How to Turn "Later" into "Now"
Updated: Feb 7
5 Hacks to Climb out the Quicksand and get Started
BUT WHAT'S THE SECRET TO GETTING STARTED?
Waiting for the deadline? Although nothing makes us as productive as the last minute, there are downsides to procrastinating until a deadline is looming. The stress involved can interfere not only with the quality of our performance, but also with our health and relationships. Also, leaving it to the last minute does not leave room for the unexpected, like sickness or a change in plans.
Along with Getting Ahead, starting earlier can bring a lot more calm into our lives. Here are 5 hacks for getting started.
1. BREAK IT DOWN
It's easier to get started on something that you feel like you can get through quickly, than if you feel it's just the beginning of a long drawn-out process. Break tasks down into steps. Still can't start? Break the first 2-3 steps down even further. Take a gut check. If the step still makes you want to procrastinate, it's not small enough. The steps should be so small that it would be crazy not to be able to do just that one step.
Having trouble sending an email? Just walk to the room where to computer is. You can do that, right? Next, just sit in the chair. You can do that. Then, just open your email app... Usually by the third or fourth step, you are over the hump of starting and won't need to follow such tiny steps anymore.
Taking small steps turns off the fight/flight/freeze mechanism in your brain that a big overwhelming task can trigger. Our brains still work like they did thousands of years ago. When they see an overwhelming task, they react the same as if they were seeing a sabre-tooth tiger coming at them. If we don't feel up to "fighting" and attacking the big scary task, we avoid or ignore it. Focusing on just one step at a time, ensures this ancient defense mechanism does not get in the way.
2. ANCHOR WITH TIME
Here's why "I'll do it later..." is dangerous for ADHDers. For ADHD brains, that have difficulty with time processing, there are only two significant times: now and not now.
If you say rather, " I'll do it at 11am." you are defining for yourself when the not now will change to now. You are adding weight to your commitment to do the job.
Specifics of time act like an anchor to give your intentions more weight. And don't stop there. Put it in your calendar. Add reminders if you need to.
3. THROW YOUR BACKPACK OVER THE FENCE
This is kind of like when you need to climb over a high fence or other barrier...throwing your backpack over the fence first, makes you committed to climbing it.
This hack works well when your thing involves someone else.
Tell your boss you'll have it for them by Thursday. Tell that person you need to respond to that you'll have an answer for them by 9pm. When motivation is not working for us, we can harness commitment instead.
SWITCH PERFECTIONISM WITH GOOD-ENOUGHISM
Sometimes we are not even aware of this refrain going around in our head, but it's there: "If I can't do it perfectly, I won't do it at all."
Are you subconsciously believing this limiting thought? Are you picturing a perfect end product, only to get discouraged and give up before you even start?
Try rather to ask yourself, "What does good enough look like in this situation? "
It might be a lot easier to start something that just has to be good enough.
GIVE YOURSELF EXTERNAL REWARDS
Sometimes internal motivation is not enough to get us started. The payoff for doing something is not tangible enough or it will come too far into the future (think of completing a thesis or losing 10 pounds).
Little external rewards along the way can make it easier to connect the task with it's benefits. And seeing the value in doing the task makes it easier to start.
The reward doesn't have to be big. Some of my clients allow themselves a guilt-free hour of reading on the couch, scrolling through Facebook or going down and internet rabbit hole... Once they've done what you need to do, that it. Go on. Try it. Bribe yourself!
Okay then. Let's do this! Which hack are you picking today?