Getting started

9 June 2008

Do you ever have items on your to-do list that just loom there? You know you need to do them, you think about doing them, but you just can’t get going on them?

Sometimes, you just need to get started and once you overcome the resistance and do the task, it turns out that it’s not so bad. This happens to me all the time. I build up tasks in my mind, thinking they’re going to take forever, then they take no time at all.

Certainly, this is true of many organizing tasks. But it’s also true of other things, even housecleaning.

I hate cleaning house, particularly vacuuming. And my least favorite vacuuming project is our front stairs, which have a carpeted runner. I use a small, noisy hand vac on these stairs and never want to do the job. You can imagine how awful these stairs usually look, since the carpeted runner is burgundy and our ever-shedding cat, Joe, is orange.

Anyway, Mark Forster has a great little trick for getting started on tasks you don’t want to do. In his book Do It Tomorrow, he talks about how we have a rational part of our brain and a reactive part of our brain. It’s the reactive brain that stops us from doing stuff we don’t want to do. He says that our reactive brain is unable to detect when the rational brain is lying to it. So we can calm our reactive brain by fooling it—and then we can actually get started on tasks.

Here’s how it works. I’ll use vacuuming my stairs as an example.

I’ll say to myself, “I’m not really going to vacuum the stairs now, I’m just going to get out the vacuum.” That’s enough to calm down the reactive brain. The rational brain knows that the stairs are dirty and really must be vacuumed. It knows that it takes less than 10 minutes to vacuum them and they look really nice once they’re clean. So once the reactive brain has been tricked into submission by the phrase, “I’m not going to vacuum the stairs,” the rational brain takes over and just does it.

I know it sounds a little out there, but I’ve used this trick many times. Give it a try!

This is just one of Forster’s tips for overcoming resistance. Do It Tomorrow is full of this kind of revolutionary information that can really enhance your productivity. I heartily recommend it. You can get a taste of his ideas on his blog, Get Everything Done.

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Hmmm… I think my reactive brain wouldn’t suffer any fools (or fooling). Interesting idea, though.

Roxanne 06/09/2008 07:47 PM

Roxanne, give it a try! You might be surprised. I used it today, after I wrote my blog post, and it worked!

Janine Adams 06/09/2008 08:32 PM

Oh boy, do I have some of these tasks. I alway look at them and think “I’ll do that when I am done” and never do. I have found that task reminders on my computer help… they pop up unexpectedly and force me to get them done.

Megan @ Disorder2Order 06/11/2008 06:00 PM

Megan, you’re more disciplined than I am. I don’t think a computer could force me to finish a task!

Janine Adams 06/11/2008 06:15 PM

I do this all the time! I’ll tell myself, “I’m not really going to eat a whole piece of this chocolate cake…” but then I do.

So I can see how it really could work for vacuuming stairs. It always works on the chocolate cake. :)

Carolyn 06/16/2008 03:16 AM

Carolyn, that’s hilarious! Now you just need to try using this power for good, not evil.

Janine Adams 06/16/2008 07:27 AM

I’ve used it since you sent out the last newsletter, and it’s great for everything, except I missed a deadline for jury duty and got a letter today threatening fines. How do you do deadlines?

nedi 02/24/2009 11:13 PM

Nedi, I’m guessing that you’re using Autofocus rather than Do It Tomorrow. Anything associated with a deadline should go in your calendar. Sorry to hear about your missing jury duty! You can get lots of advice on Autofocus at the discussion forums at Mark Forster’s site.

Janine Adams 02/25/2009 06:38 AM

Okay, I’m going to give this a try!
I find your blog posts very helpful, Janine. thanks!

Natalie 03/08/2015 05:17 PM

Good luck with it, Natalie. And thanks for your comment!

Janine Adams 03/08/2015 05:20 PM

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About Janine

Hello! I’m Janine Adams — a certified professional organizer based in St. Louis, and the creator of Peace of Mind Organizing®.

I love order, harmony + beauty, but I believe that the way that you feel about yourself and your home is what truly matters.

If you’re ready to de­clutter with a purpose and add more ease to your life, you’ve found the right blog — and you’ve found the right gal.

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