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How To Stop Procrastinating and Do Hard Things

Posted on:February 23, 2024 at 10:40 AM


It only takes 25 minutes.

This is not just another pomodoro blog post, but rather a simple way that I have been trying to break down development tasks and make better use of my time.

There are times when I start development on a ticket, only to find that there can be several potential ways to achieve the desired result. Add in email, Slack, and your brain’s neurological desire to escape hard (and admittedly sometimes boring) things, and you might find yourself rearranging your bookmarks, vigorously re-checking email and Slack for new messages, anything to delay the task of taking the first step. Or maybe the step before the first step. The plan.

Now, of course, this does not have to be a formal, extensive, in-depth plan. Most of the time, you have the context and the desired outcome documented in plain English.

But what happens from the time you are assigned a task to actually starting that task? Mental friction.

Fortunately, this does not happen too often for me, but when it does, it can feel crippling.

So what do I do to combat this? I open a new Markdown file on my Desktop, and just start typing out a list of the steps I need to take to accomplish this task.

I do not try to be polished or to try and make it perfectly presentable. This document is for me and my eyes only.

This might sound a bit robust, rigid, or simply a waste of time, and for some tasks, it might be!

I have found that this exercise really helps me clear out my mental fog and clarify the precise steps I need to take to finish this work.

If you feel the pull of procrastination or the desire to flee a difficult or mentally taxing task, you are not alone. Your brain is literally doing its job to protect you from pain.

You can counteract this feeling of dopamine chasing, however, by simply acting.

I do not want to sound too simplistic here, but neurology tells us that the same receptors that fire when we are anxious about starting something for any reason can be silenced when we just start doing something to get started on that very thing.

The first step is most often the hardest, but it does get easier.

So, 25 minutes, what is that about?

For me, I have found that 25 minutes is a good amount of time to get a reasonable amount of cognitively demanding work done. Of course, if I reach 25 minutes and I am still in the zone, I keep going!

25 minutes can help you start because it is not too much of a time commitment, but it is also not a trivial amount of time either.


Don’t believe this will work? Ironically, this started as a 25-minute session! Here are the notes I took for a task I have been dreading to work on; even after 5 minutes, I feel much better about this work.

After I wrote these, I thought it would be a good idea to write up my thoughts on this and share it with you! I hope this helps.

I am always curious about how folks plan, manage, and execute their work, so if you are any sort of productivity nerd at all, I would love to hear from you!

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