Just Set a Start Date

Starting is hard.

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Do you find starting a project is more of a struggle than finishing one? Do you struggle to meet deadlines because you always start much later than you planned? I’ve tried to overcome this barrier in my writing for years. And while some procrastination can be a good thing, there may be a very simple way to increase your productivity without totally stressing you out.

The problem with deadlines is that they only help us finish something. There’s (almost) always some sort of finish line to jog or sprint toward. But what about the starting line? Why don’t we stamp a date on that, too?

Maybe the key to convincing yourself to work on a project isn’t setting a deadline for when you are going to finish. While that can help you stay on track, maybe, before you do that, you should first set a start date.

After all, how many times have you told yourself or confided in someone else, “I want to finish writing a novel by the end of the year” — but you never manage to get started, or jump back into the unfinished work? What if it’s simply because you’ve never said, “I’m going to start working on this book no later than July 17?”

I’ve convinced that, sometimes, we do this whole goal-setting thing backwards. We’re so focused on when we’re going to finish something that we forget we also have to start it — and for many of us, actually getting started is one of the biggest, if not the most difficult, hurdles at the forefront of every writing project. If you mark a start date on your calendar, it’s possible starting won’t be QUITE as difficult as it is without that “deadline” jumping out at you.

If you’re a hopeless procrastinator, adding bookends to your work might be exactly what you need to at least try to established a more organized workflow. This way, you can plan out not only when you’re going to get started and when you want to get it done, but how much work falls between those two dates. The advice to break up big projects into small pieces doesn’t help much if you don’t plan accordingly.

Sometimes, getting started is the hardest part. You already likely know from experience that once you get started, things get (just a little) easier. Set yourself a start date and see what happens. It might change your life. It might not. You’ll never know until you make a wholehearted attempt.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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