Some years ago I was given an excellent piece of advice: if there is something you are putting off doing, perhaps because you are unsure how to start, say to yourself ‘I will just spend five minutes on it and then stop’. The theory being that once you have taken that hardest step of actually beginning, you will find that you carry on after the five minutes is up. Sceptical at first, I gave this a try and was amused to find it worked.
In my case, I wanted to try a writing class but never seemed to have the time to find one, never mind write anything. With family and a job spare time was usually late in the evening, by which time creative energy had evaporated. However, realising time was passing me by and I needed to make a special effort or I would never do it, I applied my five minute rule and began to look into local classes. Sure enough I found one. Ten minutes later I had telephoned and enrolled and felt much better for it.
As the first class approached, I had doubts. I could find time to go to the class, but what about the actual writing? Standing firm, I realised it wasn’t a question of ‘finding’ time, it was about ‘making’ time. So I went along, and loved it. We looked at a different field of writing each week and got homework assignments. Finding some of these quite challenging, I applied my trusty five minute rule again.
What other motivational tactics could work? A good list is one of the classic tips, somehow helping you feel better by seeing the things you haven’t done yet written down. You then get a sense of achievement as you smugly cross them out, particularly the one you have left until last which is always the worst. While a list may be a ‘stick’, the ‘carrot’ should also be considered. Have you tried promising yourself a treat – a ‘prize’ – for getting something done? It should be proportionate to the task of course, but the more motivation needed the bigger the carrot has to be.
Different techniques work for different people and, as with so many other things in life, often a combination is best. However, we always come back to that crucial first five minutes, even if that’s just the time you give yourself to decide how juicy your carrot will be, or to scrabble in a drawer for a pen to make a list.
One of our homework assignments was to write a magazine article and I wrote a piece about how it was tricky to find time for new things in our lives, but it can be done. What could you do if you gave yourself just five minutes to get started?
by Angela Melvin © 2012
Angela Melvin has lived with her family in Cullercoats for three years. She enjoys coastal walks and sampling the delights at local eateries.
Contact Angela by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.