Context: This is a series where I dive into nuggets of wisdom that Habit Gym participants self-discover through the program.

This week, we’re featuring Taina’s check-in:

What obstacles did I face?

Lifelong struggle: when I’m feeling unmotivated, sleepy, or low energy, I tell myself “OK, I’ll take a break for 30 mins then do X.” But then I keep on delaying until it’s too late in the day and I go to bed stressed and anxious.

Lose-lose situation

I feel this in my bones. I do it all the time and it never ends well.

I always come to the same realization: this isn’t a real break. You can’t truly relax because in the back of your mind, there’s the constant guilt of procrastinating and stress about the task looming over you.

You’re much better off doing it in the opposite order: finishing the task first and taking a break after. That way, you get the work done and you can enjoy your leisure time.

Why do we still do it, then?

Of course, everyone understands this. Theoretically, at least. Why do we still fall for it, then?

It’s because we haven’t internalized the pain. We deal with it in the moment and move on. By the time we face the same situation again, we’ve already forgotten about our last experience.

So, we keep repeating the mistake.

To break this cycle, you need to remember that sinking feeling of guilt and stress. If you’re able to tap into it before procrastinating, you’ll probably stop yourself.

Reaching a tipping point

Don’t expect to do this on the first try, though. It usually takes several rounds of making the same mistake. Finally, you get burned one too many times and decide to take action.

That doesn’t mean your failed attempts were in vain. They were all necessary to bring you to a tipping point. When you finally had enough, you changed your ways.

“Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

Accelerate the process

You can accelerate this process by being more mindful of each failure. Journaling is especially effective because writing is a better memory aid than thinking in your head or saying it out loud. It helps you internalize lessons quickly.

It’s what makes Taina’s reflection so valuable. It strengthens the link in their mind between action and consequence. Next time, they’ll be more likely to avoid procrastinating because they recall the stress and anxiety that comes with it.

Though it doesn’t guarantee immediate success, it puts them on the right trajectory. They’re slowly chipping away at the problem and it’s only a matter of time before it’s a thing of the past.

Actionable tips

Sometimes this is easier said than done. Even if you understand the cost of procrastinating, you may find it overwhelming to get started.

Here are two actionable tips that can help:

  1. Two minute rule: Limit your goal to 2 minutes. If you want to read, do it for one page. If you want to run, do it around the block. If you want to write, set a timer. This makes the habit approachable. You’ll find that starting is the hardest part. Once you overcome the inertia, it’s easy to continue. I found this especially effective to restart my journaling habit, for example.

  2. 10 second rule: Close your eyes and count down from 10. When you reach zero, start your task. It gives you a buffer to mentally prepare before jumping into things. It also creates urgency. If you wait too long, it’s easy to psych yourself out. I found this especially effective for cold showers, for example.

Note: Want to experience this for yourself? Check out Habit Gym.

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P.S: You can find more of my thoughts on Twitter @_suketk.