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How to Overcome the Barriers of Getting Started

When your One Big Thing feels just too big to start

Months ago, I discovered the app One Big Thing by Nick Burka. It’s a great app that helped me to focus on daily tasks. And quite simple to use: each morning, you define “One Big Thing” that you want to accomplish on that day. You can additionally add three secondary tasks, and as many tertiary as your overachieving self desires. If you haven’t yet tried it, I’d recommend you go check it out.

The problem it solved for me was reducing the to-do-list-clutter that I had previously in place. But over a few weeks I noticed something else happen as well: I started to procrastinate on the “Big Things” quite a lot. I just couldn’t sit down and get started with them. I frequently felt overwhelmed by the thought of beginning those tasks.

Were they too big? Was I simply disinterested? I don’t think so.

“It doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you start.”
— John Cage

This quote by John Cage explains quite well how I felt. Whenever I actually sat down and started working, I could keep going the whole day. The problem wasn’t a lack of motivation or concentration, the problem was simply the mental barriers to starting. I needed to find a way to reduce my activation energy!

In searching for solutions, I stumbled upon the Pomodoro Technique and it seemed promising. You work in chunks of 25min with a short break in between. After a few periods you’ll take a longer break. But this technique seemed more suited for those who find themselves lost in the details and spending hours on the wrong task. The concept in its entirety wasn’t quite right for removing the mental barriers to starting off.

And so, as any wayward child of the Internet, I built my own solution to this problem! ⚒

I’ve built prodcard as the simplest way of getting started. The concept of the Pomodoro Technique was reduced to it’s two essential core points;

  1. Write down your task.
    This task should not be your One Big Thing. It should be something that is accomplishable in a foreseeable amount of time. This motivates you to actually get it done.
  2. Select a time.
    To keep things simple there is no manual input or broad range of options. This helps to get you to the desk as fast as possible.
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Formulating your task, writing it down and assigning yourself a timeframe can help a lot to get you started.

This proved to be a simple but effective concept for me. With it, I easily get into the flow of working. Most of the time, when the timer was ringing I forgot that I had set it and continued. And if not: I just hit +10 and keep on going!

Maybe this is a solution for you as well.
Go ahead and give it a try on!

Written by Nikolas Klein, 03|2017 was my first project written in React.
Thanks a lot to Rapha, Christoph and Aaron.

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Product Designer at Figma - Using products should feel like slicing tomatoes with a really sharp knife.

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