Skip to content

Getting It Together: Fourth, Pick a Place to Start

If you are following along in order, first, we made a little time. Second, we defined what having it together would look like. Third, we made a list of the things in our way. Now let’s pick a place to start.

10-31 Just One Leaf

Baby Step 4: Pick a Place to Start

What to tackle first?

Between wherever you start and where you’re heading, there might be some distance.

If you made a list of barriers to “getting it together,” you probably have things to start doing (or to do more often) and to stop doing (or to do less often).

Stuff that you said you’d do, want to do, have to do—but are not doing—it gets in the way. It’s difficult “get it together” if you have a pile of things you’re putting off.

Let some things go. If possible (okay, ethical…), eliminate some things on your list. De-commit, delegate, change the scope, forget it.

Avoid multitasking. Don’t try to do everything at once. Splitting your focus during whatever time you can give “getting it together” will just make you feel like you can’t get anything done.

To help make some good choices and to avoid that state of “I have so many things to do, I don’t know where to start,” take a few minutes to make some notes about each item on your list.

  • Time. Estimate (without obsessing over it) how long each item on your list will take. For example, this could be the total time, like 2 hours or 2 weeks, or it could be how much time a week for how many weeks.
  • Due Dates. Where applicable, note whether the project is due soon or already overdue.
  • Importance. On a scale of 1 to 10, note how important the item is to you.
  • Cost. Estimate how much it will cost to complete each item (for some, the answer will be zero). If you’re getting rid of things, you might even make some money.

Pick the first thing. Here are some thoughts about choosing an order to tackle your items…

  1. Shortest time first. Everything else being equal, do the thing that takes the least time first. That way you can cross it off your list and use the momentum from getting that done to work on the next shortest task.
  2. Factor in when things are due. If you have something that’s due in 5 days, and something else that was due 3 months ago, you might want to complete the one that is not late first. Then clean up the overdue project right after that.
  3. Add in importance. If time and due dates are not a factor, do the thing that is most important—or exciting, interesting, annoying, embarrassing, dangerous, likely to cause future problems—first. This can also be something that makes life easier, like eliminating the clutter in your office so that you can think straight or repainting the sunny side of your house before it decides to peel.
  4. Consider your finances. If something doesn’t fit into your budget (that is, you can’t pay for it right now), do something else while you save up.
  5. Exceptions for toughness. If you have a really tough barrier, then setting up a program to deal with it should be first on the list. If you’re not sure you should take it so seriously, then the first thing to do is to find out. Ask a friend. Ask a professional. Set up your program, then work on the next thing on your list.
  6. A Note about Habits. If your list includes self care habits, don’t try to create six new ones all at once. But you can start a new, small habit like going to bed earlier or taking a walk three times a week while also tackling something else on your list. Once you’re a little comfortable with a new habit, then you can add another.

After looking at your list and your notes about each item, choose the first thing to tackle. Just one. Get it done, cross it off the list, celebrate a little.

Avoid spending time on multiple “get it together” projects at the same time because you’ll end up feeling unfocused and unmotivated. However, it can work to have a second project for off times. For example, if you can only work on your primary project during business hours, then you might want a secondary one for other times.

Don’t worry if there are many things on your list. Picking the first one to tackle—having a place to start—is a huge help in moving forward.

Other Posts in This Series

Getting It Together: First, Free Up a Little Time

Getting It Together: Second, Define “It”

Getting It Together: What’s in the Way?


Article | The Cognitive Costs of Multitasking

Post | How to Get More Done? Guess What? Progress Begets Progress

Review | Bookshelf: Changing for Good

Review | Bookshelf: Making Habits, Breaking Habits

Review | The ONE Thing

Disclosure: Some links on this site are “affiliate links,” which means that I may receive a small commission if you click on the link and purchase something.