Expert Interview: Tim Ferriss on Procrastination

Post written by Leo Babauta.

Tim Ferriss really needs no introduction: as the author of insanely best-selling books The Four Hour Work Week and The Four Hour Body, his name is known worldwide.

In this interview, Tim shares some of his work habits as he holes himself up to write his third (soon to be) best-seller, Four Hour Chef.

1. What have you been doing lately to beat procrastination?

Tim: A few things:

– First, I wake up and immediately work (in a fasted state) on writing without Internet or e-mail, typically from 9-12 or so. My routine is to brush my teeth, boil water and ritualistically set up my pu-erh tea and thermos, turn on Bach on Pandora, and jam. Sometimes, if very hungry upon waking, I’ll have 8-12 grams of BCAAs, but I otherwise won’t eat until lunch.

– Second, I batch my phone calls separately and walk for 1-2 hours after the above jam session and complete all my calls. It prevents interruptions and putting off conversations for days or weeks.

2. What’s the biggest reason people have a hard time starting an important task, and what 1 or 2 habits should they form to beat this?

Tim: The biggest problem is that people bite off too much. Make your quota low so you can “succeed” each day. One hugely successful ghost writer (50+ books, including NYT bestsellers) told me his secret to success: just two crappy pages per day. That’s all he had to write to “win” for the day, and of course, he often wrote more. Ditto for IBM salespeople for decades. They sold the most because they had the lowest quotas and therefore weren’t intimidated to pick up the phone. They didn’t put it off.

Start small. I like the Pomodoro technique and variants for this. Commit to a sprint (using a timer) for just 20 minutes. It will help overcome the procrastination inertia (or lack thereof).

3. If resistance has kicked someone’s butt for a long time, and they don’t know how to even start to change it, what do you suggest?

Tim: Define your fears, the worst-case scenario if you take action, and accept it, embrace it. Then define the cost/damage of continuing to postpone action: what will it look like in one week, one month, one year? How will it affect you financially, personally, emotionally, psychologically? Recognize that putting off decisions is making a decision: to fail and hurt yourself. Pull off the bandaid and get ‘er done. You’ll breathe a sigh of relief and ask “Why the hell didn’t I do that earlier?! That wasn’t so hard.” As Eleanor Roosevelt would say, “Everyday, do something that scares you.”