How to Just Get Started

Even if you’re excited to learn something or do something new, the hardest part can be just getting started.

Even if you’re excited to learn something or do something new, the hardest part can be just getting started. As John Resig, founder of the jQuery library, mentioned in his article Write Code Every Day, he was falling behind on some of his coding side projects until he made a pact with himself: “I must write code every day.”

He didn’t set any requirements on his output — there was no “I must write 1000 lines of code every day.” Nope. He just has to write some code, every day. And since he’s started, he’s seen progress on his side projects skyrocket. It’s the consistent process that is key. Once you establish a solid habit, the rest follows.


Just Start

David Kadavy, author of  Design for Hackers: Reverse-Engineering Beauty, developed The 10-Minute Hack as a simple trick to help get your brain going. Kadavy explains, “The hardest part of doing most things is just starting. We often think about how big of a project we have ahead of ourselves, and that’s what makes it hard to start. I know when I was writing my book, it seemed like most of my day was spent fighting the agony of just getting started. It was hard to ignore just how big of a project it was.”

He recommends that, every day, right after waking up — before checking email or showering — you pick one task, set a timer, and work on it for 10 minutes. It’s amazing the benefits you can experience from simply planning to remove the anxiety of getting started and just doing something.

In an extremely similar fashion, chess prodigy, author, and Tai Chi Chuan Push Hands World Champion (among other things), Josh Waitzkin, mentioned in his recent appearance on Tim Ferriss’s podcast that he likes to start every day with a “creative burst.”

Much in the same way as Kadavy, Waitzkin gets to work on this burst almost immediately after he wakes up and rolls out of bed. (The only thing he does first is brushes his teeth.)

In fact, I’m writing this article during one of my own early morning creative bursts. I sat down thinking, “I have a vague idea that I want to get across, but I’m just not sure I can convey what’s in my head. But it can’t hurt to give it a try.”

So I just started writing, and about an hour later, I have this nearly-completed piece of content to show for it. As always, I try and practice what I preach. Who wants to learn anything from someone who ignores their own advice?


Next Week’s Challenge

Try using David’s 10-Minute Hack before you start the rest of your day. Pick something you really want to accomplish—be it writing, meditating, or stretching—and start your day by doing it for just ten minutes.

Ten minutes isn’t a long time, but I bet you’d be amazed at what you could accomplish if you committed to dedicating just ten minutes a day — for just a week — to a task. Go ahead and sign up for TinyHabits and give it a try.


This article has been edited and condensed.

Alex Coleman writes at AlexPColeman.com, where he uses a mixture of real-life experiences and scientific research to share ideas on making you more productive and helping you learn to code. For thoughts on improving your life and getting started with coding, sign up for his free newsletter. Connect with @alexpcoleman on Twitter.


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