Obvious truth #1: We think about the things we like to do, and those things make us feel happy. As a result, we do those things whenever we can.

Obvious truth #2: We try not to think about the things we don’t like to do. Those things make us feel frustrated, stressed, bored–anything but happy. As a result, we avoid doing those things whenever we can.

I’m going to teach you how to use these two obvious truths to overcome procrastination. This mental technique works better than any other technique I’ve ever tried. I am actually amazed at how effective it is, because it seems so simple (it is), and so easy to do (it is).

When a technique for overcoming a nigh universal problem is easy and simple, and is based on an “obvious truth,” the technique is bullshit most of the time; otherwise the universal problem wouldn’t exist.

This is not “most of the time”: this works, and it’s not wide spread because even though it’s easy, it’s also counter-intuitive.

Without further adieu…

Push Motivation Steps

Picture of a messy office

(Before these steps begin, you’ll need a task that you want to motivate yourself to do. I’m going to choose cleaning a messy office.)

Step 1: Take a look around at the clutter and mess in the office. Hold the image of the dirty room in your mind.

Step 2: Close your eyes. Now imagine the room is perfectly clean, like a cleaning crew came through organizing every paper and polishing every surface. Don’t try to imagine how it got that way, just see the picture of the clean room in your mind.

Step 3: Keep your eyes closed. Now, feel good about the clean room. Imagining that amazingly clean room, you feel great about how clean and tidy it is.

Step 4: Still with your eyes closed, ask yourself: why do I have this good feeling? Maybe the room looks brighter, or you know where everything is. You feel more creative, or more free to move around and think without all the grime and clutter around you. Take a long moment, and really absorb how good the clean office makes you feel. It feels comforting like a snugly pillow or comforter. Mmmm…

Before going on to Step 5, it’s important that you have really completed the previous steps. If you skimp, it won’t work!

Step 5: Keep the image in your mind of the sparkling clean office and the snugly, positive feeling you have about it, before you finally open your eyes and see what the messy office really looks like. Don’t do anything yet: just look around.

It’s like you can see right through the clutter to the perfectly clean office underneath it all. As you look around your mind will offer suggestions about how you could make the real office more like the perfect office in your mind. Throw those papers away, move that cup to the kitchen, arrange the couch cushions properly. All these ideas will come to you effortlessly as you look around, but don’t do anything just yet. Let the pressure build up.

Soon, you will be forcing yourself not to clean your office; finally you give in to your overwhelming desire to clean!

How does it work?

Our brain’s motivation works in a very simple way: we imagine the things we want, they make us feel good, and that good feeling propels us to go after the thing we want. Nothing magic there.

It also works the opposite way: imaging things that make us feel bad pushes us to avoid those things.

So when you’re faced with checking your favorite forum just once more, or slogging through a term paper, your brain sets you up to fail.

The hack works because you’ve harnessed the fundamental nature of the brain to actually want what you used to just want to want.

(Thanks PJ!)