Sometimes, when you have a big paper or project due, it can be difficult to know where to even begin.
In grad school, we often had pages that were 30+ pages. At the beginning, I remember thinking, “This is insane. How can I even find a starting place?”
So, when you’re faced with a project that’s huge and ominous, what can you do?
My best answer is to just do something. It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking. It can be as simple as formatting the Word document or scribbling down a quick outline of your ideas.
In fact, this first thing you do doesn’t even have to make it to the final product! The point is to just get started!
Here are some reasons it’s important to get started:
By simply starting a task, you are more likely to complete it.
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely hate being interrupted when I’m trying to complete a task. Have you ever noticed that unfinished tasks kind of stick with you? It’s because of the Ziegarnik effect.
You see, once you start a project (even a small one) your mind creates this nagging need to finish it. When things pull you away from your task, you just experience this great need in your mind to go back and accomplish it.
So, by simply starting on your huge project, you’ll become invested in it and actually start to care about finishing it!
Do a little bit each day, as early in the day as you can.
Objects in motion stay in motion.
I don’t know a lot about physics, but this rule is pretty easy to understand. Just like objects that stay in motion, we also tend to keep going once we’ve started. It’s why we have terms like “on a roll”, “in the zone”, “hit my stride”, etc. Once we start, it’s easy to keep going.
Something that is so cool about teaching is seeing how children (even 5-year-olds) can get “in the zone” and become super focused on what they’re doing. The other day, one of my Kindergarteners was at my teacher table and I planned to work with him for 10 minutes.
Once he got started, he kept wanting to just keep going. He ended up working on math for 30 minutes straight because, once he got in motion, he stayed in motion. As long as you break your project down into manageable chunks, once you start, you’ll stay in motion, too!
(If you want to read more about the Physics of Productivity, check out this post by James Clear)
Start your task in 2 minutes or less.
No. It’s not. You can do it! Think about the thing you’re dreading the most right now. What is one step you could take that could be done in 2 minutes? Could you open a Word document and create your cover sheet? Or type in your header? Bam. One step accomplished!
Maybe you could just do a quick Google search of your topic and read about it for 2 minutes. I bet once you start, you would find something interesting that would make you want to keep going! If it’s math homework, just do the first problem!
Once you start that task and feel that momentum, you’ll feel motivated to keep going! Keep working until you lose your momentum. Take a short break, then come back and do more! The nagging feeling of your unfinished product will keep pulling you back in once you start!