I've been left to my own devices for the past six weeks to prepare for a licensing exam. All day, everyday, I can get to work and fill in the holes of my medical education so that I am ready for this exam. Or I can be on Facebook, in my underpants, while watching Friends reruns. Or I can start a blog, like this one.
I've been doing all three, to be honest. There are days that I am so excited to be studying because medicine is so much fun and the human body is wily in its mystery.
There are days when my brain is a saboteur desiring only the most instant of stimuli from the world or, more often, the internet. "But I have work to do," I plead. The response:
When you're aiming to get started at work you love it can often be relatively easy to slip into the effort. If, day-after-day, you can't get yourself there, maybe you're trying to do the wrong work.
If you're doing the right work and your body is ready, getting started feels so good. If you're struggling to get started maybe it's because your human stuff is out of whack. Did you get some exercise? Have you showered? Have you eaten? Have you had coffee or tea? Have you gone to the bathroom? Are your pants on?
Dr. Roy Baumeister from Florida State University and John Tierney popularized the most recent ideas about willpower. They divided undergraduates up into three groups (fed nothing, fed junk food and fed radishes) and asked them to complete complex math puzzles. The radish eaters gave up way earlier than the rest. This study, alongside many others, illustrated what they believe to be true about willpower: it is finite. Every day every person has a supply of willpower and they are faced with decisions that absorb that willpower. Getting started on things that are hard is a huge willpower drain for me, even if those things are also interesting. So I try to automate the human stuff as much as possible so that the basics don't drag me down. In Laura Vanderkam's What Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, the human stuff morning rituals for high performing people are discussed. Compared to her interviewees, I am a proverbial sloth. But this is where I realized the importance of a 'human stuff first and always' approach.
I know that this human stuff can easily mushroom: Has your dog been fed? Has your bed been made? Have you called your mom? Have you worked out? Have you paid your bills? Have you booked your vacation? Have you been to the dentist lately? Are you up on what's happening in Syria? Did you see that thing that your friend posted on.....WAIT. You've spiraled way beyond human stuff and into the realm of unnecessary distraction. Stop. Right. Now.
Close all browser windows you don't need.
Turn off your phone.
Refer to one or more items this, The First Aid Kit for Getting Started.
1. AN INVOCATION FOR BEGINNINGS BY ZEFRANK
"Perfectionism may look good in his shiny shoes but he's a little bit of an asshole and no one invites him to their pool parties"
2. A MIND FULL'S OWN GET STARTED GALLERY
Start with the "Stand Up" Slide.
"I've got the stuff that you want, I've got the stuff that you need, I've got more than enough to make you drop to your knees" [drop the pretext]
"Maybe you're just making excuses."