The Art of the Start

‘There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth…not going all the way, and not starting.’ ~Buddha

Post written by Leo Babauta.

How do you start something you’ve been putting off?

You know you should be doing the task, but you delay, delay, delay — how do you get started?

It’s one of the most intimidating things. It’s the lack of starting that kills most tasks and projects.

Procrastination is putting off the start. Your new venture gets put off because the start is too hard.

How I Started

When I started Zen Habits, I had no idea how to start. I looked at other blogs and it was intimidating what they’d accomplished: not only thousands of readers but hundreds of articles, a killer blog design, their own domain name, all kinds of services and ebooks and T-shirts and other things going on.

I couldn’t do all that — I had a job (two actually) and a family with six kids. So I skipped it all and did one thing: I chose a simple name for the blog that felt right, and created a free account on

That was incredibly easy, and I felt great.

Next, I did one more thing: I did a short post reflecting on some things I’d been doing. Basically just a journal entry. I was out in the world for the first time!

This was my start. It wasn’t hard — in fact, so easy I couldn’t refuse to start. Eventually I did all the things everyone else did, but that came later. At the start, I did just one thing, and then another.

Start a Task

How do you start on a task when you’re procrastinating because it’s too hard? You make it super easy.

If you’ve picked a task and it seems too hard to get started, make it even easier: just do one minute. If that’s too hard, just do 20 seconds. That’s so easy you can’t say no.

Whatever the task, if you’re procrastinating, make it easier. The key is to just get started. If you want to go beyond the 20 seconds, keep going. If not, do another 20 seconds after you’ve taken a break and wiped the hard-earned sweat off your brow.

If Even That Doesn’t Work

Sometimes you know you should make the task super easy, so that you can’t say no … and yet because of inertia, you keep browsing the Internet or doing other things than taking on the simple easy task.

If you find yourself still delaying, stop what you’re doing. Get up, walk around, take a deep breath. Then think about what you’re doing, and whether this is the person you want to be.

Instead, rationally decide to start, as simply and easily as possible.

When I started running, I would tell myself, “Just lace up your shoes and get out the door.” That was all I had to do. I didn’t have to run 3 miles, or 1 mile, or even 10 minutes. Just get out the door. When I did get out the door, I found that I wanted to keep going — starting was the hard part, and I made it so easy that it was too hard to say no.

When I want to sit down to write something, I don’t tell myself that I have to write a whole post. I tell myself, “Just write one sentence.” That’s all. Or “Just type out a few ideas.” It’s so easy, I don’t feel dread. I start typing, and then when I’m in the flow of things, I keep going.

You can do this. You can start. You don’t have to do the whole project, or the whole task. You just need to get the ball rolling.