A 30 second tactic for overcoming mental resistance

by | Oct 19, 2023 | General Productivity

Takeaway: When you’re putting off doing something, shrink how long you’ll do the task for until you feel less mental resistance to it. Estimated Reading Time: 1 minute, 21s.

The other week, I shared my resistance list ritual for tackling tasks I have a high resistance level with. This week, let me share a second, simple tactic for getting started on these tasks.

Getting started is the challenging part. After all, once we get started on something, we have far less resistance to keep going. (Mental resistance lives at the beginning of the timeline of a task.)

The tactic is simple: shrink how long you’ll do something until you no longer resist it. (Apologies if you’ve heard this idea before—I write about it in Hyperfocus. Full credit to my friend and meditation teacher Jon Krop for the tactic.)

For example, let’s say you’re putting off creating an outline for a 100-page report you’re writing. Just shrink the task. To do so, feel out your resistance level. For example:

“Do I want to work on this for an hour? No way.. even the thought of it puts me off.”

“Okay.. what about 45 minutes? .. Still a nope.”

“30? .. Getting warmer.. but still..”

“20 minutes? Yeah, I could do 20.”

You’ll feel a different amount of mental resistance to every task and project, depending on how aversive you find them. This is normal—and this tactic accommodates whatever level of resistance you have.

Give the technique a shot the next time you’re putting something off—whether it’s something you need to get done or something on your resistance list. You may be surprised by how much progress you can make.

Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of three books: How to Calm Your Mind, Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in more than 40 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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