Hey there, Dean here. I run content and SEO at AppSumo. Here, I write and share about productivity, leadership, money, psychology, marketing, and more.
Overcome procrastination without fighting with your lizard brain
Last week, I found myself watching more YouTube videos than usual and been putting off some works for sometimes. Just like everyone else, I procrastinate. And trust me, it happens more times than you think.
If you’ve found yourself putting off important tasks over and over again and you can’t control it, you’re not alone. In fact, it isn’t a bad thing for most people to procrastinate to a certain degree - but procrastination has affected some people chronically and destroy their relationship, career, and life.
Many factors cause us to procrastinate. However, I’m only going talk about one of the many. This article may only take you 2 minutes to read. So here come the first test for you: stop procrastinate and start reading.
One of the biggest factors behind procrastination is the way our mind is wired to crave for instant gratifications and perfections. We want fast, good results and pleasures without putting in the work. This then translates itself into our work and life:
Most people is trying to fight this behavior with external motivations, cruel punishments, and sheer willpower. The problem is, this part of our brain (which is what I like call the lizard brain) is evolved from the beginning of the first land species--the reptile.
The lizard brain had kept animals (and us) safe for around 300 million years, while the newly developed human brain only has its history of 200,000 years. Trying to enforce willpower and self-disciple to our lizard brain is like a baby fighting an MMA champion.
The 2-minute hack works like this:
When you find yourself procrastinate, forget about the task you need to get done. Then, think about the first 2 minutes of that task. For example:
After you figure out the first 2 minutes of the task you’re procrastinating on, do it. The rule is simple, if you don’t feel like to continue doing it after 2 minutes, you’re free to stop without guilt.
In most cases, you will finish the things you’ve been procrastinating for long after the first 2 minutes.
Notes: I cover more of this and four more time management strategies that will change your work and life here.
Activation energy is a term widely used in Chemistry, describing the minimum quantity energy that a reacting subject must possess to undergo a specified reaction. This same term is applicable in our daily productivity.
The 2-minute hack isn’t any magic.
To get ourselves to start doing something, we need energy that is bigger than the task. However, many healthy habits we like practice are challenging to start because their required activation energy is high and hence the resistance is high.
The 2-minute hack lowers the resistance because now, instead of thinking about the big to-do you need to get done, you’re focusing only on the first 2 minutes of it. When you complete the first two minutes, the momentum will carry you forward to finish the entire task.
I have to admit that I lied. This article isn’t a 2-minute read. But if you’re reading this now, you just experience how effective the 2-minute hack is.
There is no way for us to win the fight with our lizard brain. So instead of fighting it to force yourself doing something, work around the corners.
When you think of the great things you want to achieve, acknowledge that they don’t happen by themselves, and they certainly don’t happen overnight. The best to get where you want to be isn’t visualizing your way to it, the only way to get there is by taking action.
And you don’t need significant action either, all you need is just a small tiny action that put you a step forward, 2 minutes at a time.