The Art of Getting Started

001startMost people have creative projects that keep ending up at the very end of their to-do lists, tempting but unreachable and perpetually postponed in favour of more urgent tasks. This blog has been one of my most frequently procrastinated projects this year. I have kept making promises to myself; once I have prepared this course meeting, once I have delivered that translation, once I have finished my new website – then I will start my blog.

However, if you are anything like me, you will know that this utopian ‘afterwards’ does not exist. There will never be unlimited time to focus. There will always be new tasks to squeeze into our schedules. We will never really be done.

I knew that if I were to ever start this blog, I had to make it a priority. I had to move it to the very top of my to-do list. While most of us know that getting started is a matter of priority, we tend to either forget it or decide that whatever we want to do is simply not important enough. Usually, this is just a bad excuse. We resist it because it is so important to us. What if we fail? What if no one appreciates it? What if it is just a waste of time?

Now, think of it this way: What if we kept postponing our dreams? What if we only used our creative energy to find new excuses for not even trying to reach them? What if our whole lives were spent crossing urgent but insignificant tasks off our lists?

Here is a challenge: Think of a creative project that you have been putting off for a while. A project that you know is important, even if you may be trying to convince yourself otherwise. Perhaps you want to write a novel. Perhaps you want to shoot a short film. Perhaps you want to learn photography.

Spend a minute breaking your project down into concrete, manageable steps. Write them down. Then take the first of these steps and break it down into even smaller tasks. Look at the first task. Is it small enough to do right now? If not, make it even smaller. You could write a one-sentence summary of your novel plot. You could rough out one image on your storyboard. You could take your camera for a five-minute walk in the neighbourhood.

Have you found a task small enough?

Great. Now do it.

No matter what kind of project you find yourself avoiding, you can get started right now. Define the smallest first task. Make it so tiny that there is not a single excuse not do it. Then do it. Not next week or tomorrow. Do it now.

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