When I find myself procrastinating on a big project, it’s often because I don’t remember where I left things last time or what needs to be done next. Here’s a tactic I’ve successful employed recently to fix this problem.
In starting the day’s work on a project, I set my first task as: “load project into working memory.” This means getting all my materials out (paper notes, books, journal articles, etc.) and reviewing both my recent work and the project’s larger goals. In short, I’m trying to remember what I’ve already done and what I’m supposed to do.
When it comes to modern knowledge work, this step isn’t trivial—it can take a few minutes to get our head around, say, a company-wide initiative we haven’t worked on in three weeks. For work of any complexity, loading a project into our working memory is the first step whether we make it explicit or not, so we may as well give ourselves some credit for a first step taken and make getting started a little easier.