The 3 Step Process to Getting Started on Anything

by Nicky Hajal

The sun was setting as my girlfriend and I drove along the mountainous coast of Barcelona.

Something about cruising along those curves always brings out the best conversations and on this particular day we were talking about a project she’d been thinking about but hadn’t started.

As we were chatting she said, “The thing is, I don’t know the best way to get started. Do I just search on Google? Should I get a book? Find YouTube tutorials?”

I could tell from the way she was speaking that, like many of us, she had some anxiety around the idea of “getting started”. She wanted to start the right way and choose the best first move.

That desire to start-off right often puts us in the position of asking, “How do I get started?” over and over. It can go on every single day for weeks or months without ever actually moving forward.

In that moment talking with my girlfriend I realized that asking “How do I get started?” is itself the first step. Before you ever do anything you have to ask that important question.

If you’ve been asking “How do I get started?”, you’re already on the right track. You’ve already done Step 1.

Now, you need to focus on not getting stuck there and moving on to Step 2.

Good News: Step 2 is Just as Easy!

Since you’ve already done Step 1 (asking how to get started) it’s time for Step 2. And guess what, it’s not as complicated as you think.

Like my girlfriend, a few answers probably come to mind when you ask, “How do I get started?”. In fact, the problem is probably that there’s more than one and you’re not sure which to move forward with.

Most of us get stuck at Step 2 because we’re not sure which option to pick but there’s an simple process you can use to keep moving forward:

  1. Write down all the possible ways to move forward
  2. Set a timer for 15 minutes and start the first one
  3. When the timer goes off ask yourself how you feel. If you feel good, continue doing what you’re doing. If not, try the next option path forward on your list.

The purpose of this process is to break you out of that endless-“How do I start?”-cycle. And it works.

Instead of spending 2 months being unsure what to do, you’ll spend an hour and half trying 6 different approaches and getting real feedback about what feels right for you.

Here’s an Example: Say Hi to Bill

Let’s imagine Bill (he’s not real). He wants to start writing fiction but has absolutely no background in it whatsoever. In fact, he always got bad grades in writing as a kid so it feels weird and non-sensical that he has dreams of writing now.

He’s been wanting to write for months but just doesn’t know how or where to begin. He’s come across articles about the work process of some of his favorite authors but they all seem to contradict each other so he doesn’t know what he should do. Even worse, he gets anxiety thinking about how they work because it just reminds him of how much better they are. All of it just has him feeling locked-up and stuck.

Luckily, Bill read this post, decided “What the hell.” and just wrote down a list of some different ways he could get started. It looked like this:

  1. Write character backgrounds to have a pool of characters to work with
  2. Write short-stories to learn how to structure stories
  3. Research a period of time that’s interesting to me and build a story around that research
  4. Brainstorm 1-sentence book concept ideas
  5. Learn more about book writing strategies by reading books and blogs

These were all possible ways to move forward that Bill had thought about in the past but because he wasn’t sure which to do and because they all felt a bit daunting, he just stagnated by not doing any of them.

Now, though, he went through the list thinking about what it would look like to do each of those for just 15 minutes.

He set a timer and got started on the first one and in 15 minutes came up with 4 characters, writing about where they were from, struggles they were facing, their strengths, their relationships. He struggled through the first 2 but was actually feeling pretty good by the fourth. He could imagine a story might emerge as he continued to write about these characters.

Now feeling like he had a bit of momentum, he tried his second option and tried to write 3 very, very short-stories in 5 minutes each. He knew even if they were in horrible, it would all be over in 15 minutes anyway.

What happened instead is that by the third story, he was feeling excited and inspired. The timer went off but he just kept writing. Maybe the writing wasn’t as great as the authors he looked up to but the point is he broke through Step 2 and started making real progress.

Go Bill!

Be like Bill

Bill said, “What the hell, I’ll just give this a try.”

Be like Bill and give it a try yourself. Instead of staying stuck trying to find the best way to start, just give each possible way to start 15 minutes to see which works for you.

If you’re not sure what that looks for your specific case, just post a comment below and we’ll help out!

photo by: takkaria

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  • Nathan Coury

    This is awesome Nicky! Hell yes to just diving right in and taking experimental action. I’ve found myself using a similar approach as above to make great progress on goals, especially like the example you used above when I have no prior background in what I want to do (like, say, starting a rap career).

    Look forward to reading more posts like this. 🙂

    • Nicky Hajal

      Hell yeah man! I would love to hear more about your specific process for starting to learn rapping from nothing.