Getting Started Is Everything

Getting Started Is Everything

Nothing’s better than sinking your teeth into a satisfying after-hours side project. But after 10 hours at work, it’s not always easy to muster the energy to switch off your TV and get to work. The trick I use is simple, self-evident, and it works: Getting started is everything.

Photos by Komkrich Ratchusiri and Pixel Particle (Shutterstock).

Here’s a scenario ripped from the headlines (of my life):

It’s a Wednesday night. I’m exhausted from a bad night of sleep and a long day of work. I’m hungry, so I make some food and eat while catching up on an episode of The Walking Dead (which is relatively awful). I eat, I finish the episode, and suddenly all the momentum I’d planned to carry into working on my side project that night has seeped out of my pores, absorbed by couch cushions. Shit.


Maybe, instead of working on my passion project, I should just keep catching up on The Walking Dead>, even though I’m not actually enjoying it. I’m already convinced that continuing on my current self-destructive downward spiral is the only option I’ve got the energy for, so this seems like the inevitable outcome of my night.

But damn it, I should really do some work. It’s not even work. It’s a hobby I enjoy — far more than I enjoy watching a show about zombies that’s actually a tedious soap opera that happens to occasionally have a zombie in it. And I know that tomorrow, I’ll absolutely regret that I spent hours watching people argue about how to be civilised when zombies want to eat you instead of actually making something.

At this point, I make a deal with myself that makes all the difference. I’ve finished eating, and I’ve finished the episode I watched with dinner. Instead of jumping into the next episode, I convince myself to spend 10 minutes on my project. Just 10 minutes. Enough time to accomplish one small task. Then, after that 10 minutes is up, I can go back to zombies, guilt-free, if I so choose.

The beautiful thing is, I almost never do. Getting started is everything, and once I’ve accomplished one small task, I’m ready (and excited) to tackle another. And another. And that’s how, instead of wasting my night on TV that I’m not that into, I actually get something done.

It doesn’t always work that way, but it doesn’t have to. Even if all I did was 10 minutes of work and then went back to zombies (which happens on occasion — I’m not perfect), I still knocked out one small task. But more often than not, finishing 10 minutes of work launches me into an enjoyable hour or two of progress. Better luck next time, zombies.

This isn’t a new idea by any means, but having successfully employed it recently, I felt like talking about it. If you’ve got your own tried and true method for getting to work when you’re not exactly excited bursting with energy or overflowing with excitement at the prospect, we’d love to hear it in the comments.


  • I agree – getting started is the key! However, I’ve taken a slightly different angle; I’ve made getting started on TV as difficult as getting started on something else. I went downstairs and unplugged the antenna cable – so if I want to watch TV, I’d have to spend 5 minutes plugging the cable back in before I could watch TV. Obviously watching TV on your PC poses a slightly different challenge, but I’m sure you can come up with a hurdle or 2 that you have to jump through before getting started. This approach makes the ‘activation energy’ of all activities equal, allowing you to more subjectively decide what you want to do!

  • Who cuts off their hand with a hacksaw when their handcuff is attached to a 2cm metal bar? Why not just cut through the metal bar? I agree with qbngeek, Walking Dead is crap.

  • I finish work at 1pm each day and generally go for a 5-6 km walk straight after getting home. If I stopped to do anything else, I probably wouldn’t go. I have found the key to getting things done as a lazy person is to either do them straight away, or find creative ways to overcome your natural tendency to avoid doing anything. Motivation also helps – I listen to podcasts while walking, which helps pass the time more quickly.

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