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The Now Habit

by Rovin Vazirani

Summary

The Now Habit is a life changing book for anyone who struggles with procrastination. It is based on the philosophy that procrastination is not innate i.e we are not born lazy. Often procrastinators could be workaholics who are in search for perfection and therefore cannot get themselves to start on certain tasks.

Unlike most books on the topic, this book starts with a definitions for procrastination and dives deep into explaining different types of procrastination. In general, it states that procrastination could occur due to inner fears such as:

  • fear of failure
  • fear of being imperfect
  • fear of being overwhelmed
  • fear of success

Often we define our self-worth with our work. When we face criticism, we tend to take it personally and start questioning our abilities which ends up affecting our output. Procrastination is an escape that temporarily makes us feel good. However, the more you procrastinate, the more you get anxious about work.

People don’t procrastinate just to be ornery or because they’re irrational. They procrastinate because it makes sense, given how vulnerable they feel to criticism, failure, and their own perfectionism.

Neil A. Fiore, The Now Habit

Frameworks to overcome Procrastination

The Now Habit suggests some actionable frameworks that I have personally been following to overcome procrastination. Here are the 4 that I have committed to:

1. Be aware of your procrastination

To overcome procrastination, you first have to be aware when you are actually doing it. The book suggests observing and noting down every time you procrastinate for at least 3 days (I did it for a week). The important task here is to understand why and how you do it and then identify a feeling with it. Here is an actual log from my notes:

DateActivity and PriorityThoughts and FeelingsJustificationAttempted SolutionResultant Thoughts and Feelings
30th FebWrite an article, A (high priority)I would like to but not in the moodTired from hikingRead a book insteadOverwhelmed because I could not follow my plan

2. Positive Self Talk

Once you start noting down your procrastination, you will start seeing a pattern. For me, it was failure of being imperfect. I was only procrastinating on tasks for which I felt the results won’t be perfect.

The fear of failure, the fear of being imperfect (perfectionism), and the fear of impossible expectations (being overwhelmed) that prevent us from acting on and attaining humanly possible goals and relationships.

Neil A. Fiore, The Now Habit

The book suggests that you have to master the art of positive self-talk. This can be achieved by replacing ‘Should’ and ‘Have to’ by ‘I want to’ or ‘I choose to’. I always read self-help books with a grain of salt but I decided to give this a try and while it was tough, I started getting a hang of it within a couple of weeks. Today, I happily want to write an article every chance I get.

3. Guilt-Free Play, Quality Work

This is one of the first counter-intuitive frameworks that the book provides. The author suggest scheduling ‘Play’ or ‘Leisure’ times before ‘Work’. This way you know your life is not all about work and you get in the habit of rewarding yourself. This is especially important for workaholics who are unable to enjoy their leisure time because they feel guilty. Not being able to enjoy life outside of work can often lead to burnout which in turn impacts your quality of work and mental health.

This has been one of the most useful frameworks for me but also the toughest one to follow. The book says that in order to be highly productive and deliver high-quality work on important projects, you must stop putting off living and engage wholeheartedly in recreation and relaxation.

Following this advice has helped me perform at my peak. By scheduling ‘Fun’ activities like meeting with friends, going out to eat, hiking. I have ensured that I am not putting off living my life. It also means that I have a fixed amount of time to work which motivates me to focus and produce higher quality work. Most importantly, I have setup a reward loop for myself: Work Hard = Play Hard. This has helped me not only enjoy my work but look forward to my breaks like never before.

4. The Unscheduled

The Unscheduled calls for having a weekly calendar where you can note down time allotted to each of your tasks/goals. What’s most important is the books calls for starting small with an emphasis on starting. For any task I was procrastinating on, here is how I used the Unscheduled:

  • Spend only 5 hours a week on that task
  • Only 5 days a week
  • Only 30 minutes of high-quality work at a time
  • Setup a reward loop – I usually go out for a walk
  • Start and end the project no matter what

This is classic reverse psychology. By constraining myself on how long I could work on a specific project I was able to focus more which led to high quality work. I realized that every 30 minutes of dedicated work gave me satisfaction that I could not get from weeks of work. By focussing on dedicated time slots, I was able to break down huge tasks into manageable pieces and ultimately note down how many 30-min sessions it took for me to actually finish it. I also started highlighting parts of my day that I was 100% focussed.

Version 1 of my Unscheduled Calendar

Conclusion

The Now Habit is one of the rare books that I really put my efforts into understanding and following the authors recommendations. I think what convinced me was how relatable some of the sections from the book were. This book is on my re-read shelf and I would recommend it to all – even if you are not dealing with procrastination. By following the principles of this book, I was able to achieve goals that I have been wanting to achieve for years within weeks. Not many books have a dramatic impact on your life, but this is one of them.

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