Do Less. Be More Productive. Try Asking Yourself: “Can I Just…?”

Do you have a project or task that you dread doing so much that you just keep putting it off? Are you waiting to feel motivated, or until you have enough self-discipline to make yourself do it?

Maybe you’re taking the wrong approach.

In the spirit of gathering ideas reader’s digest style, from online content, I’ll let the article I discovered this idea from do some of the talking.

Recent research on the psychology of productivity shows that will-power or self-control are not enough for sustained change, and trying to do too much at once can work against reaching your goals. According to this article, by Derek Doepker, “when you use this ultimate anti-procrastination hack, you’ll bypass any internal resistance and get yourself to take action, almost effortlessly.”

“Although urging yourself to just take action may sound like a good solution, it’s a little like telling a sad person to “just cheer up.” Instead, it’s better to work with your psychology instead of forcing yourself to work against it.

Here is the Anti-Procrastination Hack Formula: “Ask yourself, Can I just [insert micro-commitment here]? A micro-commitment is something so small and simple that you’ll readily say ‘yes’ to doing it even if you have very little will-power.”

The idea is to overcome your resistance by making the task small, finite, and easily achievable. Once you get started, you’ll probably do more than the minimum, because “momentum generates motivation.”

And Doepker says that by using this technique, you can overcome four major obstacles: fear, overwhelm, uncertainty, and perfectionism.

You break a large task or goal into something so easy to do you almost can’t help but go ahead and do it.

For example, instead of waiting until you have time to organize your whole home office, you ask yourself “can I just spend five minutes tidying my desk?” Or instead of committing to running a mile a day, you ask: “can I just jog around the block?”

Your success in these small commitments can help you chip away at a goal, build good habits, and start feeling like you can and want to do more.

I applied this technique when writing this post with limited time. So I tried, “can I just write 200 words?” Yes I can. And did. And then it turned into almost 400. See how that works?