Task initiation is something that most people have struggled with at some point in their lives. The barriers to task initiation may vary by person and circumstances, but the end result is that it can be difficult to start a task. Frequently this may be assumed to be a lack of motivation. At other times our internal critic may label us as “lazy,” and we may feel a sense of failure. Negative self-talk, judgments, and shaming rarely ever help the situation and frequently make it worse. What if instead, we reframe this solely as a barrier to task initiation, and utilize this as an opportunity to practice self-compassion and creativity? If I know where I want to go and I know where I am starting, then I may have to build a bridge between here and there. If we can scale the goal back to initiating the task rather than completing the task, we can utilize this as the foundation of the bridge we need to take the first step forward.

For example, perhaps I have managed to wash and dry my laundry, but all the clean laundry has been sitting in the dryer for days. The outcome I want is for my laundry to be put away, but I’m struggling to start this task because it feels too overwhelming today. If my goal is to initiate the task, the bridge I use to do so may be to tell myself I will take one item of clothing and put it away. An alternative bridge may be that I will set my timer for 5 minutes and spend that 5 minutes putting away clothing from the dryer, and when the 5 minutes has passed I am allowed to stop – even if I am not done putting the clothes away. If I wish to continue once I have started this task I am absolutely allowed to, but I am not required to do more. In completing the step I defined I have ultimately met my goal of task initiation.

Our negative judgments can in themselves be barriers, and ultimately make us feel worse more often than they inspire or motivate us to take action. By letting go of our negative self-talk and judgments about ourselves, our engagement in tasks, and what we feel able to commit to doing and instead practicing self-compassion we not only increase our chances of accomplishing more of what we want, but we also change our relationship with ourselves.