In Star Wars IV: A New Hope, Luke Skywalker visited the planet Dagobah seeking Master Yoda to learn the ways of the Jedi Knight.
During his training, young Skywalker attempted to lift his submerged X-wing fighter from the murky swamp using The Force.
It was a big job, no doubt, and the X-wing proved too heavy. And honestly, I can really relate to that.
For example, sometimes when I look at large pile of stinking dishes partially submerged in sinkwater, it just looks too big to manage…
For the record, I let such piles grow so I don’t use washing up as an excuse or distraction for not getting important stuff done. But sometimes, you need to deal with the problems you’ve been avoiding.
Whether it’s a submerged X-wing fighter craft or something more glamorous and sexy like a gnarly pile of dirty food utensils.
It applies to work, too. Whether it’s freelancing or any other type of project, it’s the same deal.
You sit down, look at the enormity or difficulty of the project at hand and come up with reasons to procrastinate.
There’s a strategy for dealing with this
I call it, “start with a spoon.”
When I look at the pile of messy dishes and contemplate sticking my hands into the basin to get covered in all kinds of nasty, partially decomposed foodstuffs (just sayin…’), I ignore the size of the problem at hand.
Instead, I stand at the sink, pick up a spoon (obviously using The Force) and I wash it up.
Cleaning a spoon is simple. Nothing hard about it. Nothing scary. But it changes something… It sets something in motion…
I got the idea when reading about a psychological phenomenon known as the “Zeigarnik Effect“. It basically states we usually want to finish things we start because it bugs us if we don’t.
As the lead researcher said:
“It seems to be human nature to finish what we start and, if it is not finished, we experience dissonance.”
This simple Jedi mind trick to redirect a tendency to get hung up on how a big or scary a project might be is so effective, it got me wondering…
Surely there must be other aspiring Jedi’s out there who’ve stumbled across it?
I found several.
Jamesclear.com – “The 2-minute rule”
I’m a big fan of James Clear and it was no surprise to hear how he’d been using what he describes as the “2-minute rule” to “crush procrastination.”
He originally discovered the technique in David Allan’s excellent book, Getting Things Done and then extrapolated it into a similar method as I’ve used with my dirty dishes, freelance work and Jedi training in general.
Get started, commit to a mere 2 minutes of progress, and the rest will come. And Clear also points out:
“As Sir Isaac Newton taught us a long time ago, objects at rest tend to stay at rest and objects in motion tend to stay in motion. This is just as true for humans as it is for falling apples.”
Source: – James Clear
LifeHacker – “Getting Started Is Everything”
More to-be Jedi’s find use in variations of this trick.
In an article published on LifeHacker.org, author Adam Pash shares how he uses a similar technique to pry himself from the irresistible comfort of a sofa positioned in front of a TV playing The Walking Dead.
“Instead of jumping into the next episode, I convince myself to spend ten minutes on my project. Just ten minutes.”
Source: – LifeHacker.org
Pash goes on to explain how he makes a deal with himself that he can watch one more episode after investing just 10 minutes in getting started. If he so chooses…What happens?
He rarely goes back to the welcoming embrace of the sofa, and gets stuff done instead.
ZenHabits – “How to Start”
I love Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog; it’s another great place to look for inspiration for all kinds of things. So, how did the owner of this incredible site start when faced with the daunting task of creating it?
You guessed it, he started with a spoon. Okay that’s paraphrasing slightly:
“ I chose a random name that felt right, and created a free account on blogger.
That was incredibly easy, and I felt great.
Then I did one more thing: I did a short post reflecting on some things I’d been doing. Basically just a journal entry. I was out in the world for the first time!
This was my start. It wasn’t hard — in fact, so easy I couldn’t refuse to start.”
Source: – Zen Habits
Is there a spoon you can wash right now?
When writing something difficult, I start by drafting the first sentence, even if I know full well it sucks. After all, I can edit it later. Hell, even the whole first paragraph might suck.
I just need to get something down on paper (Oh and, if you’re a writer, you might like this “hack” that breaks things down into manageable
spoons stages as a second tool against procrastination.)
But by starting with that one small point, it just breaks through that barrier to get you going. Newton’s law is now in motion.
It seems like a simple, perhaps even trivial trick. But, try it out, whether in freelancing writing, web design or whatever.
Start with the spoon. Start with the first sentence even if it sucks. Hammer out the first line of code even if there might be an error.
Unlearn what you have learned about it being a large, difficult job. Ignore the fact that it’s a daunting project.
Maybe if Luke Skywalker had known that, he would have lifted the X-Wing from the swamp instead of giving up so soon.
Guess we’ll never know.
Got any Jedi mind tricks of your own? Questions, perhaps? Are these the droids you’re looking for? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
P.S Here’s a link to 50% off the Freedomlancers course. Because a 1-way ticket to a tropical island isn’t something worth procrastinating over…