“Just Do It.” – Nike
How do you defeat procrastination and find your motivation?
Just Start is a practice I introduced in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way, because I wanted a simple phrase and a pithy reminder of how to find your motivation and take action.
I wanted a very simple way to defeat resistance and move forward, one step at a time.
The phrase “Just Start” was simple, it was sticky, and it stuck.
Whenever I find myself stuck or in analysis paralysis or feeling overwhelmed, I just remind myself to Just Start.
Taking action is a skill and it’s a habit you can build.
In fact, it just might be one of the most important fundamental habits you build that will help you with everything else in your life.
Don’t Wait for Motivation. Take Action First.
Most people wait for inspiration. They wait for lightening to strike.
But that’s now how motivation works.
Stephen Pressfield, author of the best-selling book The War of Art, writes about “Resistance.” He reminds us that the pros don’t wait for inspiration. The best artists, athletes and musicians, don’t wait until they feel like it to practice or perform.
They show up. And they Just Start.
It’s counterintuitive, but when you start taking action, you soon find your motivation.
It’s not the other way around.
Dr. David Burns, author of the best-selling book, Feeling Good, reminds us that if we want to find our motivation, we have to take action.
We have to Just Start.
If you’re waiting for inspiration, or waiting for your motivation, before you begin, you’ll run into analysis paralysis. You’ll forge a habit of procrastination. You’ll reinforce your resistance.
The way to break free of all of these self-traps is to Just Start.
As of this moment, you are now free to take action, and Just Start.
Just Start Helps When Everything is a Priority
The practice of Just Start is especially helpful when you have too much to do, you are feeling overwhelmed, or everything is a priority.
Obviously, you can’t do everything at once.
But you can start something. And whatever you start, will actually help you see more clearly, what you need to do next.
Once you are in motion, you create momentum, and that momentum reinforces your motivation. And that motivation has a way of clearing the way forward, and helping you find or figure out your next step.
If you don’t Just Start, you will be stuck wallowing in all your choices, feeling overwhelmed, sinking into analysis paralysis, and losing your motivation.
But the simple way out, is right here, right now:
Find Your Favorite Quotes to Help You Start
Words matter, and the right words might help you start. Keep in mind that it’s not the actual words themselves. It’s your internal representation of the words or phrases that matters.
Find the phrases that help you start.
Here are some examples, but I encourage you to find the phrases that inspire you, and that help you over your humps and hurdles:
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” ― Mark Twain
“Don’t be the only one standing in your way.” – Anonymous
“The expert in anything was once a beginner.” — Helen Hayes
“Dreams don’t work unless you do.” — John Maxwell
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” — Mary Anne Radmacher
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” — Joseph P. Kennedy
“Do something today that your future self will thank you for.” — Sean Patrick Flanery
“The best time for new beginnings is now.” – Anonymous
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” — Lao Tzu
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” — Zig Ziglar
“The key to success is to start before you are ready.” — Marie Forleo
“Be stronger than your excuses.” – Anonymous
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” — Wayne Gretzky
“Sometimes the only things preventing your dreams from becoming realities is the long time it is taking you to start.” ― Israelmore Ayivor
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” — Arthur Ashe
“The beginning is always NOW.” ― Roy T. Bennett
“You’re never ready for what you have to do. You just do it. That makes you read.” – Rheta Schreiber
“When something goes wrong in your life just yell ‘PLOT TWIST’, and move on.” — Molly Weis
Just Do Something Small
The secret to Just Start, is to start by doing something small. Take a baby step. Baby steps are O.K. In fact, they are great. Because they help you…
Taking a giant leap is not always a great strategy. And if you fear the leap, and it can block you from getting started.
Take a little step, so you can find your footing. Take a small step, so you can Just Start.
Maybe that means write a paragraph. Maybe that means make one slide. Maybe that means walk around the block. Maybe that means practice on note or one chord. Maybe that means do one push up. Maybe that means stand up. Maybe that means pick up the phone. Maybe it means schedule that meeting. Worst case, put one foot in front of the other, or just breathe.
Whatever that one small act is, Just Start.
Just Do Something for a Few Minutes
Sometimes all it takes is to Just Start for a few minutes. Just do something for 3-5 minutes. Motion creates emotion, and motivation will follow.
Once your body is in motion, your mind will get on board.
If you Just Start something for a few minutes, your mind will be focused on what’s next, instead of how, where, when, or why should you get started. You just took all the guesswork out of the equation.
Remember, motivation follows action.
Take action, then motivation follows.
If you know this one simple rule of how motivation works, you will never again be waiting for divine inspiration or hoping that lighting strikes.
Instead, lighting will find you. It will find you while your are taking action, working at whatever task, habit, skill, project, goal, dream, you are chipping away at.
And now you will be ready to handle it.
If you find yourself getting stuck in your mind. First remind yourself, Just Start. Next, if you are still stuck, then count down from 3 to 1, and then Just Start.
Counting down from 3 will stop your mental chatter and will be your trigger to remind you to Just Start.
This is a great way to disrupt yourself and to retrain yourself to be a person of action.
This technique works great when you catch yourself starting to overthink something. When you find yourself still sitting there dong nothing, use that as your trigger for doing your next something.
Just count in your head, or say it out loud, 3…2…1…Go!
This will help you short-circuit the part of you that will keep you stuck. This will help you take the first step, the most important step, towards whatever you are trying to do.
The countdown method is a great way to Just Start and it works anywhere, anytime.
And it works especially well, when you need it most.
You are Not Lazy. You are Not a Procrastinator. You Just Need a New Skill.
Taking action is a skill you can build. If you think about it, it’s very possible that you went through your whole life and nobody ever pointed out to you that action comes before motivation.
Unless somebody tells you that directly, so many people think they are supposed to wait for motivation, then take action.
So they focus on a bunch of hacks trying to figure out how to get motivated or stay motivated, but then they never find their motivation, because they never Just Start.
Their inner strategy is wrong.
The beauty is you can make this little shift and start taking action to find your motivation.
See yourself as a person of action.
Imagine that you will get better with practice, because you will.
You, and you alone, are the one that will take your next action. You, and you alone, are the one that has your power to act.
Don’t let anybody take away that power. Especially you.
Focus on Progress Over Perfection
It takes practice, but the beauty is that practice is how you make progress. And you no longer will get stuck in perfection, because you know the truth:
Progress trumps perfection.
Perfection is a self-protection and fear-based mechanism that no longer serves you.
Drop it like a bad habit (actually, it is a bad habit, if you remember that thoughts are habits, too).
By focusing on progress, you get better. You get better because you are learning by doing.
Doing creates feedback. Feedback is a gift, if you use it. Use it to master your craft or to enjoy the journey of mastery itself.
Perfection is an ideal that doesn’t exist. But mastery is a journey that invites everyone to come and play the game.
The beauty of the game of mastery is that anybody can get better, and you only lose if you don’t try.
And the way to try is to Just Start.
Just Start + 20-Minute Sprints
The more you start the more you can finish. You might get really good at Just Start. But you might find you outgrow Just Start for 3-5 minutes.
Or you might find you want another simple practice to help you make the most of your new found skill.
You can use 20-Minute Sprints to batch your productivity.
I write about Timeboxing in Getting Results the Agile Way, but the main idea is this. Simply set a time limit. So for a 20-Minute Sprint, you will set a time limit of 20 minutes. When your 20 minutes are up, you stop. You take a break. You can always do another Sprint. But the key point is to use this short-period of time to funnel and focus your time, energy, and attention.
I’ve used 20-Minute Sprints to write blog posts, read books, make presentations, do rapid research, and just about anything where I wanted to chunk something bigger, down into something smaller.
How much more could you write, if you could finish blog posts in 20-Minute Sprints?
You Can’t Finish What You Don’t Start
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that you can’t finish what you don’t start. And there are plenty of people in graves with great ideas that never started.
A phrase that always comes to mind for me is:
“Don’t die with your music still in you.”
It’s a little morbid, but at the same time, it’s a reminder that life is short, so go for it.
To write this blog post, I almost got stuck, right up front. So all I did was count to myself, 3…2…1, Go!
And Go, I did.
It was my simple way to Just Start.
And the beauty of Just Start, is that now I am done.
And hopefully this one little idea, this one simple practice from Agile Results, will help more people win their day, one step at a time.
Whenever you get stuck, whenever you fail to get started, whenever you are overloaded or overwhelmed, remind yourself:
And you will clear you own way, faster than anybody else can ever clear your path for you.
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