How to Beat Procrastination - Getting started is always the hardest

Reading time: 2 min

Getting started with doing something is always the hardest.

Getting off your bed to do some exercise. Switching from watching videos to work or study... These are things I definitely struggle with. The 'activation energy', the motivation required to start on them is tremendously high.

A strategy I have of beating this is to tell myself to spend 25 minutes, or even 2 minutes on something. An amount of time that is completely insignificant and very easy to do. Or, to do a very simple task that takes no more than 2 minutes: To write 1 sentence on this blog. To open a document and write the title and subtitles for an assignment. To open the document read through the question. Nothing more. Something that takes minimal time and effort.

I'd tell myself to do it for 2 minutes, and if I wanted to stop, I can stop.

The usual result is that I'd have continued to spent hours on it until I finished the entire thing. Once the ball is rolling, an equally high amount of energy is required is stop it. It takes less energy to continue what you are doing and more to switch context to something else. And since I was so productive while on the steamroll, I enter 'flow', a state of mind where I am so engaged in my work that I lose track of time. I don't want to break from it, so therefore I continue until I finish.

Two recent case study experiences:

  1. After procrastinating for days, told myself to spend 25 minutes on an assignment, then stop. I instead spent 5 hours on it, finishing it with quality, days before the deadline.
  2. I told myself to spend 25 minutes on a presentation, and instead worked for 2 hours straight.

I surprised myself.

If you're ever procrastinating and want the motivation to do something, leave the motivation behind. Tell yourself to spend 2 minutes on something and you'll likely be off for a few hours. No motivation required. You'll surprise yourself.

...

Although, it's okay to procrastinate and not work sometimes.

See also: Productivity by procrastination


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