Procrastination is something we all struggle with, and it often is the main reason why so many people fail to achieve their goals. To really stop procrastinating, you need a reliable tool to help you do so.
“Don’t do now what you can do later.”
— A procrastinator trying to sound wise
“I think it was the first day of the New Year.
On that day, I was confident that this year would be different, that it would be better than all previous ones. I was motivated to make this a great year.
Getting in shape? Learning a new language or instrument? Making more money? I was convinced that I would definitely do it this year, because… I mean, I just felt it, you know?
Oh, wait a second. Now that I think about it, this is already the 5th year in a row that I’m saying these same things, and it looks like I’m on my way to making this the 6th year.
Nice. Very nice.”
Does this sound at least partially like you?
Have you also already wasted a few months this year? Or even more? Probably yes.
How do I know? Well, because you’re reading this, and because that’s how procrastinators are.
The magical “New Year Motivation” usually never lasts more than one or two weeks, and if you don’t have more reliable ways to make yourself take action and start doing… well, you’re in for a fruitless year. Again.
BUT. You want to stop procrastinating, right? Good, because I want to show you a simple yet effective technique that has helped me overcome procrastination this year, after a few months during which a sort of “writer’s block-induced procrastination” had caused me to waste quite a lot of time.
Fortunately, I was able to pull myself together and get back on track. It wasn’t easy, but this simple trick helped me stop procrastinating and get in control of my life again.
Allow me to introduce you to the No-Thinking Technique.
How and Why It Works
The mechanism of the No-Thinking Technique is extremely simple:
Every time you realise that you should be doing a certain something, just start without even thinking about starting.
See? Really simple.
Ok, I’ll admit that telling you to “start without thinking about starting” sounds weird, but there’s really no other meaning to it.
You just have to stand up (or sit down) and start doing whatever you have to do, all without thinking, as if you were a robot specifically programmed to do that something, no questions asked.
Now, why does something so stupidly simple work?
The main reasons are two:
- It helps you avoid perfectionism. By developing the habit of just starting, you avoid some of the most common things a perfectionist does, such as:
– Procrastinating for days and weeks just because starting things on a Monday or on the first day of a month feels more “perfect”;
– Wasting the remaining hours of a day just because something didn’t go as planned and they can’t get a “perfect score” anymore;
– Spending too much time thinking about the things they need or want to do, and too less actually doing.
- It doesn’t need willpower. Earlier, when I explained how the No-Thinking Technique works, you’ve probably thought, “Wait, isn’t this just a fancy way of saying ‘just start’?”. Well, yes, but there’s a small difference: making decisions is tiring, right? And deciding to “just start” is still a decision, therefore it will consume at least some of your willpower every time you decide to start doing something. Problem is, willpower is not on will-call, and sometimes you might not have enough even for something as simple as just-starting.
The No-Thinking technique, however, doesn’t require decision-making. Whenever you realise that you should be doing something, you don’t stop to think. Instead, you just start doing automatically, without really having to make a decision.
For example, let’s say that you looked at the time and you instantly remembered, “oh right, I had plans to exercise for 30 minutes”. At this point, you must stop all thoughts and just stand up, wear your workout outfit, and start exercising, all without thinking about it, as if you were hypnotized. Don’t even stop to say something completely normal such as “Ok, let’s do the workout”, because if you do, your brain might take this chance to talk you out of it.
I know, it sounds kind of ridiculous, but trust me, for many people the “hassle” of simply saying ‘Ok, I’ll do it now’ and then doing it is already more than enough to keep them from taking action.
All right, that is pretty much what the No-Thinking Technique is about. Now all you have to do is take a look at your to-do list, understand which important task you should be working on (the Matrix is a really helpful tool), and go into “autopilot” mode.
Oh wait, I have another tip for you so that you can make this technique even more effective and stop procrastinating!
Pro tip: resist the temptation to think about what you just did for at least 3 or more minutes.
When you’re still not used to focusing and working without distractions, you will naturally find it challenging, even if you did manage to take the first step of getting started. At first, you will feel like there’s “something” or “someone” trying to convince you to just stop and go back to wasting time.
If you don’t ignore that feeling, you might end up finding an excuse to quit, even though you had finally managed to start.
Resist for at least 3 to 5 minutes. That’s it. After that, you will find it much easier to just keep doing what you’ve already started. Zeigarnik Effect, remember?