Reminder for Future Me the Next Time I’m Frozen with Fear and Can’t Get Started: Just Starting Will Feel So Dang Good!

Have you ever put something off, and as more time passes, the more harder it is to even face the thing? Something as small as getting back to someone’s email grows into a monstrous task that has you frozen, unable to move forward?

This happens to me for big and small tasks and projects. But the other day, I felt stuck every time I thought of an email I needed to reply to that was important to me. It wasn’t as simple as just hitting “reply” and writing a sentence or two. It was one of those tasks that had many steps, a multi-level task.

I was making an appointment that involved my family, and to respond to that particular email involved getting entry into a client portal, filling out and signing paperwork, answering a fairly long questionnaire, uploading a family photo (which I’d have to search for on my endless black hole of photos on my cellphone camera roll), filling out insurance info, and finally scheduling the appointment.

Every time I even thought of opening the email to respond, I’d feel dread. A clenching of my belly. I was stuck in dorsal vagal, stuck in a fear response, not safe in my nervous system.

But I turned to a book I had bought for myself last Christmas called The Anti-Planner: How to Get Sh*t Done, by Dani Donovan, and flipped to the “Overwhelmed” section. She has the book arranged into five tabs by how you might be feeling: Stuck, Overwhelmed, Unmotivated, Disorganized, and Discouraged. Then you read the “How are you feeling” descriptions to uncover “what deeper emotion might be the core of your productivity roadblock.” You flip to that section and find the strategy that could help based on what needs to get done (or what looks most fun). You choose the activity to get started.

Here’s what I wrote in my Morning Pages afterwards:

Wow — it feels good to be DONE with a lot of the above. One tiny step at a time. I ended up using the Anti-Planner (p. 115 under Overwhelmed and Intimidated, using the “Task Breakdown: Smash that task into bite-sized pieces”) That helped a lot. Just writing the small steps down. I can use this the next time I feel overwhelmed and keep procrastinating, like responding back to K, the coach we’ve been trying to get on the books. It was a multi-step process. All this is to say that it made sense that I dreaded getting back to her. It wasn’t as simple just to reply to an email with a sentence or two. But the hardest thing was just starting. Once I began, and focused on just one tiny step at a time, I got lost in the present moment. I feel so damn proud of myself for doing it!

Done is better than perfect!

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