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.