How to Get Started Today: 3 Very Simple Things That Work for Me

by Henrik Edberg

Image: / CC BY-SA 2.0

.“The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.”
W. M Lewis

“How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never’.”
Martin Luther

I love getting started with a new habit or project. There is excitement and a certain freshness ahead of you as you are about to get going.

But sometimes it stops there. At about to get going. Because “you don’t have the time”. Or it’s “not the right time right now”.

I have whole chapters on how I establish new habits, keep up the motivation after that initial enthusiasm perhaps has started to wane and on how to become more of a person of action in The Art of Relaxed Productivity and the Simplicity Course.

But today I would like to share just three tips for that first, crucial step. Three steps that have worked for me over and over to get started with something and to grow.

Ask yourself: Do I really want this?

One reason that you may never seem to get started is because your heart is not in it. If you set a goal but it isn’t your goal then it will be hard to achieve or even getting started with it.

If you realize that it’s a goal set by people around you – parents, teachers, bosses or society in general – then, when possible, eliminate the goal and set a few goals you would like to achieve.

Or try to find you own motivation and reasons for achieving a goal rather than the ones people around you have set. This could put the goal in different light and suddenly you’ll feel a whole lot motivated to get started.

But you don’t always have to have a burning desire to do something to get going. I have begun something many, many times  just because I was curious. If you are curious but feel an inner resistance then the next two tips will be helpful.

Ask yourself: What is the worst that could happen?

If you feel like you can’t get started for some reason then ask yourself: what is the worst that can happen?

A lot of the fear we feel before getting started comes from fuzzy and foggy thoughts about what could happen. But if you actually imagine the worst realistic scenario then it’s often not as frightening as you thought. You won’t die or anything. And it won’t ruin the rest of your life.

Imagine the worst scenario and then try to create a plan how you could get on your feet again if that scenario, against all probability, should happen. You’ll then most often realize that whatever your fear is you could probably get back on your feet and back to your normal life pretty quickly once again.

Start the easy way.

If it feels like too big of an effort in your mind then you’ll come up with all kinds of reasons to not get started.

So start easy. Take a small step into something new.

  • Go out running for just 10 minutes. Instead of running for 45 minutes. Or run for just 5 minutes and walk for 5 minutes. The important thing is to make the habit stick and you do that by actually doing it a whole bunch of times. Then you can slowly, step by step, increase the amount of time you spend running each time you are out.
  • Work on something new for just 10 minutes. If you feel reluctant to starting with something new then commit to start doing actual work – not more planning or preparation – for just 10 minutes. Or for 5 minutes if 10 seems too much. Then do just 5 or 10 minutes of work on the new thing each day. After you have gotten started you will however often just continue working after those first few minutes minutes are up.

Getting started is often the hardest part so make it easy on yourself by initially setting the bar as low as you are comfortable with.

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Classier Corn August 2, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Very inspiring post (as usual)!
Best Regards
Classier Corn

Clint Cora August 2, 2011 at 7:07 pm

I really like the tip about finding your own motivation and reasons for going after a goal rather than somebody else’s reasons. I think that this would be a great way for college students to look at their education in another way in case they were pushed by everybody else to attend. It would certainly help them get through the campus years in a more positive way.

Sandra / Always Well Within August 3, 2011 at 2:13 am

This is really a timely article for me. I have two projects I would like to get underway and I need this extra impetus. I especially resonate with the idea of bite size chunks like starting with just 10 minutes. That could work for me!

Lauren @ MRS August 3, 2011 at 3:53 am

That’s true though, it’s best to take it easy and start in small steps. If you overwhelm yourself, it might be a case of too much too soon, and you’ll end up giving up before it even officially begun.

Coke August 3, 2011 at 6:12 am

Great content here as usual. You’re right, just start out with 5 or 10 minutes and before you know it you have no problem with 20, 30…. soon you’ve developed a good new habit and you’re rolling. Baby steps right?

marc van der Linden August 3, 2011 at 7:36 am

I use this question to test my motivation;

‘Will it be still important for me in 5 years?”

If no, than it is not my heart, but somebody else idea. But it happens, that the answer is yes and then I do it with new fresh inspiration from the future!

About the small steps, I cannot agree more. When I restarted jogging and swimming after some break, I do it only for 15 minutes, with an increment of 10 percent every week. I found that this the best for my body and mind.

Thanks for sharing!

Andrea August 3, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Hi Henrik

Thanks for this useful tips. I could not agree more, We do not need to change al lour habits at once. Starting small is the best. I sometimes have tried changing everything at once and it does not work. You get too overwhelmed. I believe starting small and increase the time you do something or increase the new habits or things you want to change is teh best.

Finding the big “why” of the things you want to do is very important. Not only you will know why you do it, but knowing the why will help you staying committed. You said it right, it needs to be your own why otehrwise you are living someone else’s live and you wil not stay committed to it.
Thank you

Timo Kiander August 4, 2011 at 10:17 am


I like these tips! I have also realized, that when you get started with a task, you just keep doing it and it is hard to stop once you get the ball rolling :)

If I’m having issues of getting started, I also try to focus on the feeling I have after finishing a task – the good feeling.

You just feel good about yourself of taking action and that could be one way to to tackle the obstacles of not getting started.


Henrik Edberg August 4, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Thank you for all your helpful and kind comments, guys! You add so much good, positive and useful stuff to these articles. :)

darren August 5, 2011 at 6:02 am

Sometimes, I think of a series of positive things one after another. They just build momentum and my mood changes into one that is more appropriate for real action. That definitely helps to get going – however, emotional slumps can happen for very serious reasons. Afterwards, these episodes definitely need to be re-visited, some things can be learnt from the re-visit too. Not a good idea to attempt the debrief in the middle of one!! But a man learns more from his failures than his successes..

Sonya August 5, 2011 at 3:13 pm

I absolutely love your blogs… keep them coming ;) Namaste <3

braden fichter August 5, 2011 at 9:52 pm

I like the blog. I have my own blog where I keep track of inspiring stories from all the different backgrounds. I mix it with travel stories and other fun diversions..

AJ Mida August 6, 2011 at 5:49 am

I love the section titled “Ask yourself: What is the worst that could happen?” I first heard about this idea about 6 years ago while listening to the audio cd “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”. To be honest it’s the only tip I remember from that book. I always ask myself “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” And like you said “You won’t die or anything. And it won’t ruin the rest of your life.” is always the answer. It makes taking on anything big or small much easier. Thanks for a great post!

Emily August 6, 2011 at 2:47 pm

When writing a book, the first page is always the hardest. A blog post, the first paragraph.

Knowing that after getting over the first little hard part, things become a lot easier, is a great motivator to getting myself going.

Justin | Mazzastick August 6, 2011 at 7:06 pm

I have experienced wanting to do something before and got that ” stuck” feeling where I couldn’t move forward.

I found the culprit to be a limiting subconscious belief that had kept me from moving forward. Once the limiting belief is gone it is much easier to achieve that which I desire.

Mannan Khan August 6, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Nice. What I usually is that I let my passion be for a couple of days. If it doesn’t fade, I move on. If it fades away, its gone!

In the end, it’s all about the motivation!

Jon August 7, 2011 at 6:18 am

The idea of time and how important it is in relation to the project is very important. I like some of your ideas about breaking a task up.

Sietse | August 8, 2011 at 10:01 am

Thanks Henrik!

What works well for me is to focus upon the end result: ‘Start with the end in mind!’ Usually, thinking about what you have to do is much easier than actually doing it. Instead of thinking about how much work something will be, how annoying it will be to do that work, etc. I try to see a lively image of the end result. The clearer that picture is, the easier it will be to start and the more excited I get!

Mark August 9, 2011 at 4:34 am

Asking the question: Do I really want this? Really puts things in perspective. To often we do things just to please others, and we usually go about it with little or no passion. Great post!

Christine August 10, 2011 at 10:30 pm

I love the idea about taking a goal and breaking it down into smaller steps that build up to the goal. This is a great motivation for me. I will start with exercising 5 minutes a day and work up to 1/2 hour. I love learning new ways to improve my life and increase my positive thinking.

Emma's Bucket List August 11, 2011 at 11:55 am

WOW! This really strikes a chord with me right now! I started my bucket list blog a few weeks ago (please have a look and let me know what you think). I did it after clearing out my Dad’s house (I lost him earlier this year)..

It was a horrible task, but passing most of his furniture, books and clothing to charities, and having to throw 8 car loads of papers, curtains, fittings, and nick-nacks into the refuse waste tip made me realise something that we tend to forget-that it’s not the possessions you accumulate or leave behind in life which are of value… It is the memories!

…Why else are things of sentimental value so priceless, whilst insurance can take care of everything else we own in life? The only real heirlooms that my Dad left me were the ones that had sentimental memories attached to them, like photographs and a few paintings and ornaments. Maybe I will be lucky enough to leave some priceless heirlooms to the ones I love, but in the mean time, I wanted to focus on fulfilling all of my ambitions one at a time, starting with creating my list ( ) site to serve as a virtual scrap book of memories, ambitions, dreams and LIFE so that I can leave something truly priceless as my legacy for my loved ones!

So far this year, I have been to my first music festival, taken all of my kids to Disney, Visited Las Vegas, Eaten at a restaurant I have always wanted to try, jumped out of a plane to do a charity sky dive and completed a wing walk! Life isn’t a rehearsal, and you have to let go of the little stuff that wont matter one year from now and enjoy or at least accept every moment as if you had chosen it.

I found that the worst experiences of my life so far-have also offered me the greatest gifts as lessons.

Christy August 13, 2011 at 8:06 am

I like your idea about doing work than spending more time on planning. Thumbs up!

Eric Phillips August 15, 2011 at 7:48 pm

I wish this post was longer. Many people like short and sweet, but, I felt it was just getting warmed up.

Thumbs up on Stumble anyhow, thanks for sharing.


Henry August 20, 2011 at 1:50 am

Hi I once heard someone say do something by 2 degrees, in other words do something little to get started and do it consistantly. All of the two degrees will turn out to be 360 degrees over time. So keep doing the small things they will eventually work to become something big.

Kelsey September 13, 2011 at 10:49 pm

I always think about the worst case scenario and it helps me be prepared.

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