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Lifehacker: The Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, and Better, Third Edition by Gina Trapani, Adam Pash

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Hack 29: Dash Through Tasks with a Timer

Level Easy

Platform All

Cost Free

The only way to stop procrastinating is to simply start the task you’ve been putting off. Of course you’re thinking: “Thanks a lot, Captain Obvious.” We all know that “just do it” sounds simple, but in reality, starting on a dreaded to-do can feel impossible. Some tasks are just so big and awful that you can’t bring yourself to start in on them because the end seems so far in the future, and the journey there torturous.

The key is to make it as easy as possible to start. Trick yourself into starting by deciding to work on the task for just a handful of minutes and guarantee yourself a break at the end of that time.

For example, commit to work on your task for 10 minutes. Ten minutes! That’s one minute for each finger on your two hands. Anyone can work on anything for 10 minutes, and that includes you and that thing you’re putting off.

Starting your novel is a daunting task, one most people put off for their entire life. But typing something — anything — for 10 minutes? No problem. This book was written in short bursts of writing regulated by the beep of my favorite kitchen timer. This hack explains how to take timed dashes through your work.

Do Your First Dash

First, get a timer — an egg timer, a digital watch, a cell phone timer, a software timer, the kitchen timer, whatever’s available. Pick your biggest, scariest, most put-off task. Choose the next action, set your timer for 10 minutes, start the timer, ...

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