Get the ball rolling

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Your child is tasked with a mountain of homework once again. Seeing this, they’re drawn to easier get-outs like playing instead. In such a case, it’s not keeping them motivated that’s the issue, it’s getting them started.

Getting started can produce a working streak like a single electron can start an electron avalanche.

I know first-hand how easy it is to put off an overwhelmingly big task, so how do I get started on such occasions? What helps me is to say to myself that at the very least I can set up the things needed for the task. This means getting everything ready to get started on the work without actually planning to do any work after having got ready. Getting ready might only take five minutes and, because I’ve not committed to doing any actual work afterwards, I don’t mind taking that first step.

However, when I finish setting up, that’s solved a large part of my motivation problem already. At that moment, it is much easier to tackle one small task of the work, and perhaps another one or two. In short, getting started is the hardest part and once I’ve started it’s easier to keep going. It is very much like the mental inertia analogy again: that it’s harder to get a standstill lorry moving than it is to keep a moving lorry going.

So place the homework and a sharpened pencil on the table, or get the violin ready and tuned up, and ask your child to complete the very simplest task you can imagine, just to get them started. After they make a start, it’ll be easier for them to take the next step and so on until, finally, they’ve completed all of their work.

With this approach, you’ll get your child from rolling around a ball to sitting down and getting the ball rolling.