“Ok, finally I took the decision, I want to improve on my life! But how shall I start? Shall I just start tomorrow with actions? Or is it better to plan in detail first? But I’m afraid I will loose momentum.”
My recommendation, which is a low risk, low cost, high efficiency way of starting:
1. Start now.
2. Start with a little planning.
An image about this is when a runner prepares for the run, and takes the place at the start line. In this moment, the process of the competition is already started. However, it doesn’t start with the running itself. There are some moments in silence: thinking, focusing.
Why is it good to start right away? Unless there are major life events on my menu, it’s better to start my process right away. I took the decision, so let’s start. Otherwise, I can procrastinate just as I did so far. “I’ll start on next Monday” or “I’ll start on the beginning of next month”, and so on, and it slips away as it always did. To fight procrastination, it’s better to start this process right away. This may sound contradictory to time management principles, but in fact it isn’t. What these tell? Start with prioritization, writE up the to do list, structurE the day/week. And it is correct.
My very first actions should be about planning. Chances are, this is not the first time I start a process to live healthier. Instead of repeating the same things that I did before, let’s make a review about what worked for me, and what not. Let’s keep the strategies that worked, and put on hold that didn’t.
So, a good way to start is when I finish reading this article, and my intent is to start, I pause for a minute. I make a conscious decision that I start now. Then during today and tomorrow, I consciously pay attention to myself: what’s going on with me when I start such a process? A good question to ask: what worked for me in the past, and what didn’t? When waiting for the elevator, when making coffee, when driving, my brain is thinking anyway, so I use this short periods of thinking-time, to think about what works for.
My goal is to make a list of 3 items in my head that worked. Not the best things that worked for me, just 3 strategies that worked.
LESS FAVORABLE STRATEGIES
1. To avoid: Setting a date to start in the distant future. Starting with the new year, after Christmas, with the summer break, with the start of the school year. Chances are, these are just my usual procrastination techniques to delay my start. Is it Dec 28th? I shouldn’t wait until January 1st, better start on Dec 28th, today. 
2. To avoid: Starting with zero planning. For example I go out and make a lot of exercise the next morning. Chances are, I’m have a natural inclination to “move forward”, and I like to start things. However, how does this play out after a few days? For a few days, I’m motivated, but it goes away, and I just give up? Then I better plan ahead for those days when my motivation will be low, and I tend to give up.
3. To avoid: Starting with a very long period of planning. A good question to ask from myself: is this about really planning, or again just procrastinating? If I like planning, and I’m a natural planner, this is good news, I can use it for my advantage. However, ofthen this period is not used for collecting information, and fine tuning my goals and resources. Most of the time, it’s just another period of inactivity, labelled as “planning”. So let’s make a limit to it: I plan during the next 3 days, and I really use this time to collect information. I can still extend this period if it proves to be successful.
The Gestalt Cycle of Experience describes the natural flow of human experiences, which starts with awareness . In fact, I could have written “awareness”, but probably thinking about myself about what works for me is a more common way to express it. True awareness in Gestalt is in the moment, spontaneous, and this is why it’s good to do it in an easy way.
In project management, this beginning part of the process is called “planning”. Reflecting what works and not, setting goals, having an idea about realistic budget and timelines. According the different statistics, a big part of project fail due to poor planning. So how to improve my success rate? Let’s do some planning.
PERFORMANCE VS. LEARNING
Finding my balance between staying in awareness and move to action is not an easy task.
A concept that I learned during my Gestalt OSD training is to balance performance and learning. When I want performance, it is better to do what I’ve always been doing, little risk, known outcomes. Maybe the way I act is not the most efficient, but it’s a trusted way of doing things. When I want learning, it is good to try something new. Maybe it turns out to be a faster, shorter, better way of doing things, but it can turn out to be the opposite. So a good question to ask from myself: what do I want with this process?
I want results: I better start the way I usually start things.
I want learning: I better start in a different way then I usually begin.
Have questions to find your balance to start? I’m happy to support, just drop me a few lines with your questions through the Contact page, and I get back to you shortly in e-mail (free).
1. The Gestalt Cycle of Experience as an Orienting Principle, Awareness. in Edwin C. Nevis: Organisational consulting. The Gestalt Institute of Cleveland Press, USA, 1987, 1998. p22
2. No time is perfect to begin. in – M. J. Ryan: This year I will… Broadway Books, USA, 2006. p45-49