first few steps on a daunting project
became more tenable. Once I took
a few steps, it was so much easier to
My solution was to approach a proj-
ect by turning it into as many tiny steps
as possible. That way I could get a few
really easy wins under my belt. For ex-
ample, each step would be a task such
as “Search for ______ on Google” or
“Have a conversation with ______.”
Crossing things off your to-do list gives
your brain a happy little dopamine hit,
even if the tasks are tiny—it keeps your
motivation up and your excuses down.
Try breaking your next project into
the smallest increments you possibly
can. Each step should be really small
(I try for tasks that take 15 minutes or
less) and really easy to accomplish, so
that you can get a win!
You have to overcome inertia. Little
wins add up and make it easier to do that.
Reserve Calendar Time
for Every Project
Set aside time on your calendar specifi-
cally for working on a task you are hav-
ing trouble starting. Treat it as serious-
ly as you would any other appointment.
You must show up and you must work
on that project.
Reserve an amount of time that is
realistic for making progress—at least
30 minutes to an hour. This strategy is
key for busy people or managers. If you
don’t schedule the time to do meaning-
ful strategic work, your time will fill up
with tactical tasks.
And what if you don’t feel like work-
ing on the task at the appointed time?
Set a timer when you are starting work.
Set it for 10 minutes and tell yourself
you have to work only until the timer
Start working on the list of tiny
steps you have created for yourself:
Google something; set up your proj-
ect; send one email message; review
Almost always, taking one or two
of these tiny steps will get your brain
working, and it will be easier to keep
going. You’ll do one task, cross it off
the list, and then do another. Your tim-
er for 10 minutes will go off, and you’ll
just keep going because now you’re en-
gaged with the project.
If you are really not engaged with
it after 10 minutes (though this rarely
happens to me), then let yourself take
a break—but block off another chunk
of time on your calendar to come back
to it soon.
Get Other People Involved
Sometimes the best way to get yourself
to do something is to make yourself accountable to another person.
According to a study by the Ameri-