Two Principles To Overcome Procrastination In Two Minutes

woman in blue chambray jacket lying on green grass

I’ve been procrastinating continuously for a few days. I’ve been putting off important work for no particular reason. I don’t feel like doing anything. But I have a lot on my plate now and need to complete many essential tasks.

I woke up this morning and promised myself I would be productive today. But the truth is I was feeling the same as the previous days.

What should I do to overcome this daily procrastination? It has to stop. I must eliminate this so I can get back to doing my work.

This post is for you if you face situations like mine where you don’t feel like doing much. Even though you have essential work to complete, you are not motivated to take action. These two principles will help you overcome procrastination.

1. The “Do Something” Principle by Mark Manson

I don’t think there is anybody who doesn’t know the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. It has sold millions of copies worldwide. It is one of the top books in the self-help genre.

Mark discusses the “do something” principle in the book. He came up with it after he quit his job and decided to work on his blog. He had difficulty being motivated to write because he was constantly distracted by computer games.

Mark recalls his high school math teacher, who said,

If you’re stuck on a problem, don’t sit there and think about it; just start working on it. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, the simple act of working on it will eventually cause the right ideas to show up in your head.

Action creates motivation

His teacher’s advice kept coming to him when he struggled with motivation. With that, he learned a crucial lesson:

Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.

We often believe that to take action, we need motivation first. And that motivation comes only from emotional inspiration. We assume that:

Emotional inspiration → Motivation → Desirable action

How often have you wanted to write an article but got stuck because you weren’t inspired? You lacked the motivation to write something because of the lack of inspiration, and as a result, you failed to take action.

Mark says it’s not motivation or inspiration that causes us to take action. Instead, your actions create further emotional reactions and inspirations and move on to motivate your further actions.

Action → Inspiration → Motivation

Mark says,

If you lack the motivation to make an important change in your life, do something — anything, really — and then harness the reaction to that action as a way to begin motivating yourself.

If we follow the “do something” principle, failure feels unimportant. When the standard of success becomes merely acting — when any result is regarded as progress and important, when inspiration is seen as a reward rather than a prerequisite — we propel ourselves ahead. We feel free to fail, and that failure moves us forward.

Applying the “do something” principle

I didn’t want to write or work on my projects today. But when I remembered this principle, I wanted to write something, even though it didn’t make sense. My goal is to finish a 1,000-word essay. I might not publish it, but I must take action because, as the do something principle suggests, action leads to motivation.

Writing this article is my way of “taking action” today. And I have been successful in finding the motivation I wanted.

2. The 2-Minute Rule by James Clear

Atomic Habits is another self-help book that has sold millions of copies worldwide and is still one of the top books on the best-seller list.

In his book, James Clear discusses a fantastic principle that helps to beat procrastination. And the fun part is that it only takes two minutes.

We often try to do too big too soon. Instead, we need to start small, especially when a habit or task is something you don’t feel like doing. James says that any habit can be scaled down into a two-minute version:

  • “Read before bed each night” becomes “Read one page.”
  • “Do thirty minutes of yoga” becomes “Take out my yoga mat.”
  • “Study for class” becomes “Open my notes.”
  • “Fold the laundry” becomes “Fold one pair of socks.”
  • “Run three miles” becomes “Tie my running shoes.”

Two minutes is short, and sticking to your new action will be easier. For example, you can meditate for two minutes to build a meditation habit. You don’t have to do it for 15–20 minutes from the beginning.

Build a habit and change your identity

James says the two-minute rule can seem like a trick because you know your actions are not your real goal. You might think that you are trying to fool yourself. For example, you know that reading one page will not improve your reading habits.

If you feel like you are trying to force the habit on yourself, you should stop after two minutes. Set a timer if you have to. Do your thing for two minutes and stop when the timer goes off.

It works because when you do something and stop, it becomes your habit, even if you do it for a short time. Your goal is to alter your identity. It is to become a person who has this new habit. So, even if you only meditate for two minutes daily, you are still “a person who meditates.”

The two-minute rule beats procrastination

Although the two-minute rule aims to start a new habit, you can also use it to beat procrastination.

Naturally, you don’t feel the pressure when you only have two minutes to do something, so it will be easier to start. That two-minute action will help you develop motivation, as discussed in the “do something” principle.

Applying the two-minute rule

I promised to begin my work and continue for at least two minutes today. It started with my morning workout. After I started, I kept going. I didn’t stop after two minutes. Similarly, I began writing this article, not knowing if I would complete it. Fortunately, thanks to these two excellent principles I learned, I finished what I started.

Final thought

Taking action is the most essential thing you can do because that is within your control. You might not know what outcome your action will produce. But the only way to move forward is by putting one foot in front of the other.

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” — Martin Luther King

We all have days when we don’t feel like doing anything. But your actions can transform that feeling because action leads to inspiration and the motivation to do the work. Try it for two minutes, regardless of how you feel. The results might surprise you, as they did to me.