Stop Putting Off That Task: Tips for Getting Started
Getting started on a new task can often feel overwhelming. What can we do when our fears get the best of us and we forget our abilities? Here are my suggestions.
I had been putting this one task off for days – no weeks. Today was the day I assigned myself to get it done. Thirty minutes on my schedule opened up today, so I decided now was the time to finally tackle that project.
I opened my files, created a blank document, and started writing. After a few minutes of research, with a few sentences written, I was on my way. Before I knew it, I emailed my students the promised information with the completed document attached. I organized my files and stepped away from my laptop feeling accomplished for completing the task.
In a matter of minutes, I completed a task I had once avoided. I made a note to myself in my journal that said, “Note to self: Sometimes projects are easier than anticipated.”
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the task at hand? So overwhelmed that you found it challenging to take the first step?
I’m willing to guess we all have at some point in our lives. How are we to overcome this resistance?
Here's what I've found helpful from my personal perspective as a dream chaser, lifelong musician, and piano teacher.
1. Make and Keep Commitments To Yourself.
The only thing that enabled me to create that document was the commitment I made to myself (with the encouragement of my business coach) to complete this project today. Though she didn't know this task remained on my to-do list, her overall self-accountability methods urged me to quit delaying on this particular task. Assigning a day to work on this task forced me to choose. Was I going to keep my commitment to myself or procrastinate another day? Those dreams aren't going to make themselves!
2. Rehearse Your Previous Accomplishments.
Cutting a new path through the forest isn't easy! So, it's natural to put off a task that requires a bit of a learning curve.
Yet, interestingly, with over thirty years of experience as a pianist, I still find myself overwhelmed by a new challenging piece of piano repertoire at times. Gazing upon unfamiliar music, the black notes begin to blur and move about the page. The accidentals and chords feel intimidating. I wonder if I will ever play the piece at the notated tempo.
In these moments, I remind myself of all I’ve accomplished as a musician. I take a deep breath to ground myself. Then I turn to my tried and true practice methods of practicing slowly and methodically in small segments of music. My proven track record of learning challenging music encourages me to continue the sometimes tedious job of learning the next piece of repertoire.
3. Get an Overview of the Project.
I’ve noticed there are two kinds of piano students when it comes to learning new repertoire - just like there are two kinds of people when it comes to Mondays - those who love them and those who hate them!
Some students, full of energy and gumption, are ready to dive in, even if unprepared for the task. Other students, will all the skills and abilities to succeed in learning the new music, require my calm methodical instruction and belief in their abilities.
In my experience, all students benefit by getting an overview of the piece before attempting to perform it for the first time. During our piano lessons, we explore the time signatures and key signatures. Then we find the starting notes and appropriate hand positions. We scan the music for unfamiliar rhythms, notes, or additional markings. We clap and count the challenging rhythms. Finally, the student sight-reads the music with my encouragement and cheerleading. Approaching a new piece of music in this way builds the student's knowledge and confidence that carries over into their home practice.
By looking at the overall picture of the project, what once felt overwhelming, impossible, and perhaps a task to be avoided, now feels doable, rewarding, and even exciting.
4. Find A Coach for Support.
When I sense my self-commitment is waning, don't have a history of overcoming a particular challenge, or can't get a clear overview of the project, I look for support. Depending on the situation, I turn to a coach, teacher, or friend who can provide me with encouragement, instruction, and advice from their learned experience. Over the years, I've enlisted help from business coaches, life coaches, parenting coaches, writing coaches, hormone coaches, piano pedagogues, podcast hosts, and authors who are experts in their field.
Sometimes we need someone to help us see a project with fresh eyes, take that first step with us, remind us of our abilities and strengths, and keep our commitments to ourselves.
This is what I offer my students as a piano teacher. Each student requires a different form of support at different times. Some need mindset support and a boost of confidence. Others require proven practice techniques to implement at home. Some students are ready to discuss the elements of musical expression, while others need more detailed technical support. Most students, I've found, feel most supported when opening the pages of the music together for the first time.
Food for Thought:
What’s one action you can take right now that will help you make progress in that project you are resisting? Do you need to follow through on your personal commitments to yourself? To remind yourself of your proven track record? To get a clear overview of the project? To ask for support from a coach, teacher, or friend?
Envision how it will feel to finally gain some momentum on that project. Then, take that first action toward your goal.
I encourage you to ask yourself one final question, "Why am I avoiding this?" With your answers in hand, remind yourself that, “Sometimes projects are easier than anticipated.”
If learning the piano is on your list (or the list of someone you know), I would be honored to help in the journey.
I delight in bringing the joy of music into hearts and homes through personalized remote piano lessons that will leave you feeling supported and accomplished.
The process is simple:
1. Schedule a call to talk about your goals.
2. Select a lesson time.
3. Take your first lesson!
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