So, you have a long to-do list. An essay. A seminar reading. A 45-minute lecture. What do all of these things have in common? You don’t want to do them, but you know you have to! The classic advice here is to ‘just start’, or ‘just do it’, or ‘do the first bit’ or something along those lines. But it’s easier said than done! Here’s a few things you can do to get the ball rolling when you have a week’s worth of work piled up!
(1) Do a really easy task first then tick it off your list
When I write my to-do lists, I always like to add a super easy task to it that I know will take me less than five minutes. For example, if my list is filled with readings and lectures and long tasks, I’ll add a few quick tasks such as ‘respond to X email’ or ‘call to book doctor’s appointment’ on there. That way, when I feel like I need a win, I can do the really quick task and tick it off so that it feels like I am making progress and I am motivated to carry on!
(2) The 15-minute Rule
When I have a task like tidying or cleaning, I always use this. But it can also be applied to other tasks, such as a reading. Whatever the task is, set a 15-minute timer and just fully dedicate that time to it, no phone, no other tabs. Tell yourself that once those 15 minutes are up, you can stop.
This will end in one of two ways – (a) you’ll do 15 minutes then stop, in which case you are 15 minutes closer to finishing the task! or (b) you’ll do 15 minutes and then realise it’s not that hard or won’t take you much longer, so you’ll just finish it anyways!
(3) Time-lapse yourself
Okay this feels cringe, I know BUT set up a time-lapse of yourself on you laptop / writing your notes. It’ll stop you from going on your phone and it will also motivate you to work because it feels like you’re ‘performing’ for the camera.
(4) Break it down & add rewards
Usually if you’re struggling to start a task, it’s because it’s overwhelming. Break it down into super manageable tasks and give yourself a reward after each one or every few tasks. For example, after reading 10 pages of a reading, grab a snack. Or, after you finish 2 lectures, watch an episode of something. You can similarly use the Pomodoro technique, do 25 minutes of solid working on a task and then a 5 minute break, after 2 or 3 sets of these, take a longer break!