- Overcoming procrastination through willpower alone is not a reliable method of productivity
- Rules like the 5-minute rule still require some level of brute force to initiate
- Removing your environment’s ability to distract you is the easiest way of overcoming procrastination
- There are diminishing returns, so I would recommend only doing 1-3 days with this method if you plan on integrating it into your life as a productivity hack
For our written content on procrastination click here
Hello and welcome back to another episode of the Minimal Minds Podcast, the show where we talk about all things self improvement. Today is episode nine. We’re going to be talking about procrastination. I procrastinate, you procrastinate, we all do it. Um, we’re going to be talking about why we do it, how you can stop.
So what is procrastination? You obviously already know if you’re listening to this, but for those who don’t, who are just genuinely curious, procrastination is the thing that you do when you know, you should be doing something and you just keep delaying it and delaying it and you keep delaying it until the last possible moment when you’re filled with fear because you have to get something done and then you kind of speed run it as fast as you can If you don’t naturally procrastinate, then I’ve got to admit, I envy you.
It is a real struggle, but yeah, let’s get into it. So, why do we procrastinate? Couldn’t tell you. I’m not a psychologist. I’ve been procrastinating my literal entire life. More often than not, in school, I’d be doing my homework on the day of it being due or in the very early hours of the night before. I often wonder how much I could get done if I just didn’t procrastinate.
Now, a very common trick that people like to use is called the 5 minute rule. So, this is where you tell yourself you’re gonna do something that you need to be doing, but you’re only gonna do it for 5 minutes. And then after that 5 minutes, you’ll either just stop if you want to, or… If you’re already into it, you just carry on.
And that works for a lot of people. But, there’s a step above that. I was reading this article about Bill Gates, and he does this thing called a Think Week, which he started in, I think, 1995. Uh, but essentially what he does in this week is he goes to a cabin in the Pacific Northwest. Uh, doesn’t take anything with him other than a big bag of books.
Leaves his phone at home. You can’t contact him for an entire week. All he does is think. And just read. And so I thought, you know, I could try that. So that’s what I did. Literally last week, that’s why I didn’t upload a post last week. I just did a whole week of thinking and reading. And, oh, game changer.
Let me tell you, game changer. So, you know, here’s the hypothesis. You can use rules like the five minute rule. But it’s still a layer of resistance that you have to get through. Even though it’s easier. Now the thing with a think week. Is that, by removing everything that can possibly distract you, and only having the things left that you’re meant to do.
Suddenly those things become unbelievably easy. Now I thought on my first day, I did five days in total, I thought the first day would be extremely difficult, and I’d have the urge to look at my phone or just get everything out of the box that I packed away. But actually, no, it was so much easier. Like, just the fact that I wasn’t prompted by these devices, because they weren’t readily available for me to use at any moment, was enough for me to just not use them.
So on the first day, I achieved eight hours of consecutive concentration. So that’s like not just 8 hours of work, like 8 hours of head to the desk, thinking and making notes, and reading dense books. I genuinely can’t even think of the last time I managed to do 8 hours in a row without doing something like this.
It’s a complete game changer. Now on the second day I managed 7 hours of consecutive concentration. Which is still really good, like it’s way beyond what I could do before. Especially considering my average is like, maybe 3 to 4 hours? On a really good day. I think I’ve read somewhere that the average people can handle cognitively, like, on perfect conditions is about 4 hours.
But those are in ideal circumstances. So how did the rest of it go? Well, there’s definitely diminishing returns the longer you do it. So originally I thought the first day would be the most difficult and it would get easier over time, and actually it was the opposite. It started out really easy, and then as the days went on I got less and less done.
And originally I was intending to do 7 days, but by day 5 I was like, Well, realistically I’m not going to do any more than I would normally. So I’ll just stop doing this now. So on the first day, like I said, 8 hours. Day 2, 7 hours. Then, I think it was 5 hours, 4 hours, and then actually 3 hours on day 5.
Which is about what I would normally accomplish on a good day. So at this point I should probably clarify what my actual rules were for this week. So, I don’t have a cabin up in the Pacific Northwest, unfortunately. But I do live alone, so I do have control over my immediate environment, which is key to doing this.
So if you have commitments like kids, or you have a job where you have to be online and connected 24 7, then naturally this process is going to be a lot more difficult for you. But here were my personal rules for myself. I wasn’t allowed to use the internet. I wasn’t allowed to use my phone. I wasn’t allowed to listen to music, watch TV, any films, any games, any video games.
Literally anything that we consider fun. So all I had left to do, apart from household chores and the things that everybody has to do, is read books that will help me get towards my goal. And work on content for my business, and that’s it. And you might be asking to yourself, How did I not go insane? Well, here’s the interesting thing.
When you take away the extreme levels of novelty that we’re all used to, things that we consider normally kind of boring and mundane, suddenly become a lot more interesting. Like, I’ll give you an example. There’s this squirrel that lives at the back of my house, and, literally every day, you can see him on the wall, walking around.
Now, normally, I would have thought, yeah, that’s cute. I wouldn’t give it more than two seconds of my attention, but suddenly, with nothing else to do, I could literally sit and watch this squirrel for an hour, and not get bored. And all he does is just kind of look around and eat and do that cute chewing thing that all squirrels do.
Same thing with birds, like there’s always birds at the back of my house. I’m not saying I’m now a bird watcher, but now I get it. So if you’re planning on doing this, don’t worry about being bored, like your brain will make entertainment from what you give it. You also might be thinking, Oh, what if there’s an emergency and I need my phone and I can’t get it because it’s turned off in a cupboard and I’ve tripped up or something.
I’ve fallen. And I can’t get up! How likely is that? How many times have you ever had an emergency? So, I don’t know if you have neighbors maybe you can scream loud enough If that happens, but the realistic probability that you’re going to have an emergency in a short time frame like this It’s very low and like if you do have an emergency, there’s nothing stopping you just grabbing your phone turning it on and calling the people you need to talk to. You don’t need to be constantly connected all the time. Literally every single one of your ancestors managed to survive at least one week without a mobile phone, let alone their entire lives.
So yeah, I think you’ll be fine. So what’s the overall message of this podcast episode today? Well, procrastination is bad. But you can make it a lot easier on yourself by removing the things from your life that distract you and it doesn’t have to be forever. It can be for a week, it can be for a day. But if things aren’t available to distract you, you will not get distracted and you will get more done.
It’s really that easy. You don’t have to be extreme about it by doing a Bill Gates style Think Week. Even if it’s just a quiet place for a day and you don’t have your phone on. Giving your brain the ability to think without being interrupted will be the biggest game changer for getting things done. You can obviously also use rules like the 5 minute rule as well, if it helps you, on top of this.
But for me, I think this is the easiest method, because it only requires a couple of minutes of As in, turning off your phone, putting stuff in a box, and putting it away. Instead of continuously trying to use willpower to get things done throughout the day, which more often than not just doesn’t really work that well.
So yeah, try it out. I hope it works out well for you. You got nothing to lose. So yeah, why not give it a go? Hope you enjoyed today’s episodes of the Minimal Minds podcast. If you enjoyed it, feel free to leave a review. It would really help me out. Appreciate you. And if you want to get your hands on some Minimal Minds merch, we got stickers on our store at theminimalminds.com/shop. We got some stickers, 2.99. That’s £2.99 shipped anywhere in the world and I’ll see you in the next one.