zen habits : breathe

The No Procrastination Challenge

By Leo Babauta

In the final month of my Year of Living Without, I’ve decided to live without procrastination.

Procrastination is a friend (or a beast, depending on how you feel about it) that we all live with. It lurks behind us constantly, insinuating itself into the crevices of our mind, intimating its will through malevolent hints and obscure looks and barely audible whispers and glancing allusions.

In June, I’m saying goodbye to that serpented bringer of apprehension. Procrastination will keep its distance, for a month.

I had been planning on giving up computers entirely, and I still love that idea, but it would hurt two projects I hold dear: my book and my Sea Change Program. A foul exorbitant price.

So it’s procrastination.

What does it mean to have “No Procrastinaton”? Does that mean an unbroken stream of work from waking until bed?

It means I’m going to define things I can’t procrastinate on, even for a minute, and set a time period I have to work without distraction. And after that work period, I get a break.

An example: Let’s say the next thing on my list is to write a chapter of my book. I set a timer for 20 minutes, and I have to start right away, and work without cessation until the timer goes off. Only then can I check email or do any online reading, though I can work longer if I’m in a groove.

After the break, I might set another period for myself if my schedule allows, though a trip to Guam this month is going to make my work schedule lighter than normal. But no matter what my schedule, I’m going to have to get certain things done each day — I’ll elaborate in the rules.

Here are my rules:

  1. List my Most Important Tasks. I have to list 3 things that are important to me (let’s say writing a blog post for Zen Habits, writing a chapter in my book, writing an article for Sea Change). Each day, meditating and reading the novel I’m on (Madame Bovary at the moment) are on the list automatically.
  2. Do the first things early. As soon as I start my day, I will meditate without procrastination. Then read my novel. Then do the first Most Important Task on my list for 20 minutes. Those I’ll do without fail.
  3. Get the other things done as early as the schedule allows. We’ll be traveling, so I might not be able to do all my Most Important Tasks as early as possible. But I still have to do them, and I’m not allowed to read online, check email, check social media, or do other trivial things until I have them done (except for breaks).
  4. A 10-minute break is allowed after my 20-minute unprocrastination session ends (though again I can extend the 20 minutes as long as I want). I can check email etc. for 10 minutes, then go into my next 20-minute unprocratination session.
  5. No wine at night if I mess up. I’m not perfect, so there might be times I’ll mess up. When I do, I’ll take a small penalty — no wine.

The main challenge will be to be mindful of my urges to go to distraction, to run from discomfort, when I’m supposed to be doing something. I think we all do this, and rationalize it. I’m going to try not to let my mind run or rationalize.

Feel free to join me! Tweet me up if you decide to do the No Procrastination Challenge, and tag your update tweets with #noprocrastination.

Oh, and if you’d like to do the Wake Early Habit instead, registration for my Sea Change Program is still open.

Up next: I’ll share how my Flavorless Challenge went in May.



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