First-Minute Action

I’m a last minute kind of guy. At least, that was how I was raised.

Not intentionally, of course. I just picked up on the behaviour I saw around me.

I want to know – how do you train yourself to be someone who does things the first minute?

Instead of feeling pleased with all the time you have in front of you before you need to start work, how do you develop an urgency to do things as soon as you can, so that you can enjoy all that true free time afterwards?

The Brain’s Point of Viewscumbag-brain-on-forgetting-photo-u2

Let’s see what our “scumbag brain” has to say about it.

It’s skeptical. It doesn’t really trust that there will be ample free time after you finish your work. This concern not unfounded. People tend to allow tasks to expand to fill the time allotted to them. You might finish what you need to do, and then notice something else you could do, get a bit “perfectionist” about it, and since you’re already in the flow of things, allow the once boring task to fill up all the time you have!

The brain doesn’t want to hear it. It knows you want to trick it into not goofing off at all.

Clearly, if we want to abandon the time-constraint of a looming deadline, we need to set a new constraint:

  • No work allowed past 6pm?
  • Set the challenge to finish the task in 10 pomodoros, spread out however you like?
  • Pretend the deadline is in an hour and a half, and go nuts before sitting back and watching an episode of The Mentalist?

Pretending might work, if you bring a playful attitude to it.

“But I know it’s not true, that I have loads of time.”

Sure, but pretending doesn’t need you to be convinced. Notice how you get sucked into a movie, even though you know it’s not real. It’s called “suspending disbelief”, and we do it all the time. It’s a well-developed mechanism.

To tap the mechanism of pretending, first acknowledge that it’s not real. Then think, “Yeah, but what if it was? Oh man, I’d be freaking out.”

That little inner-stirring is the mechanism at work. Take that and run with it.

Long-Term Change

This is purely theoretical, but hear me out.

What if we re-trained ourselves using gamified project management software?


  1. You have a task listed.
  2. You click something to say you’re on it. +5 points.
  3. You lose points the longer you leave it going before it’s due. If it gets too close, you go into minus points.
  4. You complete it. +10 points.

You could construct a reward system that re-enforces doing a task as soon as you can. You still get enough points at the end to cover any “losses”, so if you have to cram, you will, and still be in the black, but it would be +1 point vs +15.

If anyone’s reading who has the coding chops or resources to create something like that, and you decide to do it, let me know! I’ll be an avid beta-tester.

In the meantime…maybe there’s a way to hack something together on our own?

Could Habitica help?



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