Start today with procrastination


There is more I want to tell about yesterday’s blog­post on how I stopped with some bad habits. It’s not that I’m con­stant­ly try­ing to change myself or that I always suc­ceed when I want to end with a (in my opin­ion) bad habit. But when I suc­ceed, it usu­al­ly has to do with the fol­low­ing three sim­ple rules:

  1. Begin now.
  2. Make it a new habit by embed­ding it into a plan.
  3. Don’t give up.

The first rule is relat­ed to fair­ness. To myself. Do I real­ly want to change some­thing or is it just that I want to show my bet­ter side to oth­er peo­ple? In many cas­es I plead guilty for that last rea­son. How easy it is in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions just to state firm­ly that it is time to change your­self for the bet­ter. And right away! That is, tomor­row. Or after the week­end. Or when a new year has start­ed.

Why not begin right away? If you can­not or don’t want to answer this ques­tion then some­thing is seri­ous­ly wrong with your moti­va­tion. Even if you right before bed­time think that it would be good for you to start with run­ning sev­er­al times a week, you can start right at the same moment. Maybe not by putting on your run­ning clothes and go for a first run in mid­dle of the night (although there is noth­ing real­ly against it). But you can already lay aside those same run­ning clothes, pre­pare a sim­ple break­fast and set your alarm clock a half or full hour ear­li­er. As you know, a good prepa­ra­tion is half the work.

Once start­ed the next step is to make it part of your rou­tine. When you ask me I would say that this is only pos­si­ble by putting up a sched­ule and stick to it. For sure in the ear­ly stages. Again the exam­ple of run­ning: reserve two or three days on your cal­en­dar when you want to start with your train­ing. Explain at your work why you leave ear­ly or arrive lat­er so that your col­leagues are aware of this and will not be sur­prised when you decline for some meet­ings. My expe­ri­ence is that a few weeks are enough for a new habit to become part of your rou­tine.

The final rule is that of per­se­ver­ance. Keep going. Do not give up too soon. And I am refer­ring now to the activ­i­ty itself. Again run­ning: once you suc­ceed to work out sev­er­al times a week, try to improve in these ses­sions. Hold on to the next bend in the road. Only slow down at the round­about. And so on. But this is of course also applic­a­ble to any oth­er activ­i­ty like for exam­ple read­ing a book. Do not stop too soon. Read to the end of a chap­ter. Or to a par­tic­u­lar page num­ber.

This all crossed my mind when I was read­ing a blog­post from Leo Babau­ta at his Zen Habits site1. It’s about pro­cras­ti­na­tion, but the pos­i­tive side of it. How often is it that you read that peo­ple tend to post­pone things. Appar­ent­ly this is deeply ingrained in us. Instead of pick­ing up that book for fur­ther read­ing  we con­tin­ue surf­ing on the inter­net. Why not turn this around to some­thing pos­i­tive? When you are read­ing and feel the urge to check your twit­ter account, wait for a while. Instead read on. Until you feel that urge again. And delay a sec­ond time.

It is a kind of rever­sal of the ‘Hold on, don’t give up’ rule. Keep run­ning. Delay slow­ing down as long as you can. You final­ly want to write that book? Do not start things which don’t not con­tribute to fin­ish­ing your first draft. Eat more healthy? Wait as long as you can with eat­ing unhealthy foods.

Delay delay delay.

It seems so sim­ple but is pow­er­ful at the same time. At least when you’re real­ly moti­vat­ed to change.

So, begin­ning today with post­pon­ing all of your bad habits of which you want to get rid of is the first thing you need to do. And focus on the good habits that you want to learn.

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  1. A nice inter­view with Leo Babau­ta is avail­able at the site of Natasha Oost­er­loo. 

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