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Kick procrastination's ass: Run a dash
Merlin Mann | Sep 8 2005
Procrastination can drive most of us into a spiral of shame that’s as mundane as it is painfully personal. We know what we should be doing, but some invisible hang-up keeps us on the line. Unfortunately, the guaranteed consequence of procrastination is growth in the scale of the task you’ve been putting off—as well as the anxiety that it creates. All the time you’re putting something off, your problem’s getting bigger—both in reality and in your head, where your colorful imagination is liable to turn even the most trivial item into an unsolvable juggernaut that threatens to overwhelm you. And that means extra stress, more procrastination, and the music goes round.
My favorite tonic for procrastination—which I have mentioned in passing previously—is what I call a dash, which is simply a short burst of focused activity during which you force yourself to do nothing but work on the procrastinated item for a very short period of time—perhaps as little as just one minute. By breaking a few tiny pebbles off of your perceived monolith, you end up psyching yourself out of your stupor, as well as making much-needed progress on your overdue project. Neat, huh?
Why the Heck Should This Work?
By making even the most modest bit of progress on your hated task, you’ve done what once seemed impossible: you got started. When you realize how much of the anxiety you’d experienced was created in your head, you’ll experience huge relief and give yourself the jolt needed to get back on track.
You can do a dash any time and for virtually any kind of project. The task has not been conceived that cannot be made smaller and more dash-able.
Three kinds of dashes
Try using a kitchen timer
Plan your dash based on whatever works best for both your project and the particular block that's hanging you up. The key is to pick a goal that's laughably modest. Seriously, this is not the place for extravagant predictions and overly ambitious goals (that's probably what helped land you here, right?).
Above all, remember that this is all about doing something, so pick a goal at which you can't possibly fail.
Some Sample Dashes
Here are a few ideas to get you started, although dashes can work for virtually any project you've procrastinated--no matter how monolithic.
Feel Like Working More? Well, do ya, punk?
Once you've made any progress on something you've been procrastinating--even the ridiculously minor amounts of progress you make in your dash--you might find it irresistible to keep working at it. That's okay. Seriously, go nuts.
Although you must begin your dash with the confidence that your life preserver is never more than a few minutes or units away, there's nothing to stop you from paddling forward if you're making happy progress. That's the trick, and, believe it or not, it totally works. Give it 8 minutes, and find out for yourself.
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