Process and Processing the Process

One of the things I’ve been struggling with lately is getting started. We have all been told throughout our lives, just don’t procrastinate. Start early and get it done! And amazingly that doesn’t really work unless you were going to do it anyway. The usual ideas about procrastination and laziness just feed the inner critic that makes it even harder to get started.

When I look at the things I’m having trouble with, it’s obvious that two things are at play. 1. There are so many things to do! And they are all SUPER important and should get done first! 2. Fear of failure is completely paralyzing.

Somehow, I manage to clean, work on less important projects, and generally avoid the things that I know I ought to be doing. Time for a re-working of these patterns.

I am the queen of lists, so the new plan of attack features lists really prominently. I know that not everyone finds lists helpful, but maybe there’s a nugget in here that you will help you, too.

Step 1

Focus on ONE task at once. It doesn’t have to be the most important. It doesn’t have to be important at all. Just pick one of the things that’s floating around in my brain.

Step 2

Put it on paper. Write out every teeny-tiny step necessary to complete it. Even (or especially) the ones that I’ve already done. Turns out I’ve done a little bit of every project I’m supposed to be working on. But not actually finished many of them.

Step 3

Check off the items that have already been completed. Feel accomplished and celebrate with tea (or something else I find soothing and enjoyable).

Step 4

How long do I need to work on this today? Set a schedule. Maybe 1 to 2 hours minimum.

If there is no required order for the things on the list, just start at the top and work my way down. If I have to do one thing before I can do another. Re-order the list and then start at the top and work my way down.

Step 5

Am I getting distracted? Try putting on a timer and working for 20 minutes and then taking a 10 minute break. (I love the Pomodoro Technique for starting difficult stuff. I often find that after a few cycles, I turn off the timer and keep working without even realizing it.)

Step 6

It’s been a few hours (or whatever time frame I set for myself). I’m done for the day. And I’m going to go reward myself with something fun. Maybe time in my garden. Maybe starting a new embroidery project. Maybe sitting in a chair with a cat on my lap playing on my phone. Doesn’t really matter.

But maybe I’m in the groove and feeling successful and want to keep going? That’s ok too! If that would be fun, I can do that too.


I’m usually really good at prioritizing things. Might even be one of my super powers. But the combination of fears/overwhelm have been troublesome. So I’m working on new ways to make shit happen. I want to do this! This is stuff I really care about! But all the pressure actually makes it harder.


Moderating Note: I know our first instinct when we hear of a problem from someone else is to try to fix it. But let’s save the advice for another time. I would love to hear from you about what you do to overcome The Overwhelm. I’d love to know about the things you’re having trouble solving. Tell me your story!