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.