You’ve gotta break the big tasks down into little ones. This is crucial. Pick your metaphor – First one foot then the other. A mountain one foothold at a time. Bird by bird. Etc. Etc.
Let me give you an example. A guy I know [Ahem.] need to write an email to some important people he respects a lot and doesn’t really know all that well. In the email, his job is to ask for a lot of money. Urgh. Scary, right? No one wants to do such a thing. Who would ever choose that?
It was a frightening prospect, and the idea of sending that email, of those important people (who he really wanted to like him) reading it was just too, too terrifying. So, he broke it down into ridiculously small tasks and took them one at a time.
So, first he just wrote the email, right? No! In fact, first he made a list of the people to whom he was going to send it. Then he took a nap.
THEN he wrote the email? Almost.
Then he wrote a terrible version of the first line of the email. “Dear people who I hope will give us money.”
Then he took another nap.
THEN he wrote the rest of the email? Not quite.
Then he wrote a terrible version of the end of the email. “That would be a big help. I hope you still like me. Thanks a bunch.”
By then he didn’t need a nap, he had some momentum going, so he took a stab at the hard part, the middle. It took a long time to get even something shamefully bad on paper, but when he was done, he had a complete email. So then he ate ice cream and called it a day.
The next day, this fellow got up and had the pretty easy task of turning the terrible email into something send-able. He tweaked, and played, and got flowery with language, and referenced other things he’d written on the subject. After about 90 minutes, he had something he would feel okay about some human beings reading. Some, but not those super-important, ultra-respected, and (compared to him) wealthy humans. So, he took a break, did other things and came back to it in the evening. At that point, he was starting to like the email, he was almost proud of it. A few more tweaks and he felt really good about sending it. He wrote a subject line and pasted email address into the “to” box. Then he stared a the computer for about 15 minutes, read the email aloud again, and remembered that Tao saying, “Treat the small as large, the large as small.” He hit “send” before he could have another thought.
So, yes, it took this guy two days just to write an email, and that might seem kind of silly. Luckily, though, none of us have the burden of living in his head, so we shouldn’t judge what’s silly or not about his fears. All of us have at least one “silly” fear, right?
The bigger point is that most of us would probably have been too daunted to write the email at all. Given a two-days-away deadline, most people would think it sounded too hard and they’d go play on Facebook for the first 36 hours, then do something half-assed at the last minute. We’ve all seen it dozens of times.
And the point is not to make the overall goal seem easy or insignificant, the trick is just about breaking it down to a small enough step that you can get started. So what are you waiting for? Get started, right?