I Procrastinate for 3 Hours Before Starting Work. Here’s How I Solved the Problem.
Getting into a flow state is the secret to unlocking the best work of your life. Everybody knows that by now.
I’ve used flow states to write consistently for the past 7 years. Without this higher state of consciousness, I’d be stuck back in 2014 trying to get over my fear of what other people thought about my writing. Flow states mean I simply don’t give a damn anymore about any of that.
The problem is this: getting into a flow state.
People think I’m a self-improvement junkie who has mastered flow. That’s a lie. I am terrible at getting into a flow state. Over the last few months, it has taken me more than three hours to get into flow.
I start trying to write at 7 AM every Saturday and eventually don’t get started work until 10 AM, and often as late as 11 AM. That’s three hours that get wasted procrastinating. I procrastinate by reading other writers, watching Youtube videos, replying to emails, and posting silly status updates on LinkedIn.
Recently, I found a way to beat procrastination.
The Breathtakingly Simple Way to Beat Procrastination
There is hope for us procrastinators. You don’t need to keep giving your time away to the procrastination gods. This technique applies to any form of work, but I’ll use writing as the example.
One Saturday I found the answer. I sat down to write. The clock hit 8 AM. I told myself I was going to type out the outline of a draft story I would most likely not write. I wrote the title. I wrote the sub-headings.
Pretty quickly, I wrote the whole story. Right after I completed writing that story I was in a raging flow state. I felt like Mozart when he wrote his most famous symphony. The trick to beating my procrastination habit?
Write one crappy story.
Translation: Lower the quality of your first piece of work for the day.
By having zero expectations, I beat procrastination. Thinking about starting work creates resistance. What you’re really doing is preparing yourself to meet a standard, not start work. When your quality standards for your work are too high, you take longer to start work.
Low-quality work is simple to start.
High-quality work feels like preparing for a two-day marathon.
Use These Flow State Accelerators to Level Up
Once you’ve solved your procrastination problem, you can then accelerate your flow state and increase its power.
1. Add an event at the end of your work.
When my girlfriend books a social event at the end of a writing session it drives me nuts. I’m literally cursing in my head. Then I realized she’s actually doing me a flow state favor.
An event at the end of your work helps you rethink how much time you have. When time is scarce there is no time for procrastination. Book an event in your calendar to create motivation and the urgency to finish.
2. Turn into a dog and give yourself a treat.
Dogs love treats. So do humans. Give yourself a treat for finishing your work. Know what it is beforehand. Commit to it. Then tell yourself you can’t have the reward until the work is done. Visualize the reward while you work.
3. Think of flow states as energy you put out.
When you put out energy into the world you get it back.
I try to put energy into the world through writing. I often get emails from readers that are loaded with energy. You can feel the energy as you read their words. Recently, I realized the energy I was feeling in these emails was actually the original energy I’d put out into the world, except it was larger and a different form of energy.
A flow state enables you to do your work and this work puts energy into the world. Energy moves people to take action. Energy causes life to move forward. Energy from one person, sparks energy in another person.
If you want to see this phenomenon in progress, then watch Beatles singer Paul McCartney move an entire stadium with a chant (energy) here.
Flow states create energy that transcends you.
4. Watch a person be possessed by a flow state.
Flow states can make a person look possessed. If you want a brilliant example of this, then watch musician Conor Maynard sing this song. 41 million people watched Conor in flow and many of the comments describe him looking as though he’s “feeling” the song.
What the comments are trying to describe is the type of flow state they are watching. Conor has moved into a different dimension in his head where expectations, friction, and resistance are removed.
Flow is beautiful to watch. I call it flow state tourism.
When you watch a person in flow, you have the evidence needed to work on and enhance your own flow state.
Getting into a flow state is all in your head. All you have to do is pretend you’re not starting work. Tell yourself you’re just messing around. Create a piece of art you expect to throw in the trash. Enjoy how low-quality the first hour of your work is going to be. Tell yourself, low-quality to start with is okay.
Getting to work is how you produce your best work. My editor said this to me last week: “Your best writing is about 2–3 stories into your writing session.”
This one sentence reinforced what I now understand. You rarely do your best work at the start. Like a runner, you have to warm-up your mind on low-quality work before the real gems start to flow out of you.
Beat procrastination by starting with terribly low-quality work.