By Leo Babauta
I’ve never met a human who was immune to procrastination — we do it when we’re feeling overwhelmed, faced with something difficult or uncomfortable, or when we just don’t have the mental energy to be focused.
But while we can’t “cure” our procrastination, we can train our mind to overcome it when we need to focus.
The best training, I’ve found, are daily sessions (or multiple sessions a day, if you’re feeling ambitious).
So I’m issuing the Daily Unprocrastination Challenge for this month!
Here’s how the challenge works:
- Commit to doing the challenge — either by making a public post the #dailyunprocrastination hashtag on Twitter or Facebook, or [joining the challenge in my Sea Change Program.
- Pick a time and set a reminder — for example, you want to write every morning at 6am, or do an Unprocrastination Session when you first start your work day. Set a reminder so you don’t forget to do it at that time. Visual reminders, like a note, also help.
- Create an Unprocrastination List. This list will be what you work on the entire month. Put on this list things that you’ve been putting off — maybe a big work project, maybe writing a book or report, maybe studying, maybe drawing or practicing piano, maybe reading or a project at home. Small and big, important or not. But put the most important things at the top. Your rule is: you have to start with the top item, and use that for your Unprocrastination Sessions until it’s done (it might take several sessions spread over three days), then do the next thing on the list. This way you’re not procrastinating on the important stuff. Don’t worry — you only have to do it for 20 minutes a day! That’s the beauty of the session.
- Do a 20-minute focus session. Your Unprocrastination Session is a focus session, where you start a timer for 20 minutes (10 minutes if you can’t seem to manage 20 minutes) and do nothing else but the one task you picked, for that session. When the timer goes off, you’re done! You can keep going if you are moved to do so, but that’s optional. While you’re in the session, you can’t switch to anything else, can’t check on anything. You can only do that one task. But you only have to do it for 20 minutes, so it’s doable. If it’s too hard, do 10 minutes.
- Repeat daily. You can do several sessions a day if you like — especially if you’re already pretty good at getting things done. But the minimum is one session a day, every day. Even weekends (you can do home tasks on weekends if you like).
Through these sessions, you’ll be training your mind to tackle the things you’ve been putting off, one session at a time. One bite-sized chunk at a time.
This kind of mental training is incredible — it starts to build trust in yourself that you can do it, that you don’t have to run, that you can handle the hard stuff.
It can also be mindfulness training, as you see yourself tempted to put it off, but you pause instead of running, then just focus on taking one tiny step. Even just turning off your phone is a tiny step. Then another, and another. Or maybe you mindfully notice your urge to switch to something else, once you’ve gotten started. You can pause and notice the urge, be there with it, fully feel it … without acting on it. Then get back to the task. One urge at a time, you’re training yourself to be mindful of urges without acting on them.
If you find yourself needing help, I highly suggest getting others to support you. In my Sea Change Program, we have a weekly check-in, multiple articles on the topic, and I will be doing a webinar on unprocrastination (called “The Art of Failing to Procrastinate”) this weekend.
Join me and more than a thousand others in the Sea Change Program (first week is free). I’d love to have you.