Writer and speaker Merlin Mann suggests this method for beating procrastination:

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?).

Once you set your small goal, choose one of three types of dashes:

Time-based dash – Most jobs lend themselves to a time-based dash, so pick up a kitchen timer at your local drugstore. Choose an amount of time that gives you enough room to do something but that’s brief enough to seem completely unintimidating. For some reason, eight minutes seems to work well for most of my own dashes.

Unit-based dash – Alternatively, depending on the tasks you’ve been avoiding, you could go with a unit-based dash, during which you agree to plow through an arbitrary number of pieces associated with your project (such as pages to read, words to write, glasses to wash, etc.).

Combination dash – In many cases, the best solution is a combination dash, in which you get to stop the hated work whenever you reach either the time or unit goal first.

Above all, remember that this is all about doing something, so pick a goal at which you can’t possibly fail.

When you find that you’re on an article spree instead of making progress on work, use a dash to build momentum and beat procrastination. Small wins also has the side benefit of enhanced motivation, as Teresa Amabile shares.

  • Bob Tabor

    You got me excited when you wrote that Merlin Mann was blogging again … only to realize that this was an 8 year old article! 😦

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