I have a confession to make about procrastinating. I left this article to the last minute to write. I intended to write it yesterday, but the old familiar excuses (I'm tired, I have other things to do, I am not in the mood, blah, blah, blah) arose.
All the excuses had an element of truth to them…but they were still just excuses.
The problem is NOT the excuses but the conclusions that arise from them.
All my excuses concluded with 'then it is better to put it off to another time.'
It was my conclusions that needed to change!
So how did I start writing this article?
I heard my familiar excuses arise and used them to signal that I was about to procrastinate.
At that very moment, I used a simple technique that pulled me out of my familiar procrastination habit and kicked my butt into gear. To do this, I asked myself one simple question:
"What needs to be done now in these ten minutes? What can I commit to for the next 10 minutes that I have been procrastinating on - and then immediately started on the task?
Now I am trying to keep my life as simple as I can. I withhold any judgements or negativity about the task and don't worry about the quality of my output.
Surely I can tolerate this commitment for only 10 minutes!
And a funny thing happened!
When I was doing what I SHOULD be doing rather than distracting myself with other stuff, I felt better. I felt better that I had given it a go, and the task was not as big and scary as I had thought!
But don't just take my word for this.
Dr Timothy Pychyl, an expert on Procrastination from Carleton University, says the problem IS NOT the excuses but the conclusions that arise from them. In his study, he carried out this exercise with his students. He found that when students made an effort to just get started on their stressful, complex, and unpleasant task - the task was not as stressful, complex, or as unpleasant as they thought!
On top of that, they felt better about themselves for having started and created momentum to keep going.
The mind works in mysterious ways. It can take a task that is difficult or unpleasant and build an illusion that the task is too big to start.
The 10-minute rule magnifies the simplicity of the task in front of you. It reduces the committment barrier to start the action.
So rather than me having to commit to writing this whole article all I need to do was to write for 10 minutes. Rather than me having to run 5 miles I can commit to 10 minutes of running. Rather than me having to read an entire chapter I can just committ to 10 minutes.
The funny thing is that once I start I get into the flow of things and the resistance evaporates. There are a few reasons why the 10-minute rule reduces procrastination.
So what is on your mind now? What are you procrastinating on? Just the thought can be overwhelming, right?
Choose one thing that you can commit to for 10 minutes. 10 minutes to take some action, any action?
Can you hear the familiar excuses arising? For me, it is I am "I'm too tired", or "I'm not in the mood", or "I would rather do something else".
Don't discard the excuses; they have an element of truth! But decide today to change your conclusions to these excuses.
Use your excuses as a red flag, an alert, to get started for 10 minutes.
Ask yourself when the red flag goes up, "What needs to be done now in these ten minutes?" and make the 10-minute commitment.
Don't hold any judgement about the task or the quality of the work. Just start it!
What can you do in the next ten minutes that will move something forward? What's one small action that you can take right now?
Take that action. Your future self will thank you.
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