One small thing less


I was prompted today to write this response to an article and thought I may as well add here as well.

The article was:

The Power of Structured Procrastination

This was my response:

“One small thing less”.
That’s the phrase I came up with that’s worked for me. Not always (nothing is failsafe) but often.

The problem for me, and probably most procrastinators is this:
I perceive a task as overwhelming because of its scope or size, so instead of starting on it I do something else. So, it’s the starting that the problem. If I can get over that ‘starting’ hump I find that I invariably finish the job. But starting it, that’s the trick.

One day I had an epiphany. I was in the kitchen after dinner looking at the chaos around me and was just about to find an excuse to leave it all when I thought ‘baby steps’, this was a method my sister had taught me for climbing hard hills. You take smaller steps rather that big strides. Each step is easy and you just have to do one at a time. Sooner than you think, you are at the top of the hill. So, back in the kitchen, I thought, I’ll just move this one used bottle top to the bin and give myself the option to finish at that point. A small insignificant step, easy but it’s one less thing to do! Once I had done this. I thought, “ok, that was easy, I’ll just move this teaspoon to the sink”. I continued in this vain, and sooner than I thought, I only had one small thing left to do before the kitchen was sparkling and I felt really good about myself. I was amazed.

I soon realised this could be applied to any task/project. At work, when I have a new design to create, and I’m staring at a blank screen hovering between The photoshop icon and facebook page, I think “I’ll just put the logo on the page for now”. Having opened up Photoshop and put the logo on a page, I find that the next ‘small thing’ readily presents itself, so I do it. Before I know it I am half way through the visual.

I often find that simply gathering the supplied assets into a single folder is a good one to to. Then I go and make a cup of tea, come back and read open the first asset to consider it.

So the trick is to find the smallest, easiest, most atomically small task you can identify, the real ‘no brain required’ thing to do, and do that. It’s one thing less to do, it counts, it’s valid ‘work’ (you would have to do it as part of the project anyway). And, it gets you started.

And it works for everything:

Can’t get to the Gym? Find your trainers and put them in your bag.
Can’t start those shelves? Just move your toolbox into the right room and make a cup of tea.
Can’t write that email? Start a draft and add the recipient, make a cup of tea.

Anyone else tried something like this? I’d be interested in some of the ‘smallest’ tasks people have ever identified to get them going in a massive project.

Leave a Reply