Is this the cure for procrastination?


You’ve got things you need to do but you don’t want to do them. You may even have things you want to do but for some reason, you’re putting them off. I just heard about a simple way to overcome procrastination, courtesy of the late Raymond Chandler.

As a full-time novelist, Chandler believed that he should maintain a schedule of 4 hours of writing each day but he sometimes struggled to stick with it. He decided to do something about it by creating a simple rule to follow, and it helped him do the job.

Chandler’s rule was simple: either write or do nothing.

And nothing meant nothing.

By giving himself a choice, he avoided the guilt of not writing and thus didn’t force himself to do it, something he was sure would lead to poor results. He quickly found that when you don’t do anything, you get bored and getting back to work feels like a much better alternative.

Chandler’s rule applied to writing but is equally applicable to any task. If you want to try it, schedule a fixed time limit for your work and, perhaps, a fixed time of day. This should make it easier for you to choose the work, knowing that while there might be some unpleasantness, it won’t be never-ending.

In addition, eliminate all of the usual distractions. Close your browser, turn off your phone, and ask your staff not to disturb you. For some tasks, you might consider getting out of the office and going to the library.

Or, do what I did when I was faced with a big stack of files on my desk I had been avoiding for several weeks.

These were problem files and I didn’t want to look at them. I knew I had to but kept putting it off. I was getting anxious about what might happen if I put them off any longer and had to find a way to do it.

I got some help.

I had my wife come to the office and sit across the desk from me. She didn’t do anything or say anything, she just sat with me, silent, giving me the choice of either sitting quietly and doing nothing or digging into the files. I chose the latter and got through them in less than an hour.

It’s amazing what you can when you have a choice to not do them. It’s also amazing what you can do when you have your wife in the room watching you squirm.

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