Start With the Easiest

Sometimes I find myself stuck in a row of vain attempts to solve some kind of a problem. This problem can be a task my boss assigned to me, or the project of my own.

If I haven’t managed to do much progress or complete the task in a short period of time, first I start losing my focus and motivation. Then I lose faith in my professional skills and myself overall. Confidence fades away slowly but irreversibly. The feeling of guilt makes the things worse. I come feeling frustrated and overwhelmed.

If the time I spend on working on the task without getting much result stretches over than one week, I can simply stop doing anything at all. It’s like I get paralyzed. I feel like a rabbit staring at cobra, unable to move.

The problem grows even bigger and scarier in my imagination. Plus, I don’t do any other task, because that problem has to be solved first as it is the most urgent and of the highest priority.

I start checking my email box dozen times per hour, making some tea every 15 minutes, watching random YouTube videos and other meaningless stuff, which, of course, doesn’t help me get my work done.

Probably, you find yourself in such kind of situation from time to time too? If you do, then let me share with you an approach I use to overcome this issue.

How to Beat Up the Cobra

The very first step is to take your eyes away from the cobra’s paralyzing glance. In other words, put aside the task no matter how urgent and important it is. It’s obvious that you’re not going to finish it soon, right? Then what’s the point to spend even more time on it now?!

What’s next? Though many people recommend to start with the important and hard tasks, however, if you’re stuck with an unsolvable problem, then my advice is to choose the easiest task which you can deal with right now and solve it.

Regarding me, there are always other tasks on my to-do list which I can focus on. I think, you have that list too.

Identify the easiest task which is on your to-do list. Pick the one which can be done in a matter of a couple of hours (or even faster).

Yes, that to-do item can be not priority one. Perhaps, getting it done won’t bring you much gain (like money). However, our goal right now is NOT to get much result, but to get out of that paralyzed state, just to start moving.

Recreate the Flow of Accomplishments

OK, have you picked an easy task from your list? Great! Now act on it and complete it. Then proceed to the next easy one.

As you’re successfully accomplishing more and more tasks, you’ll notice as the lost feeling of motivation returns to you. The flow of completed tasks will recharge your confidence, so you may try to solve that big problem again.

You can repeat it several times if required.

Personal Example

I wouldn’t write this article if I had not encountered that kind of issue not so long time ago.

There was a task I had to accomplish. I spent about ten days on struggling with it. Though I had managed to finish some parts, the project was far from the complete state, so I couldn’t demonstrate it to the client and get the money.

At the same time my determination to deal with that task had dropped dramatically. I ended with hating that task and blaming myself for not being capable to solve it.

At last I calmed down, checked my list of to-do’s and found one small easy problem of another client I could deal with quite quickly. It didn’t take long for me to get to the client’s office and solve it. I felt satisfaction: “Well, my skills are not that bad. I can still help people.”

Then I got another small task done. And another one.

In the evening, when I had returned home, I felt quite good about myself. Yes, I hadn’t solved that hard problem yet, but at least I helped some other people. Probably, I am not going to have a lot of money from it, but those people thanked me and that was more than enough to bring my confidence back to action. So next day I woke up with determination to work on that big task again and I did better.


If you’ve got stuck in beating your head against the wall with the same problem hour by hour and day by day; if you start losing motivation, confidence and desire to accomplish it at all, check out your to-do list: are there any small and easy tasks on your list which you can accomplish right now or in a matter of a few hours? If there are any, act on them with no procrastination!

If it takes much more time and effort to solve that big clumsy task than you thought it would take, don’t let it paralyze you. To beat the cobra up you have to act like a mongoose. Not like a rabbit. Put that big task aside for some time and focus on the easier ones.

July 28th, 2012

Sociable Introvert

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