What to do when you can’t be bothered studying: The Do Something Principle

The do something principle

I recently overheard a year 12 student say to her friend:

“I can’t be bothered studying English … I can’t be bothered studying maths or biology … I’ll just sit here and do nothing.”

I suspect that this student was feeling overwhelmed by everything she had to do.

And we all know what this feels like. You have so much work to do, where do you even start? In those moments, it can feel easiest to simply do nothing and pretend that the work doesn’t exist.

But trust me, doing something is always better than doing nothing. All those little bits add up to something really solid.

Introducing The Do Something Principle

The Do Something Principle works like this: when you’re feeling overwhelmed, you do something. Anything. It doesn’t matter what piece of work you choose to do. Just make a start.

Things that can help you execute The Do Something Principle:

• Clear away all other projects (out of sight is out of mind).
• Keep the task small and make it have a clear end point (e.g. “I will read this paragraph” or “I will create 10 flash cards”).
• Write down the task on a white-board or post-it note (this helps you to stay on track).
• Put a timer on for 5-10 minutes (whatever you feel you can handle).
• If your brain starts saying things like, “I don’t want to do this!” or “This is going to be painful!” simply ignore these thoughts.
• Pair the task with something enjoyable, such as drinking a smoothie or listening to some enjoyable music (preferably without lyrics).
• Focus on the process, not the finished product: In other words, don’t worry about completing the task in the allocated time.

I like to write what I need to do on a white-board. It helps me to stay focused.

And most importantly …

Don’t wait for the perfect time to start

The reality is there is no ideal time to start your work. So just get started on one part, regardless of how you feel.

Yes, it will feel uncomfortable.
Yes, you’re work will probably be messy (at least to start with).
Yes, you’re brain will be screaming out for novelty and distraction.
But that’s okay. Just stick with the process.

Because eventually you will strike gold.

As artist Chris Anderson says:

“There have been times when I’ve just sat there doing something over and over in different ways, scrapping every idea in frustration until I finally made that one right pencil stroke, took one photo with the right angle, chose a slightly different shade of the same colour – until finally everything comes together absolutely perfectly.”

To sum up

Good work takes time. If you want to do your best, you need to start the process early and give yourself enough time to properly engage with the work.

So what are you waiting for? Go do something. No matter how small the task may be, just make a start. Remember, all those little bits of something add up to something really solid.

How can you implement The Do Something Principle into your life? What work have you been avoiding that you can make a start on?