Right now, you probably have a task on your to-do list you’ve been putting off—whether it’s initiating a difficult conversation or starting a new project. But the most efficient people push through these moments of procrastination, writes leadership coach Peter Bregman for Harvard Business Review.
The work you’ve been putting off probably isn’t that difficult, but starting it will likely force you to move from work that is comfortable—like sending simple emails—to work that is uncomfortable—like starting a proposal. So to knock out that project you’ve been avoiding, you first need to develop the ability to transition between comfort and discomfort, Bregman explains.
7 alternatives to a to-do list for people who hate to-do lists
Here’s how the most productive people get their most daunting tasks done:
1: They just get started
Productive people know that all it takes to start a project is a moment of willpower. They identify the first step of the project and they do it. “In some cases you just need to force yourself through a moment to get to the other side,” writes Bregman. For example, if you’re avoiding initiating a tough conversation, start by picking up the phone and dialing the number.
2: They commit to following through
Productive people aren’t superhuman. They, too, feel uncomfortable while working on intimidating tasks. Bregman points out that it takes emotional courage to keep moving forward. He recommends ignoring distracting or sabotaging feelings and committing to following through on whatever you started. “You can’t control the noise your thinking makes, but you can keep moving through it to do what you need to do,” he writes.
3: They become better equipped for the next task
While the transition from comfort to discomfort is challenging, people who practice these difficult transitions daily are better equipped to tackle the next daunting task. “Remember that the transition is short lived. It is not the new normal—it’s the movement to the new normal,” Bregman notes (Bregman, Harvard Business Review, 5/30).
Keep reading: The 7 worst workplace habits—and how to shake them