Try this 3 minute trick to get things done

There are days when I find it really hard to get started. I’ll keep putting it off by productively procrastinating on other things that need to get done but perhaps aren’t as important than the thing I’m avoiding.

Like the time I volunteered to run a profile writing workshop for coaches and I wanted everyone to come along with a first draft.

I thought it would be helpful to send my own profile along to help get everyone started but I was finding it hard to get started myself.

I was doing my usual productive procrastinating, looking at articles on how to have a more natural writing voice, when I stumbled upon one that suggested setting a timer for 3 minutes and writing whatever comes to mind.

“Don’t let the pencil come off the paper (or your fingers come off the keyboard). Just produce. Don’t edit. Don’t censor. Simply flow.”

The profile writing course was a week away and with no profile of my own I decided to give it a go. I set a timer for 3 minutes and wrote whatever came to mind, when the duck quacked I gave myself permission to stop writing and I closed the document.

The next day on the walk to the train station more ideas popped into my head, I spend a couple of minutes jotting them down when I got to my desk and before I knew it 10 minutes had passed and I had a first draft. I was in flow.

Other times I’ve used this technique I get into flow straight away. The key thing to remember is to give yourself permission to stop, if you want to, once the 3 minutes are up and trust that your brain is a connection machine.

So next time you find yourself avoiding something that you really need to get done, remember:

  1. Set a timer for 3 minutes – do something, anything towards the task you’re struggling with. If it’s a writing task remember the quote above, if it’s more physical decide on the action, like folding the laundry, and just do it for 3 minutes.
  2. Give yourself permission to stop – the technique works because you only have to endure 3 minutes. If you end up in flow, great, if not stop.
  3. Schedule the next 3 minutes – otherwise productive procrastination may take over.
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This article was inspired by 4 Steps to Finding your Ideal Writing Voice.
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