Getting things done

Apply energy without fear. Photo by Federico Beccari on Unsplash

One of the most common things expressed by my counselling clients, is their feeling that they need to get things done.  Examples include students needing to get their essays done, or professionals needing to complete pieces of developmental work.  It seems that we all avoid completing the most important tasks, and are extremely good at putting things off.

If you, too, have a task that just isn’t getting done, here are five tips  for giving yourself a kick start.


Unconscious fear, based on past disappointment and loss, is one of the biggest causes of mental illness, and cancels our courage.  We are secretly scared about what may happen if we try hard.  Runners fear a heart attack.  Lovers fear rejection.  Students fear failure.  So we slow down, stop pursuing, stop trying.  It sounds facile to say ‘just do it’ – but it’s true.  We need to get our hands dirty and start taking action.


We often get lazy in our habits, so that life becomes mostly breaks, and not enough activity.  The breaks stop feeling like a pleasant reward, and start feeling like ‘how life should be’.  We start to complain if life starts to feel anything except restful.  If we have things to do, we are better off treating the activity as our standard existence, and then really enjoying the breaks when they come.


We are social creatures, even the most isolated of us.  We are often far more effective when tied into others by commitment and obligation.  We get more done that way, because we are being watched.  This is not sinister – it’s motivation.  It’s why football has crowds.  So find a companion who can join you in the highs and lows.  It can be a friend, a therapist, or a colleague.


When demotivated, we leave tasks half way through, so that we never get the satisfaction of a job complete.  A good habit is to write a list of tasks to be done, and then focus on each one until it is complete.  We can start with easier tasks to build up motivation, and then make things progressively harder.


Many people timetable for convenience.  People in jobs organise their days to be easy.  People suffering mental illness organise life around them to be as easy as possible.  But sooner or later stuff will need to get done.  When that’s true, we need to timetable by priority.  We need to decide which tasks help move our projects forward, and focus on them.  It’s really hard to do (because see item #1 on fear).


To start getting things done:

  1. Apply energy without fear
  2. Earn your breaks
  3. Find companionship
  4. Learn to finish tasks
  5. Timetable by priority

This gives us renewed courage, accountability, social motivation, conscientiousness, and focus.