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Tackling the Most-Dreaded Item
on Your “To-Do” List

What is the one thing on your current to-do list that you’re dreading most?

The one that feels like a complete burden. The one you try to avoid thinking about at all costs.

  • Build your business website?
  • Figure out what spare-time business you’re going to pursue?
  • Write your self-promotion piece?
  • Call your mom?

It can be anything, so be honest with yourself. What are you dreading?

Now, how would you feel if I lifted that burden from you today?

If it’s ok with you, I’d like to give it a shot …

Every week I meet with a personal mentor. And last week he gave me a piece of advice that I think will help.

I hired my mentor about a month ago to help keep me focused on my goals. He holds me accountable for the actions I need to take in order to achieve them, and also gives me advice and direction when needed.

Normally, I’m really excited about these meetings. But last week was a little different.

Instead of making a list the night before of everything I wanted to cover, I actually spent the night dreading the meeting. And then, when it came time to meet with him, I wasted the first 15 minutes talking about random events from the past week.


Because I wasn’t prepared. I had avoided the to-do list item that burdened me most.

My mentor had given me an assignment to complete. And even though I was excited at first, when it came down to actually doing it, I froze.

The assignment was to draft the table of contents for a book I’m writing.

I knew the topic well. And having worked in publishing my entire career, I had written and revised quite a few tables of contents in my past. But I just couldn’t wrap my head around what I wanted to do for my very own book. And instead of tackling it head on, I put it off.

About 15 minutes into the meeting, my mentor realized I was trying to avoid talking about it. And that’s when he gave me the best piece of advice.

What did he tell me?

“Just take a step.”

Yep, that’s it!

Just take a step forward, toward whatever it is you’re dreading, and immediately you’ll feel like a big burden has been lifted off of your shoulders.

And moving forward, he told me, “Whatever you’re not wanting to discuss, let’s discuss that first. Otherwise you’ll spend the entire meeting thinking about it, and be distracted by it.”

And boy did his advice help.

Instead of tackling the entire table of contents, I just wrote down where I wanted the book to begin, and where I wanted it to end. That simple step made me feel lighter than I had all week. And it gave me the focus I needed to finish the assignment.

Now, let’s go back to your own to-do list, and the item that’s burdening you most.

What’s a step you can take toward accomplishing it?

Make a commitment to yourself right now to take that step tomorrow. You’ll see firsthand how a simple action can relieve a lot of stress.

And if the item is too big, consider breaking it into multiple pieces. For example, if the to-do item you’re dreading is building your website, break down the tasks into individual items.

  • Choose and register a domain name.
  • Find a hosting company.
  • Put together my site map of the pages I want on my website.
  • Hire a web designer.

Breaking it down into small pieces will actually help you get a better understanding of what the project entails, and give you a better handle on how much time it’s going to take.

You can even use this technique every day to be more productive.

Before you shut down each night, update your to-do list for the next day. Check off the things you’ve completed. Add any missing items. And then put a star by the item you’re dreading most.

When you start working the next day, do that starred item first.

You’ll feel a huge sense of accomplishment, and you’ll be able to focus on your other tasks.

So what does your to-do list look like for tomorrow?

Just take a step.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

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Published: April 14, 2009

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