It's always easier to get things done when you have a goal. And not just any broad goal, but a quantifiable and attainable goal. I'm talking, of course, about getting a fellowship. They are great goals (once you figure out which one to apply for) because you have a task of things that are required to submit and you have a DEADLINE. Deadlines are essential, see my post about time management from earlier this week. So once you have the big goal, what are some things you can do to break it into manageable chunks?
Have a SPECIFIC task for each day
Break your goals down into infinitesimal bites. Like bites that can take you twenty minutes: Make a phone call to a university; revise bullet points in your resume; create outline of application essay. These are the small and manageable tasks that will leave you feeling accomplished and get you well on your way towards a strong application.
Make your goals MEASURABLE
This is a great lesson for any professional. I myself still have to work on this goal in my city planning work. How does a MEASURABLE goal in an application process look? How about: Write for 15 minutes per day; edit first paragraph of essay; do research for 15 minutes on fellowship website.
Make sure your goals are ATTAINABLE
This gets back to the infinitesimal point. If your goal is going to take three sessions to complete, that's not an attainable goal. A goal should be something that you can accomplish in one sitting. So if it's too big (and you'll realize which these are because they'll keep weighing down your task list), then break them into smaller parts.
Make mini goals that are RELEVANT to the big goal
Focus, what are you trying to do in the big picture and are the small goals really taking you in that direction? If you find yourself going on a tangent that's unnecessary, scale it back. For example, you get really interested in the research phase of finding a fellowship but you start doing much too much research on what previous fellows did. Is this really necessary? It's good to become familiar with your predecessors' work, but don't waste time here.
Make sure you are TIME-BOUND
This part is somewhat built in because there is a DEADLINE. But if you have to block off a whole day to accomplish your mini goal, it's not sustainable. You'll work on it for one day and then set it aside for months before you have another whole day free. So set a specific time limit (again see post from earlier this week). You'll find that you can build up momentum from the positive feeling of accomplishing small goals every day.