This Is How 10x NYT Best-Selling Author Neil Strauss Overcomes Procrastination

24 days ago   •   1 min read

By Ernesto Gutierrez, MD
Photo credit Sharp Magazine
Table of contents

Every day for the past 239 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 239 days I have not written more than 5 essays at 10 am. Instead, I procrastinate, knowing I have until midnight to post 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…

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)

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

My expectations are so high, 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 some bullet points. 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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