not. You’ll figure out where to go next. Clarity will come. Breathe.

But just like you can’t steer a boat while you’re still in the harbour and tied to the pier, you have to get some movement before you can tell if you are going in the right direction.

Leap. Break out. Just Do It.

Butterfly Leap

Leap into the air, not sure where you will land as it turns beneath you.

Photo attribution: CC Generic 2.0
Butterfly leap

One comment

  1. Very Nike-esque… Just do it. I particularly like the “do a lousy job” one seeing as I am an expert in that field. Personally, I think that my problem is not so much starting things, as it is finishing them… bu there to, your ABC approach should work: Action Brings Completion

Leave a Reply