Leaders Find Ways to Avoid Procrastination

In Atomic Habits, James Clear shares one method for working on a new, intimidating habit: the two-minute rule. Instead of picking an overly long or complex habit, choose one aspect of the habit which takes two minutes.

  • Instead of “Do a 30-minute workout,” try “Put on workout clothes.”
  • Instead of “Write the weekly report,” try “Create the headings for the weekly report.”

I apply this rule to writing the weekly blog.

Writing the weekly blog intimidates me. I have published a new blog post nearly every Wednesday for over a decade, and sometimes coming up with new ideas is difficult. In the early years, I wrote the blog posts on Wednesday mornings, right before I published them. That was when I had a bit more time on my hands.

Since 2015, I’ve had the benefit of an editor to help write blog posts. I’ve moved from writing posts Wednesday mornings to writing several rough drafts weeks in advance. Even then, creating a batch of five or six posts can be intimidating, especially when I have more immediate “A-priority” tasks.

Sometimes the urge to write strikes, and I pound out 700 words DeAnne edits down to a manageable 500. Other times, I jot down 200 words of disjointed thoughts, and she fleshes the post out to a coherent 400.

But that’s not what normally happens.

Usually, I read a book, attend a session, or hear some challenging questions from workshop participants. Those moments lead to ideas for blog posts I scribble into my planner. Once I have about five ideas, I create a new document and write the titles and one short thought inspired by those ideas.

Then, I have a choice. I can either write the post out or wait until later. If I’m in “the zone,” I pound out as much content as I can.

Most of the time, though, I’m not in “the zone,” so I apply the two-minute rule: add one sentence to each post and add one post idea.

Applying this rule on busy days means I’ve only spent 2 or 3 minutes, and I have advanced the blog.

Most days, I’m on a roll.

One sentence turns into two, then soon, I’ve written a couple of paragraphs. The next thing I know, I’ve spent 20 minutes or more on the project. In the long run, 20 minutes is not much time, but it’s enough to make serious progress.

The only reason I get a good 20 minutes of inspired writing time, is because I take two minutes and write one sentence. I think a lot about my projects, especially if the project is a work in progress. Writing one sentence a day gives me time to think and fully flesh out the project in my head before I put it into words.

One of my favorite documentaries is Comedian by Jerry Seinfeld, which documents the painstaking process of developing a brand-new stand-up routine. One element of the process is to write one new joke every day, no matter what.  I’ve learned comedian Margaret Cho has the same rule. It seems others have found ways to incorporate the two-minute rule into their work. I’m in good company.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

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