In my spare time, I’m a runner. Some days, I’m really into it. But on other days, I just want to curl up on the couch and eat my weight in potato chips. A couple weeks ago, I had a 12-mile run on my calendar for a Saturday afternoon and I just did not want to do it. Even after my wife reminded me that we didn’t have plans until later that night, I tried making excuses for simply throwing in the towel.
Fast forward to an hour and 45 minutes later and my run was over. I’d done it! How did I go from finding ridiculous excuses to actually completing my run?
First, I changed into my running clothes.
Then after watching an hour’s worth of Netflix, I stretched.
After that, I put on my shoes and got going.
Halfway through that run, I couldn’t help but think about the parallels between the challenges of starting that workout and kicking off a workday. How many times have you dragged yourself into the office with no desire to do anything? How many times has your to-do list practically yelled at you, “Just sitting there isn’t an option!”
In that moment, I realized that sometimes the best way to get things done when you’re not in the mood isn’t to take the age-old advice of “Just doing it.” But rather to start with the easiest thing on your to-do list.
For my running schedule, sometimes that means simply putting on my shoes. And at work, if you’re struggling just to started in the morning, the equivalent might be giving your workspace that overdue cleaning (which is a task that I completed about three hours before starting this article), or handwriting your to-do list, or getting to inbox zero.
Those might feel really easy—but mornings are hard and why not let yourself ease into them? As long as these quick wins get you into the pool and swimming laps, it doesn’t really matter if you started out by slowly walking down the stairs or if you cannon-balled (I promise you that when I became a writer, I swore to myself that I’d never compare sports to my work—and now I’ve done it twice.)
If you’re struggling to come up with some of those quick wins, here are a few of my favorites:
- Say hello to someone you work with closely and ask them what they’re working on. (You’ll be amazed by how quickly you’ll get started when you’re worried that your co-worker thinks you’re just sitting around).
- Identify an email you can respond to in one or two lines—and respond to it.
- Play your favorite pump-up jam while you catch up on an article you’ve been meaning to read.
- Set your timer for 20 minutes and commit to doing work until it goes off. That’s all, 20 minutes! Then you can take a break.
- Write out the agenda for a meeting you have today.
Hopefully these help you start thinking about the baby steps you can take to start a day that doesn’t seem to want to get started.
Have an idea that I missed? Want to tell me how you start a day when you’d rather not? Let me know on Twitter @rich_moy!
Photo of person thinking courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy or follow his blog.More from this Author