The 18th-century poet Edward Young said, “Procrastination is the thief of time.” I must admit that I’ve been robbed by this thief more times that I can count. How many of my dreams have been penciled in on the calendar of “one day”? One day I will complete the first-draft of a novel. One day I will organize a book-length collection of my poems and submit it to a publisher. One day I will buy a tiny farm and raise chickens and herbs.
After years of relegating the important things to “one day,” you wake up and realize that you’ve accomplished very little of what you always dreamed you would do. I feel as though I’ve lost twenty years or more of effort that could have advanced me toward my goals. Even if I had spent just five minutes each day of those twenty years working toward fulfilling my dreams, I would most likely be well on the way to realizing them by now.
The blog zen habits has a challenge for the month of September that aims to fight this thief. And it only requires five minutes a day. The rules of the challenge are
- Commit publicly (on social media, to your friends, family and coworkers, however you want) to doing this every day for the rest of this month.
- Each day, spend just 5 minutes doing an Unprocrastination Session (see next step).
- Pick an important task to focus on, clear away all distractions, set a timer for 5 minutes, and do nothing but that task.
You cannot switch tasks during this session. You cannot check on something real quick. You cannot get up to clean something. You can only sit there, with that one task, and either focus on the task or sit there and do nothing.
- When you get the urge to switch tasks, don’t switch. Just stay with the urge. Watch it, let it surge, then let it fade. Return to your task.
- When the timer goes off, success! You can keep going if you want, or take a break and go again, but neither is necessary. Just 5 minutes a day is all that’s required for success.
- Yes, even do your 5-minute sessions on the weekend. Pick a personal project to focus on during those days if you like.
It sounds so simple. Just five minutes a day. And yet I feel an evil hesitation in accepting the challenge. What is it in my feeble brain that resists any effort in attempting to do what’s important to me? Is it fear of failure? Is it fear of success (because face it, success would open its own can of worms)? Or am I just a supremely lazy creature who cringes at any intimation of actual work?
Whatever the reason for my hesitation, I am nevertheless accepting the challenge. I hereby commit to working five minutes a day on putting together poetry submissions for possible publication (something I have avoided for many years). There. Now it’s public and I can’t pretend that I never agreed to it. These five-minute sessions will be carved in stone on my to-do list for the rest of the month. No. matter. what.
I’m not sure how much can be accomplished in five minutes a day, but I guess I’ll find out. If you did the challenge religiously for an entire month, you would have two and a half hours of work under your belt. Which is two and a half hours closer to your dream than you would have been otherwise. Maybe in and of itself it’s not a huge step. But from the point of view of building a good habit, it might be priceless.
If anyone out there would like to commit to your own five-minute Unprocrastination Session, feel free to let me know what your goal is by leaving a comment. And good luck in your attempt to stop the thief!