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  • Writer's pictureFull Frame Coach

Why 'just starting' works and how to prioritise your time (and sort your inbox!)

Updated: May 7

Never more so has the proverb “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” been so relevant for me this year. Although perhaps it should read “begins again”.


a grassy ridge in a forest, with a hiking trail along the top.

This year has a lot packed into it, which is why I chose the word ‘spaciousness’ for 2024. I knew there was going to be a lot going on, and I knew that overwhelm could be a real thing.

 So with spaciousness in mind, I try to live each day with the question – how spacious has my day felt? It helps me work out what to say yes to, and what to say no to, and to give permission to myself for taking time to rest. Yes, remember that Barcelona story?!


Recently I had a peer coaching session with a friend who is in a similar coaching business position as me. We both have other careers that pay our bills. We have been through the same business coaching programme so have a shared language. We’ve both got a bit stuck after finishing Phase 1 of that programme. And neither of us feel ready to dive into Phase 2 with both hands and feet.


In that session, we fundamentally had the same issue going on (this is called a parallel process). So we recognised that it was important not to collude with each other; not to project our own stuff onto the other; and to recognise the personal learning from the other, as that may help with our own stuff.


Our key themes were about the trouble with starting a task that we’d committed to in the session before. We both knew those tasks were the right things to do for our coaching businesses, but neither of us had actually started our tasks:


Some of the themes were:

  • The trouble with starting – boredom/unexciting, no instant gratification of doing the thing,

  • Some elements of perfectionism and the ambience around doing the task

  • Priority setting and finding focus – FYI, it’s never about ‘not enough time’ but it is about what gets prioritised.


Sometimes not doing a task is completely understandable and sometimes it’s procrastination (for reasons listed above).


What we both know from our business coach is that “clarity comes with action”. Most of the time, just starting (taking that single step) is enough to know what to do next, and then next after that, and so on.

And most of the time, just starting is enough to feel the momentum and reward of progress, which then means more steps and more progress.


Below are just two techniques that I rely on regularly:

  1. The Pomodoro method

  2. urgent/important prioritising


Pomodoro means ‘tomato’ in Italian, and the idea is that it’s bite sized.

a wooden table top with some cherry tomatoes on the vine.
  •  break down your tasks into smaller tasks that you can focus on for a period of time and then have a rest.

  • The general rule of thumb is for every 25 minutes of work, you have 5 minutes of rest/play. You don’t have to stick to that timing of course.

  • As you try out this method, you will work out what’s your optimal timing.

  • And if you feel really stuck with something (or know you’re avoiding it), set your timer for 15 minutes. Knowing that you can go and make a cup of tea after 15 minutes gives some lightness to the task.


Top tip – don’t finish your timed session with a fully completed task, as that can make it harder to come back to it. You can end up with the ‘blank page scaries’ again.



Urgent/Important matrix – it has been adapted from the Eisenhower Matrix.


This is a 2x2 grid to help us work out what is urgent and important, what’s not urgent or important, and the other two combinations in between.


If you struggle to prioritise intuitively, then have this grid near you so you can check against it easily.


A 2x2 grid on a teal background, with the heading "Urgent v Important" an the Full Frame Coach logo in the top right hand corner. In the top right corner of the grid, is "Do" (urgent & important). In the bottom right corner is "Defer" (important, but not urgent). In the bottomw left corner is "Delete" (not important or urgent). In the top left corner is "Do/Delegate" (urgent, but not important). Underneath the grid is

You can use this technique to manage your inbox too. It has changed my life! I use the four Ds to describe it:

  1. Do - when you can action the email in 2 minutes or less. Then delete or file your email.

  2. Delete (or file it, without action) – pretty obvious and always one that feels good!

  3. Delegate –to someone else, and then file that email in a “Delegate” folder. So later when you need to chase people, all those emails are there in one place.

  4. Defer – these are the tasks that are important but not urgent, so you can defer them until later. Pop them in a “Defer” folder so you don’t completely forget about them. Again they’re all in one place, so every now and then you can scan through the folder to see what needs to be moved back to your inbox for action.


Create these two new folders right under your inbox folder. And then spend some time clearing your inbox with this 4D approach.


Once you’ve moved every single one of them to where they need to be, your inbox will be manageable if you keep up this method. I promise!


I am to have no more than 30 emails in my inbox at any one time. You might want a lower threshold than that. I tend to keep emails about future meetings in my inbox, as a reminder of what’s coming up with whom.


Top tip – I use the flag on emails that I need to action that day/week. So that they stay in my inbox until I’ve done them. And because they’re urgent, they won’t lurk in my inbox for days or weeks at a time.


Going through this method means you can sweep through your inbox on a Monday morning and know what’s there, prioritise things and plan the rest of your day/week around the urgent tasks.


Need some help in working out what needs prioritising in your life? Why not download my values inventory tool. Being super clear about your values can definitely help you prioritise both the big things and the small things in life -

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