Here is a great little management tool I learned from Fred Brooks when I went to school at UNC-Chapel Hill. He never used it on me, but I’m sure that’s just because he wasn’t my advisor. I certainly deserved it.

Suppose you asked someone to do a project. They could be your student, employee, or maybe a coworker. You haven’t seen any progress so far.

You: How is your project going?

Student: I haven’t started because I don’t know how to tackle it. It’s really hard. How should I do it?

You: What have you tried so far?

Hehe! I love this little bit of verbal Jujitsu. You and the student both know the answer is, “Um, nothing. I’ve been slack and I want you to figure it out for me.” At that point they usually admit that they should get to work.

You can use this trick on yourself too when you feel intimidated by a project. Are you really stuck? Have you really tried anything or are you just scared to start? Once you get moving and try even random things you will gain momentum. That is often all you need.