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February 2014

Post image for How to work now and procrastinate later

October 14th, 2019 — Researchers discover the cure for procrastination. Tens of millions of stalled projects move forward at once. The economy explodes with productivity. Everyone finally learns Spanish and joins Crossfit. Publishers become inundated with manuscripts of brilliant novels. Facebook’s share price plummets. Humanity is saved.

Of all the topics I’ve written about, none created such an outpouring of “Oh my God that’s me!” emails as my experiment on procrastination. It seems like most people believe they have a particularly bad problem with procrastination. If a cure were introduced into the population, the release of pent-up personal energy might be more than the world could withstand. Imagine the shock wave of organized closets and used copies of War and Peace.

So I post this knowing there is a risk of bringing on a productivity apocalypse.

The experiment itself was actually disastrous. It peaked about twenty-four hours in. After what turned out to be a single day of ideal productivity, things began to point downhill, and my problem got steadily worse. My thirty-day campaign of improvement turned into a four-month debacle. It went so perfectly wrong, my progress report is hilarious to read.

Readers have been asking where I finally ended up with my procrastination issue. Ironically, once the experiment spat me out, I immediately began to improve. I had so thoroughly immersed myself in my bad habits that they became conspicuous to me whenever I was doing them, and today I’m about eighty times better.

During the experiment, and in the three years since, I’ve tried all kinds of things to overcome procrastination. Most of my strategies didn’t work, but some absolutely did and still do. In my experience, here’s what works.  Read More

Post image for Keep your doing and your deciding away from each other

There’s something liberating about being told what to do. It lets you focus on the doing.

This is another one of those countless truths that I sensed but never articulated until a real-life example made it clear.

Historically, my relationship to the fitness “wagon” has been spotty. Many times in my adult life, I strung together a stretch of regular workouts for a couple of months, and made progress, but it always felt like I was close to falling off.

It was always the same thing that unseated me. I would begin to doubt whether my chosen regimen was sensible, and that made it hard to throw myself into it physically. I’d wonder whether I was doing too little and not really getting anywhere, or the opposite — setting the pace so high that I would inevitably start compromising. At some point, I’d always begin to wonder whether I should make an adjustment to my targets or my number of sets or rest times or something. Soon it would be impossible to stick to the program, because I no longer know what the program was.

Until recently, the intermittence of my workout habits was never a big problem because my job had been physical enough to keep me in shape. Now I work from home, which can become an extremely sedentary lifestyle if you don’t deliberately include daily physical activity. I went from walking miles a day, with equipment on my shoulder, to a twenty-five-foot indoor commute.

For the first time, I’m doing a regular workout that I don’t have to fight myself over. I have almost no resistance to it. My success has something to do with the fact that this time I’m taking orders from a computer program.

Going with the principle of “The best workout is the one you can stick to,” I decided to begin with the arbitrary but attractive goal of a hundred pushups in one session, using a much-downloaded “100 pushups” app on my phone. You start with an initial test, type in your results, and then it prescribes how many reps to do each set, and counts the rest time down for you. It charts your progress in a graph.

It’s not high fitness science and I understand that. I’m fully aware there may be better programs, but any doubt in my regimen is trumped by the undeniable fact that it is working — my reps-per-day graph is snaking steadily upward, I’m looking and feeling better, and I’m never tempted to miss a workout. I’ve never experienced this kind of consistency and confidence in my workout routine. Now that I’ve established this consistency I can scale up the volume. I’m going to start doing kettlebell squats in the same way.

The doubt that normally sinks my fitness efforts is absent this time because it’s always clear what to do. Press the “Begin” button. Shoot for the targets it tells you. Keep your form good. Enter your results. Repeat the workout if you have to. The wondering is gone, and that removes a certain shakiness from my muscles.  Read More

Post image for My new book, out today

Today I’m releasing a new little book, called On Becoming an Individual (or HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD). It’s all original content, including photographs and mini-essays.

The theme is living a life on your own terms in a world that encourages you to be anything but a free individual.

It’s available free to Raptitude readers who subscribe by email. I’m changing email service providers this week (because the old standard, Feedburner, has been bought and basically abandoned by Google) and so old readers might notice a slight difference in format.  Read More

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