The 1 Simple Trick Neil Strauss, 10x New York Times Best-Selling Author, Uses To Overcome Procrastination

a year ago   •   2 min read

By Ernesto Gutierrez, MD
Photo by Dayne Topkin / Unsplash
Table of contents

Every day for the past 37 days, I’ve carried a thought in my mind from 10 am until midnight: “I need to write an atomic essay.”

When I embarked on this journey, I decided I would write at 10 am every day. But for 37 days I have not written a single essay at 10 am. Instead, I procrastinate, knowing that I have until midnight to publish it and not break my streak.

The hardest step is to start writing.

How the heck do professionals do it?

Even once I have a topic I want to write about, it is still hard to begin typing. I’m easily distracted, random thoughts pop into my mind and, next thing I know, I’m scrolling Twitter or replying to a completely non-urgent email…

I have placed too high expectations on my work.

What that is is performance anxiety that you’ve imposed on yourself because your expectations are too high. Just lower your standards. Lower your standards until you get started.
— Neil Strauss (as quoted by Tim Ferriss)

I am at the point of conscious incompetence in my writing.

This is where perfectionism, imposter syndrome, and fear of criticism most come into play. I now know, what I didn’t know about writing. And I am becoming acutely aware of my shortcomings. But I also want to write an amazing essay and prove to myself (and to my few readers) that I can do it!

It’s easy to see why I procrastinate on it.

How can I lower my standards in order to make starting easier?

My expectations are so high, that I’m overwhelmed by the idea of writing an essay.

So it’s easier to put it off. Even if it means carrying an overdue task in my mind for the entire day. That is, until 11 pm when the fear of breaking the chain is bigger than the fear of coming up short on my expectations.

Starting tomorrow at 10 am, I won’t be telling myself I need to write an atomic essay.

Instead, I’m lowering that standard. My goal is just to write the headline. This should get me going and build momentum to crank out the entire essay.

Either that or Neil Strauss is full of shit…

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