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I Don't Want to Start. Now What?


I had a report to write the other day. It felt long and overwhelming and was going to require a lot of focus. It did not feel fun. Twenty minutes after I sat down at my desk, I realized I was doing everything but the report. I also became aware that the anxious energy around getting that report done was moving with me into everything else I did (including starting to write this, because writing this was a lot more fun). I paused, pulled out the notes and materials I needed in order to be able to write, and did a little negotiating. I asked myself how long I thought I could write. Twenty minutes felt too long. My brain covered its eyes and let out a big sigh. At the mention of fifteen minutes, two little eyes hesitantly peered over their hands, and at the suggestion of 10 minutes, a deal was made. Because I was working ahead, I had the time to break this into smaller chunks and be gentle with my brain. No big battles today, thank you very much.

I noticed that this one task made everything I had to do feel large and overwhelming. It was as if it took a paint brush of frustration, and covered everything on my to-do list with that color/feeling. It was hanging over my head like a gray rain cloud about to burst. Once I was able to pause and realized what was going on, I could observe the frustration and tension. I’ve learned if I have something large and uninteresting to work on that I need to approach it in smaller pieces.

How did it go, you ask? I did it! My timer rang after ten minutes, and since I was so close to finishing I decided to push through and complete it. This doesn’t always happen. Sometimes my brain hears the timer and drops the task like a hot potato and walks away. The important thing is to find a starting point that feels accessible and an amount of time that will allow you to get some forward momentum, without shutting yourself down right from the start.

  • What is something you’ve been avoiding?

  • What is one small step you could take?

  • How long can you negotiate with yourself to work on it?

If you’re feeling stuck, let me know and I’d be happy to talk with you about it more!

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