Just Start the Task
I have found that so much of my life is just tricking myself into doing what I want. A Prashant at rest will stay at rest without a push. That push can from outside, like life’s basic duties calling to go to work and pay bills, or from within. In this writing I focus on when that push needs to come from within, and how to minimize that size of the push needed.
Last night I was exhausted, but decided I needed to get rid of the cardboard boxes blocking the entrance to my apartment. They were beginning to drive me a little nuts as I was tripping over them to get to the light switch. In the spur of the moment I thought not of the overwhelming task at hand — breaking down about a dozen boxes, flattening them, and carrying them halfway across the building, but rather, just the first step. I grabbed a boxcutter and got to work. I didn’t think too far ahead. I just got started. Breaking down a dozen boxes and carrying them to the recycling room is a lot of work, it probably ended up taking me over an hour, and mentally taking on that whole task at once would have required a big internal push. But grabbing a boxcutter was easy, and only required a little push. In my exhaustion, I stumbled upon a generalizable life hack.
In the past I’ve noted it was easier to tell myself to simply physically go to the gym than to tell myself to do a hard workout. Once I get to the gym, I’m almost certain to complete a workout. I can only recall one time that I went to the gym and decided not to do a workout, which probably works out to about a 99.9% workout completion rate presuming I physically arrive at the gym. As it was much easier to tell myself to go to the gym than to tell myself to go workout, I shifted my internal narrative from I need to do a workout to I just need to walk to the gym, which led to a significant increase in the number of times I worked out. I’ve been using this trick on myself for working out for years, and I now realize I can use it in other areas of life, including writing.
Some days it’s easy to write, and others it’s hard. Writer’s block comes up inevitably. On the toughest days, I put off writing. Today was almost one of those days. But then I remembered by lesson from last night: just get started. So I went to Medium, clicked the little plus arrow, and here I am. It’s easy to think too much, and never get started. The lesson is, just get started. This applies to companies as well.
Due to the circles I run in, I know many who started companies, and many more who want to. So often, people get stuck in the loop of wanting to start something and never do. I’m not saying it’s necessarily a good idea to start a company. For most people, it probably isn’t. But if you want to start a company and you’re thinking about it too much, you should probably just do it. Almost everyone I know who starts a company ends up pivoting to doing something that’s not quite what they had originally set out to do. That’s true whether they spent five years deliberating on what to do, or five days. It is only in the act of doing that one has the chance the find the path forward. Every company with someone or some group deciding to take the first step, and just get started.
Anything we can do, big or small, starts with a small step. If you want to climb a mountain, don’t start off thinking about the top. Just take the first step. This is true for business, exercise, diet, relationships, hobbies, and yes, breaking down boxes.