Procrastination is the enemy of many, acting as an impediment to completing work and concurrently fueling anxiety as deadlines loom. However, it may be that a simple and direct technique could provide the spark needed to get things underway.
At Thrive Global, healthy habits writer Mayo Oshin relates how he struggled with procrastination over the course of several months in seeking to write a book before stumbling “upon a powerful strategy” that helped him get started.
“I quickly realised that my obsession with being perfect and on the final result of a published book was causing my anxiety and procrastination,” Oshin writes. “So one day, as I was staring at my laptop, I asked myself a simple-but-powerful question: ‘What can I do right now?’”
Finding a starting point
Rather than focusing on the big picture or what the final result will look like, it can pay to approach the tasks you have set yourself one step at a time. Ask yourself what you can do right now, and then focus on the next step.
Oshin says that he “simply wrote one sentence”, immediately feeling relief from his anxiety and a boost of self-confidence, before writing another and progressing with his work.
“By the end of that full day I had completed a 5,000-word rough draft,” he writes. “Within 30 days I had completed the entire draft of the book.
“The best part about this was that I only focused on doing something small every day and the final result was simply a byproduct. By shifting our focus from the intimidating end result to simply getting started today, we can overcome the mental roadblocks that cause procrastination.”
The “two-minute rule”
Oshin writes that the “two-minute rule”, outlined by David Allen in his book Getting Things Done, “suggests that if a task takes less than two minutes then just do it now”.
“This way you save yourself time that would have been wasted on reviewing the same task on your to-do list over and over again for weeks,” he writes.
“Plus, you reduce anxiety and boost your self-confidence by getting more things done. If a goal takes more than two minutes break it down into steps that take two minutes or less to complete, i.e., putting on your running shoes, writing one sentence in your draft.”
Over time this same approach can be used to achieve more intensive goals, effectively providing a starting point by allowing goals to be divided into more manageable portions.
“By breaking down your massive goal into small ‘two-minute’ chunks, you can build momentum and trick your mind to taking more action than you initially set out to do in two minutes,” Oshin writes.