Oh, those undone tasks! Studying for the biology exam. Making the dentist appointment. Filling out an application for that thrilling summer internship. Can’t. Even.
Some to-dos that start out manageable can -- in our minds -- become something they are not. They sprout and swell. They snarl and muddy. We begin to think we literally can’t do it. So why can’t we see these jobs for what they are, complete them, and move on?
A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. -Franklin Delano Roosevelt
By doing the task that you must, should, or want to complete, you are not just getting one thing done. You are also placing a check in your ‘lifetime successes’ column. Think back to a time when you tackled a difficult task and got it done. Replay the same process you used then. Turn any negative self-talk (“I need a nap before I can handle this”) into a positive assertion (“I will sleep easy knowing I started it”).
Do everything at the right time and one day will seem like three. -Chinese Proverb
Reflect on your peaks and valleys of concentration and attentiveness throughout the day. More creative at night? After dinner, brainstorm ideas for that intervention assignment in occupational therapy. Detail-oriented in the first half of the day? Wait until morning to balance the debit account and edit the psychology essay. Next, apply the concept to your working environment. If you can’t get started on that tough task while sitting in your room, switch it up. Throw a blanket on the grass. Hit a loud, busy coffee shop in town. Go to your mom’s house and find the coziest corner. Make the right time and the right place part of your success strategy.
The more specific you are, the more universal you are. -Nancy Hale
We empathize with characters in movies and literature not because we encounter precisely the same difficulties as them, but because we extrapolate meaning from their experiences. But the more general we are, the more derivative our thoughts become. Our ideas seem copied, trite, uninspired. Have to write a 12-page research essay? Clichés and generalizations won’t get you there; get down to the microscopic level and dig in.
- We don’t know where to start.
The beginning is half of every action. -Greek proverb
Tasks can be overwhelming when they are ill-defined, confusing, or new. So just commit to a single step forward. A baby step, even. You want momentum, not perfection. Open Google Docs. Save as “Rough draft essay #2”. Cut and paste the assignment from Canvas. Start typing anything on that blank screen. Don’t let the cursor blink, just keep typing. Look! You’ve taken four steps already.
Leap and the net will appear. -John Burroughs
You might be intimidated by a challenging new prospect or worry that you will look foolish doing something you have failed at in the past. Or maybe you think life will change if you make this step. Talk it out with a close friend. Freewrite, starting with the phrase “I am afraid of this because…”. Doodle about the mental block in a journal. Discover what the obstacles are. Consider the worst thing that can happen and the best thing that could happen. And then leap.
Your favorite quote goes here. -?
Find an exhilarating poem, lyric, or phrase that motivates you at this specific moment in time and regarding this specific mental block. Change it to your temporary profile pic. Print a copy and put it in your backpack. Make it your screensaver. Every time you look at this quote, it should give you confidence and inspiration. In my mid-twenties, I was mentally stuck for a long time. I had a degree, but no direction. Finally, I put these lyrics on my wall and read them every day, multiple times:
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun. -Pink Floyd
I needed exactly those words at just that moment in time. I applied to grad school, got in, and moved six hours away. And an amazing new life was there waiting for me.
Make an academic coaching appointment with me today for more help in overcoming your own mental blocks or to tackle other issues like time management and study skills!