Thursday, October 20, 2022

Motivation Methods: Sidle In Sideways

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This is my fourth post in my series about self-motivation.  I'm talking about ways to break out of the cycle of procrastination and get things done.  My first post discussed doing something else first in order to harness that momentum and get the bigger, scarier things done, and my second post talked about the (affiliate link alert!) "Eat That Frog" method of getting stuff done, where you create a prioritized to-do list and get the biggest, scariest, most important thing done first.

Those are two very different approaches, obviously, and depending on your personality one or both might not work well for you.  It's easy to get stuck doing mundane tasks forever while you fret about doing the thing you're actually procrastinating about, but it's also extremely intimidating to try to jump right into the worst thing on your to-do list.

Fortunately, there's another approach, which I think offers a pretty good compromise.  Instead of choosing between doing something else completely or forcing yourself to stare down your fear, I like to do what I call "sidling in sideways," where I start on just a small part of the big task I'm intimidated by.

For instance, if there's a client article I've been particularly dreading, I'll start by doing something relatively easy, like researching or outlining it.  Sometimes I'll even just focus on writing a title.  During NaNoWriMo, if I can't think of what to write I'll work on character descriptions or backstory (still word count that counts toward my 50,000 word total!).  If

It works for non-writing things, too.  For instance, recently I've been chipping away at cleaning up and reorganizing my kitchen after months of neglect while my horse was sick.  My dolls have overrun the kitchen, plus I wanted to reorganize everything.  It's a big job, and if I think about all the things I need to do to get it all cleaned up and reorganized, I freeze up.  Completely.  The only way I can get anything done is by doing something small.  I pick one stack, one mess, one cupboard to work on, and go from there.  Everything usually takes longer than I think it will, which adds to the overwhelming feeling if I try to look at the big picture - but by starting on just a small part of it, I usually get into it and end up getting more done in the end.

Dividing something up into tiny parts and starting on a small, less-intimidating part is a great approach if you can't afford the time to do something else first, but aren't good at "just doing it."

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