As Woody Allen said: ‘90% of the effort is getting started.’ Sometimes we are very ‘creative’ in procrastinating. One of the best ways to overcome this is the 20-Minute-Rule.

The mind likes to be clear.

To have clear targets, a very specific and measurable goal.

Set your timer for 20 minutes and promise yourself a short break afterwards.

You will be surprised how quickly 20 minutes pass.

And here is an important point: When the 20 minutes are over, you HAVE to stick to your promise and GIVE yourself a short (2 – 5 minutes) break.

If not the whole exercise is void. Your brain (metaphorically speaking) says: You b*******, you promised me a break. So that I could re-charge. Now you are not keeping your promise. You know what: I will make you tired.”

And you WILL get tired very quickly.

So here is what you do: when the alarm goes off, you finish the sentence (should you be writing or reading), however you DON’T finish the paragraph. I promise you, you will just pick up where you left off.

Some ideas for the break: a) Lean back, close your eyes, and relax (and day-dream); b) go to the toilet (just wash your hands); c) boil the kettle for a cup of tea/coffee and bring it back to your desk, remember you only have 2 – 5 minutes; d) revise the goals for the day; e) revise the spiritual inspiration for the day. Be inventive.

But do stick to the break.

You will also be surprised about the surge of energy you will have once you stick to the pattern: 20 minutes of study and a few minutes break. You won’t get tired for a long time, and it is very rewarding when the NEXT 20 minutes are over.

What’s the alternative?

You have a long study period, say of 90 minutes. What happens then? You are very, very tired. And then you HAVE to take a longish break. You don’t gain anything by cutting out the breaks.

Also, as a added bonus of the 20 minute rule: If you have a subject that you somewhat don’t like, your focus has now shifted. Away from the subject, and towards the timer. Your goal is not anymore to study the dreaded subject, your goal is now to fulfill the 20 minutes. And that is a lot easier.

Give it a go. It is a powerful tool indeed.