APH #17: Start Exceedingly Small Excuse Eliminated: “I feel overwhelmed and have too much to do.” In psychology, there’s a term called the hot-cold empathy gap.
Basically this describes how people can set lofty plans from an analytical “cold” state, but they often forget about what it’s like to be in a “hot” state where they’re bombarded with temptation. It’s kind of like making the promise to swear off sweets, but caving in when you pass by a Cinnabon. In regards to procrastination, the hot-cold empathy gap often prevents us from starting a goal because that task itself might seem insurmountable. Often when you have a challenging goal (like writing for an hour a day), it’s hard to develop that initial willpower to get started. When this happens, you’ll make the excuse that the task is too overwhelming and you’ll do it when you have “more time.” On his blog, Leo Babauta talks about a simple solution to this problem.
His advice is to start exceedingly small. Instead of worrying about how much you do a habit, you should simply focus on turning it into a daily routine—even if it’s a small amount. EXAMPLE: Let’s say you’d like to write 1,000 words a day. This can be an intimidating word count if you haven’t done it on a consistent basis. However, if you start small, it’s not hard to average 100 daily words for the first week. Next week you’d do 200. Keep ramping up every week by 100 words and in 10 weeks you’ll have successfully developed the habit of writing 1,000 words a day.
The “start small” habit also works well with established routines. Often, you’ll feel a resistance to getting started with task—even when you’ve done it a million times. The solution? Make a promise where you’ll focus on a small goal, and when you reach that point, you have permission to quit. What usually happens then is you’ll get started and then realize the task is not that bad. I do this all the time during my wintertime runs. It’s hard to feel motivated to run in a frigid, bleak environment. So I’ll often get myself out the door with the promise that I’ll only go out for a few miles.
And usually by mile two, I’m in a rhythm where the weather isn’t that big of a deal. Habit Implementation You can start small with basically any task. The trick is to develop the mindset where you push yourself to follow through—even when you’re not in the mood. Here are a few ways to get started: *1.
Make the commitment to do a daily habit every day, no matter how you feel. *2. Create a small, quantifiable outcome for this habit. *3. When starting out, focus on achieving this small goal.
*4. Ramp up the length/time/quantity of the task every week. *5. Agree to still do the habit even if you aren’t feeling well or don’t have the time.
Often, it’s hard to get motivated for a challenging task. The quick fix is to agree to start small and build willpower as you develop the habit. Simply commit to always following through (no matter what happens) and eventually you’ll be more likely to do it on a daily basis.