As a freelance writer, I have a love-hate relationship with my laptop. When I’m in the zone and the words are just flying from my fingers onto the screen, there is no better feeling. Getting myself into that zone though, is another story.
Writers are professional procrastinators, and I am no exception. I once almost sabotaged a project for one of my favorite clients, simply because I could not get myself to sit down and start. The size and importance of the work psyched me out, and I suddenly found myself spending my work time cleaning out our spice cabinet and endlessly researching summer camps for our daughter.
When you’re in the midst of major procrastination, it’s natural to feel completely stuck. The longer you wait, the harder it is to get going, so what are we poor, slightly-masochistic procrastinators to do? The secret is to break down your projects into micro-goals.
Fool Your Brain
Rather than deciding you need to spend your whole workday completing an entire report, break it down into steps and spread them out. Schedule smaller tasks like performing research, writing an outline, and creating the introduction throughout the week.
These micro-goals not only sound less intimidating, they actually make it easier for your brain to make progress. When we accomplish a goal or task, no matter how small, our brain gets a hit of the feel-good hormone dopamine. Our brains don’t care if we finished an entire project or simply named the outline; the reward is the same.
And because our brains will then crave more dopamine, we will want to keep going. That is why when you commit to just five minutes of work, you often find yourself easily working for an hour.
Completing even the smallest task will give you that extra oomph to keep going. To give your brain an even bigger reward, write your goals down. Not only will that make you more likely to accomplish them, but crossing off each item on your list will give you some extra dopamine.
Another major argument for setting micro-goals is that they can make you a happier person. Making small progress leads us to feel happier more often. Once you’ve made a tiny bit of progress, those feelings of motivation and excitement will carry you forward.
I used to think that I should only feel good about big goals. Hitting a health goal or finishing a work project feels amazing, but those big wins are pretty rare in our everyday lives. Setting micro-goals allows you to see the progress right in front of you and feel good along the way.
As you start crossing these small goals off your list, momentum builds. You will actually start making faster progress, and it won’t feel like a struggle, simply because you’re riding the waves of getting started.
Get Started … Now!
Ready to start setting some micro-goals? What is that one task that keeps hanging out on your to-do list week after week?
Instead of feeling discouraged for not tackling it yet, break it down. Reward yourself along the way. You’ve got this!
This article was written by Carrie Madormo is a business and wellness writer for internationally recognized publications. She has been featured in Working Mother Magazine, USA Today, and the Huffington Post. She now helps fellow mothers launch their own dream careers from home while being fully present in their joyful lives.