I fell into a bad habit a long time ago. It would happen when I had a project I wanted to start, or maybe a streak I wanted to begin (like writing every day), or even something I wanted to quit.
Sometimes this would happen on a Thursday, which is a really awkward day to start anything. It’s just before Friday, which begins the weekend. Then you’ve got Saturday and Sunday to putz around and be lazy or go out and have fun with friends.
So I’d wait until Monday to begin that new project.
This would manifest in a couple other ways as well. I’d want to start something on the first of the month, say. Or maybe it was late in the evening, so I’d rather start tomorrow.
But if you’ve got the time and the willpower, why not just start now?
Say, for instance, you want to take a break from video games. You’ve spent the entire day playing games, your house is a mess, and you’re really close to achieving something in the game.
The truth is, you want to take a break right there, that instant. Otherwise you wouldn’t be thinking about it. So when you say you’ll start tomorrow (or Monday), you’re not being honest with yourself.
You might argue, reasonably, that the reason we wait until the next day or Monday is because it gives us an organic starting point. Each day is a clean slate. Each Monday is the start of a new week. The first of the month has a neat little number 1 in it.
So, if you need an organic starting point, I offer you three solutions which can be effective separately or in tandem.
Reboot with a Nap
The day typically begins when you wake up, right? Usually in the morning, of course, but sometimes we sleep in until the middle of the day. Either way, whenever you get up, that’s the start of the day. That’s your new beginning.
So lie down, set a timer for a half-hour, and take a nap. However and wherever you’re comfortable, just shut down for a bit, let your mind reboot. When you wake up, you might just have the motivation to start your new project/quit a bad habit/begin your daily streak.
Refresh with a Shower
For me, the day doesn’t truly begin until after my shower. For one thing, it provides the psychological effect of routine that jump-starts my effectiveness. Even better, there’s something about stepping out of the shower feeling fresh and clean that opens me up to the possibilities.
Occasionally, I get lazy. If I don’t have to go anywhere and I don’t have to see anyone, then I won’t take a shower, simple as that. But as the day winds down and I realize how little I’ve done and attribute it to not feeling “up to it,” I usually decide to take a shower. The effect is a restart. It energizes me and gets me ready for whatever I have to do.
Don your Battle Armor
After a shower, you’ve got to get dressed, right? I mean, no judgment if you disagree, but this section is all about putting on clothes.
You don’t usually go to work in your pajamas. Nor do you wear out your holey day-off shirt. These are “laze about the house” clothes. They’re not for working. Everything about them says, “I ain’t doin’ nothin’ for nobody.”
When I start feeling like this, I try to dress up just a little bit. And by a little bit, I mean jeans and a button-down. It’s nothing over-the-top, but it makes me look less like a slob and, strangely, it gives me motivation to work.
Bonus Tip: Perform a Ritual
This is a bonus only because it doesn’t necessarily fit in with all the other advice here, which is intended for the bigger picture. This tip is intended to encourage you to sit down and do something. You can adapt this to your own needs, but I’m going to talk about how I apply it to my writing.
Every time you sit down to work on a project, do one thing first, every time. This could be anything from playing a game of Solitaire (preferably with actual cards) to doing jumping jacks to listening to a song.
Whatever you do, make sure it’s the same thing every time. It could mean that you clean up your desk and set a notebook and pen next to your computer. Over time, this will become a mental cue that you’re switching over into work mode.
For example, I listen to M4 Part 2 by Faunts every time I sit down to write. It’s the credits theme to Mass Effect (one of my favorite game series’ and my favorite video game soundtrack of all time) and it puts me in a good mood. But beyond that, I know when I hear it that it’s time to write. It helps that it’s kind of long, so I can use this time to get myself ready.
I also used to do a five-minute word sprint before I started my actual writing, using the 5KWPH app by Chris Fox, author of 5,000 Words Per Hour. These five minutes of writing were my warm-up stretch, and they also gave me a jumping-off point for the day’s writing.
Lastly, I’ll just say that there’s something powerful about being able to start something now, rather than just planning on starting it later. Remind yourself that you have the power to decide whether you’re going to do something now or put it off until later and you’ll go far.