The Bigger Picture: To Get it Done, Leave it Undone
We’ve all been confronted with the dreaded blank page. Those of you writing admissions essays certainly understand how intimidating it is to pull up a blank Word doc, knowing that you need to fill the page with your story. And it must be engaging, informative, compelling and convincing.
Now imagine that instead of opening up a blank document, the page has a heading, and a few lines written. Never mind that you will edit those lines later. It gives you a starting point. It’s an idea and it jump-starts your momentum. Once you start writing, it’s much easier to keep going.
I find it incredibly hard to sit down and begin the writing process. However, if you stop mid-sentence, it’s actually hard to leave it unfinished.
Yesterday, before I closed my laptop, I opened up a Word doc and very quickly typed the following at the top:
“Great way to keep momentum is to leave things undone … imagine waking up to draft an admissions essay and opening a page with several relevant lines … ”
And then I closed my laptop, knowing that I would wake up early today and write this post. I can tell you now that the two minutes I took last night has made this morning far easier! I had a plan and a start point. All of a sudden, I was cranking.
Aristotle said, “Well begun is half done.” I had heard that many times, but it wasn’t until recently that I started to take these words literally: Just begin and you are already half done.
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. Leaving things undone takes this concept one step further. Because it can be hard to get started, give yourself a boost today that can help you tomorrow.
This idea does not only apply to writing an application essay. It also applies to learning a new computer program, cleaning out a room, unpacking a set of boxes, planning a vacation, starting a new book … anything.
I find that the very first step is the most challenging. I often procrastinate endlessly on the tiniest task, but after taking that first step I wrap it up quickly and easily, thinking to myself, “That’s it? I waited three weeks to do this and … that’s it?!!”
My daughter is leaving for sleep-away camp on Sunday. Packing her up has been looming at the top of my to do list for a while. Ugh…I hate packing. Late last night, as I thought about this post, and knowing that I was not going to pack at that moment, I did two things:
- Took down her trunk
- Printed the packing list from the camp website
Suddenly, packing does not feel so daunting. Today I will get it done.
Try this strategy today. Today, think about something you want to accomplish tomorrow. The pressure is off; you aren’t planning to do it today. Do your future self a favor and take one or two small steps now to get your project started. When you pick it up tomorrow, you will already be “half done.”