Thwart Procrastination With the Dash Approach

Last Updated Jul 21, 2008 12:11 PM EDT

33194896_01195bcf06_m.jpgI recently came across an oldie-but-goodie post from Merlin Mann of 43 Folders called "Kick Procrastination's Ass" and was thrilled to learn a new technique for getting my posterior in gear.

Mann points out that any time you put something off, the problem gets bigger, which leads to more stress and possibly another bout of procrastination, because now the task is REALLY ugly. But instead of feeling that you have to tackle the whole thing in one fell swoop, use the dash approach instead. Commit to a short burst of focused activity during which you force yourself to do nothing but work on the procrastinated item for a very short period of time. Really short -- as in one minute.

What's so different about the dash? It accomplishes that most difficult of tasks: getting you started.

The guidelines are simple. Pick your appropriate dash -- time-based for some projects, unit-based for others, or a combination in which you stop when you reach one threshold or the other -- and choose a time or a target that's long enough to actually accomplish something but too short to seem intimidating. For example, set a timer for 10 minutes and spend that long filing. Or if you need to write a report, get 100 words on the page. Then stop. Easy.

If you're on a roll and want to continue, by all means do so; but the beauty of the dash is that it's no-strings attached. If after 10 minutes or 100 words you're ready for a coffee break, just move on. But chances are you won't, because now you're kicking procrastination's ass -- and liking it.

(image by emdot via Flickr, CC 2.0)

  • CC Holland

    CC Holland is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a number of national magazines. Online, she was a columnist for and writes regularly for and BNET. On the other side of the journalism desk, she's been a managing editor for ZDNet, CNet, and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, where she earned an APTRA Best News Web Site award.