PPI #2: Eliminate Procrastination with 1 Sentence

Jul 02, 2020


  • Have you ever sat down to work, knowing exactly what you need to do, only to procrastinate your day away and still fail to get it done? I used to be a terrible procrastinator until I discovered how the root of my problems was in the way I talked to myself.
  • When we procrastinate on a task we often have negative self-talk running in the background along the lines of ‘I have to do this’ or “I should do this’.
  • This negative self talk creates resistance and the antidote to that is procrastination which gives you the temporary relief of escaping that discomfort.
  • Instead, the next time you’re procrastinating, say to yourself ‘I choose to start for just 5 minutes’ – this is an idea from Neil Fiore’s excellent book the Now Habit, which encourages us to switch the negative self talk we often use for positive language of choice
  • The beauty of this phrase is it simultaneously makes the task less imposing and reduces resistance to beginning. The great benefit of this is that by focusing on starting, you’ll build momentum and finishing will take care of itself.


Have you ever sat down to work, knowing exactly what you need to do, but for whatever reason, you just can't get started on a project or read a report or complete a presentation? No matter what you do, you just sit there frustrated. Or picture the following: it's 9:00 AM; you start working on something; it's 9:13, suddenly you're in your inbox, reading it in an email. The next thing you know, you're on Google researching, something that relates to that email. Suddenly somebody calls you, you pick up the phone, you have a brief conversation, and now you suddenly look at the time and it's 9:47, and you've only worked on this presentation or report for a handful of minutes. Now you have to get prepared for your next meeting. And then suddenly your whole day's gone, from meeting to phone call by being bounced from one person's agenda to the next.

This is exactly how I used to always feel. I've said in other videos, for example, that I feel like I was the world's number one procrastinator at one point in my life - that all of the work and the effort that I put in it just came way too painfully. It just took way too long to get stuff done. I was horrible at minimizing distraction. I was the king of being susceptible to just about any distraction out there - a car goes by or suddenly there's a phone call or a notification comes through, and then my mind is off and running onto a different thing. But then a change happened for me - a series of changes, really. One of the most important books that I read on the subject of procrastination - there's a book called The Now Habit written by a guy named Neil Fiore.

That book had such a huge impact on me that I actually reached out to Neil the author and said, "Hey, could I schedule some sessions with you?" because I really wanted to overcome this procrastination habit. I scheduled 16 one-hour sessions with Neil. Now, Neil is a trained psychologist, who focuses on productivity engineering and mental toughness. He's got this absolute sweet spot, this incredible level of expertise on the subject of procrastination and helping people produce far more. One of the most amazing things that Neil gave me was a simple sentence, which I want to give you today. That sentence is, "I choose to start for just five minutes". I have to break down the sentence into its three component parts for you to truly understand the power in this sentence, and how you can be using it to beat procrastination.

This literally is one sentence that can help cure your procrastination tendencies. It starts with acknowledging how we talk to ourselves. I want you to think about a typical situation or maybe a task; a project that you're working on at the moment that brings in a sense of dread. When you think about a project or a task that you don't want to work on, think about that feelin - think about that project or task right now. Now I want you to think about the sentence that typically comes to mind, when you think about your need to work on that project. If you really think about it, you'll recognize that every time you feel the urge to procrastinate - the urge to not work on something - you have negative self talk going en route rather than positive self talk. Your sentence will start with, "I have to", or "I should do something".

Now, "I have to" is a language of oppression. It's suggesting that you should be doing something that you're not doing and what that's gonna do is immediately create resistance within you. The antidote or the response to that resistance is an escape plan - procrastination presents that escape plan. The moment you say to yourself, "I have to do something" you're going to trigger procrastination, whereas "I choose to" means you're in control. You're not being forced to do something - you're in the driver's seat. There's another magical part to that beginning phrase "I choose to" - it's not saying that you want to, or you desire to, or you can't wait to, because frankly there's things I don't want to do. Who in the world wants to do their taxes, right? Who in the world wants to finish filing their expenses? Who in the world wants to sit there and really focus on outlining that in a presentation? Who wants to do these hard or dreaded tasks that just aren't high up on our list?

They always create this sense of "I don't want to do that thing". Iit has that "yucky" feeling to it, but you could still choose to do it. You don't need to want to do your taxes, but I can still choose to. That's that first part of that phrase. It's the power; it's the language of choice rather than negative self talk. It's positive self talk. The second key part of the praise "I choose to start for just five minutes" is the "start" part. If you were to go back to those dreaded tasks that you have in your mind and think about the completion of that sentence "I have to", it probably will continue with "finish". "I have to finish my taxes". For example, "finish" immediately conjures up those feelings of anxiety or being overwhelmed.

"Oh my God, how am I going to finish this? There's so much to do. I don't even know what all the steps are". What do you think that's going to do? That's going to create more resistance. You're going to feel, "You know what, let me just put this off". This is overwhelming because you're focusing on finishing. Instead you could just focus on starting, because we can all start. I could start to work on my taxes. I could start to work on a project or a task that I don't like. And by focusing on starting, if I continually start, finishing takes care of itself. That's another little gem that Neil shared with me. Just focus on continually starting and finishing takes care of itself. I just want to repeat that because it's a very powerful concept or phrase, if you really embrace that kind of phrase-within-a-phrase here.

I choose to start for just five minutes. We talked about the power of choice. We talked about focusing on starting rather than finishing. The last part is for just five minutes. What's five minutes? We all have five minutes. It's 300 seconds. When you think about starting for just five minutes, it doesn't feel so overwhelming. As a matter of fact, when I think back to various times that I've used this tactic, I don't even know when the five minutes has happened. I get so deeply into the tasks that five minutes goes by - suddenly I've been working out for 20 minutes, 27 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour or more. And when I continually do this, eventually the project, or whatever it is, it just gets done. You can use this phrase, "I choose to start for just five minutes" continually throughout your day, as an antidote to procrastination. You sit down for that project in the morning, right before you get started, you say to yourself, "I choose to start for just five minutes".

Let's say that you're working on that project. Then suddenly you become distracted - recenter yourself. "I choose to start for just five minutes" again and keep using that phrase over and over and over throughout your day. As I said earlier, as you focus on continually starting, the finishing will just take care of itself. Now, if you'd like to go more deeply into this topic, some things that you could do, I would absolutely grab a hold of Neil's book, The Now Habit - it's an absolute gem. It's filled with great advice. You'll find not only the power of positive self talk in that book where I've just taken you through, but you'll find countless other tools and tactics that you can use to strategically overcome procrastination so that you too can grow from being a procrastinator in your mind, to a super producer.

I know how it feels. I've been where you are right now. I know how frustrating it is to think that you're never going to break free from these procrastination habits. I know how frustrating it is to sit there and think that there's just not enough hours in the day or that you're just irritated with your inability to focus. I know exactly how all of those things feel, and this isn't the only answer to solve in your procrastination, but certainly this approach to positive, self-talk; this language of choice; the focus on the start, rather than the finish; and compartmentalizing things into just five minutes; it's a fantastic tool and a fantastic place for you to begin.