Do a Little Instead of Nothing

There are a few things I didn’t want to do today. Things I felt I didn’t have time for; things I felt were not big enough priorities. I didn’t want to continue my ReactJS training. I didn’t want to work on a client project after my regular day job. I didn’t want to write this blog post.

Not wanting to do something is a common feeling. We procrastinate with the justification that our time is better spent doing something else—maybe even nothing.

But we’ve always been told procrastination is bad. And that’s true in most cases. Every time I delay working on a task I know needs to be completed, it sits at the back of my mind, eating away at my more productive thoughts.

An easy way to quell the nagging guilt of procrastination is to take action. This seems obvious, but it’s a concept that most of us (especially me) fail to grasp, despite repeated cases where we see that it works.

All you must do is dedicate a small chunk of time to your procrastinated or undesired task. Give yourself five minutes to work on it. You don’t have to continue after that if you don’t have the time or inclination. But focus those five, fifteen, or thirty minutes on that task. For me, that time sometimes spirals into hours of productivity, and other times, I stop after those few brief minutes and continue onto another task. In both situations, I’ve quelled my guilt and feel accomplished that I worked on what I know needed attention.

This isn’t uncommon wisdom. I’ve seen this advice thrown at writers quite often—when you feel you have writer’s block, set a timer for fifteen minutes and do nothing but write. If no words flow, then just stare at an empty document. But you can do nothing else with that time but focus on writing. Sometimes you end with an empty document, and other times (most times), you end with hundreds of words written.

I always forget how powerful this advice is. I go on with my routine of kicking the can down the road until it starts to become a more pressing thought in my head. Spending just even a small amount of time chipping away at what you know you need to work on not only helps to get the task done, it also frees your mind from worrying whether or not you’ll get it finished. And that freedom leads to even more productive time spent on other tasks.

List out what you want to accomplish at the beginning of the day. Spend a minimum of 15 minutes on each task listed. No excuses.

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