The 20 Minutes Trick To Beat Procrastination — Overcome Emotional Resistance For Good

It is hard to start. But it is harder to stop.

Younes Henni, PhD
3 min readJun 28, 2020
Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Do you feel emotional resistance whenever it’s time to start your essential work? I know I do.

I find myself experiencing this feeling quite often.

If you’re like me, whenever it’s time to listen to that critical audiobook, exercise, or practice that new musical instrument, the lack of motivation to start makes you experience a strong emotional resistance.

I want to share with you a simple trick I use to overcome my lack of motivation, beat procrastination, and make sure I start on my task — even when I don’t feel like starting at all.

The 20 Minutes Trick

To explain this trick, let me ask you a question: “Which one is harder? Work on a task for 20 minutes, or stop working when the 20 minutes expire?”

It’s harder to stop working than to start working in the first place

Most often, you’ll find it harder to stop working on a task after 20 minutes from starting.

I usually extend my work for 40 minutes, 1 hour, even 4 hours sometimes!

What people often miss is that it’s harder to stop working than to start working in the first place.

If you don’t feel like starting to work on your task, tell yourself this: “I’m not feeling motivated to work long hours on this task. That’s why I am going to work for only 20 minutes.’’

After the 20 minutes expire, consider yourself done for the day. Any additional work you do beyond the 20 minutes is extra, and you should be proud of working more than you intended.

That’s the 20 minutes trick plain and straightforward.

Why Does the 20 Minutes Trick Work so Well

The reason why the 20 minutes trick work wonders can be explained using an analogy with the Interia Principle (I.P.) in Physics.

An object in the universe tends to keep doing what it’s already doing

In layman terms, the I.P. states that an object in the universe tends to keep doing what it’s already doing. This tendency is broken only when an external force is pushing it to change its behaviour or stop that process altogether.

You can draw the parallel between the I.P. and the 20 minutes rule by imagining that the object is your state of mind and the external force is your decision to act.

When you aren’t working, your mind tends to stay at rest. Similarly, if you’re immersed in an activity, your mind will want to keep doing what it’s already doing (i.e. working).

You add to this inertia the negative feeling of leaving something unfinished, and the residue of whatever motivation you have left, and you’ll feel extreme emotional resistance to stop working after just 20 minutes.

Take Away

Whenever you find yourself unmotivated to start working, apply the 20 minutes rule to beat procrastination.

Plan to work for only 20 minutes today. Consider yourself done after the 20 minutes period expires. You’ll be amazed at how long you can keep going beyond that limit.

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Younes Henni, PhD

Physicist • Soft Dev • ☕ Junkie • I bring you the latest in science, tech, health, economics & personal growth. To read all: