What Makes Us Get Started On A Task?
I was recently making a recipe with my daughter, and we assembled the ingredients on the counter before we realized that one of the ingredients would have to warm up before we continued. We left everything out and went off to play a game. When we came back, we jumped right in to making the recipe. It was a smooth start, and went off very well. I realized that this sort of pre-assembly, called mise en place in cooking, can be applied to any task to make it easier to get started.
I’ve been a big fan of evening and morning routines. I am not a morning person, so having everything ready the night before as far as possible makes the morning go much smoother. To make sure I don’t leave anything out, I have these written down, but they are pretty much ingrained habit. I make my lunch for the next day, pack my briefcase, make the coffee (on a timer), and figure out what I am going to wear.
This can be applied to work, as Glen points out over at LiveDev.net. Just like you’d stretch before a run, you have to be ready for productivity. Setting out the papers for your first task will get you started that much faster in the morning.
Preparing For The Next Task
A mini version of this method can help you get through break times. When I am on a roll, programming or writing, I hate to have to stop for anything like meals, meetings, or bathroom because I inevitably lose my train of thought. I have learned that leaving my writing in the middle of a sentence, or my code with a breakpoint set or just having failed a test, allowed me to pick up very quickly with what I was doing. Glen also has specific methods for doing this, more in line with mise en place: if you need to write, make sure your word processor is open. If you need to code, have the place open on the screen. Have everything ready so you can just jump in when you get back from your break.
So the secret is merely preparation. Have everything out that you need to use to complete your task, and you will be able to start on it much easier.