Found in 12 comments on Hacker News
BeetleB · 2023-09-02 · Original thread
If procrastination is the problem, I suggest the book The Now Habit:

jrs235 · 2022-01-07 · Original thread
I've been dealing with overcoming some severe procrastination issues again. I was doing some "Spring" cleaning over the last few weeks and came across several books I had bought and read in the past. I picked up, The Now Habit[0], and opened it to page 103 (of my version/copy).

Below is a bit of a wall of text with I assume several typos. Please forgive me, I read the following excerpt out loud and used speech to text to get in here.

--Excerpt Begin--

Worrying can warn you of danger and evoke action to prepare for that danger. Respect your ability to worry as a means to alert you to potential danger. But the rapid flow of frightening thoughts characteristic of most counterproductive worrying simply creates more threats - you think, "it would be awful if that happened. I couldn't stand it. I have to do well or else." Stopping there, with simply the frightening aspect of worrying, is like screaming "Danger!" Without knowing what to do or where to run. In effect, your screen has caused a lot of disturbance in people but has not told them what they can do to escape the danger. By alerting yourself to a potential danger without establishing a plan for how you will cope, you have done only half of the job of worrying. You've left out the positive work of worrying - developing an action plan.

Once a threat is raised it must be dealt with to avoid worry and anxiety - that trap energy that can't be used productively now. Until you reach a solution or cancel the threat, worrying can operate like a recurrent nightmare that repeats a puzzle or problem. Plans, action, and solutions are required to direct the energy and complete the work of worrying.

Procrastination is an ineffective way to cope with worrying because it stalls action and simply piles up more worries. The worry that accompanies procrastination is usually learned very early in life. Parents, bosses, and teachers often use threats and images of disaster to motivate us to achieve goals they have chosen. This belief that vinegar can motivate better than honey is so prevalent among those in charge of our schools, factories, and offices that most of us suffer from some form of fear of failure and worry about being unacceptable because of our imperfection.

Familiar examples are the boss who stingly withholds compliments for the work completed while freely criticizing what is unfinished and imperfect, saying, "You'll have to do a lot better than this.. there's a lot more to do and I need this as soon as possible." Or the parent or teacher who tries to motivate by saying, "So what if you got three A's, why did you only get a B in math?"

This terrible training - that your work is never good enough - leads to the belief that you are never good enough to satisfy a parent or a boss. Feeling ineffectual regardless of how hard you try is very depressing and damaging to yourself work. Without an established sense of worth that bounces back from criticism in the face of normal mistakes, it is extremely difficult to step into the work arena, where some failures can be anticipated and where the longed-for praise for hard work and progress is seldom forthcoming. Eventually the risks seem too great to take and the threats lose their ability to motivate you.

This syndrome is particularly sad when people with talent will not risk trying for fear of being less than number one. At its worst, their perfectionism and fear of failure ( failure being defined as being less than perfect ( cause them to let their own talents atrophy rather than complete a task and risk being found second best. The more common solution for individuals raised on threats is to use their own threatening self-talk in an effort to win approval by mimicking their critical mentors. Rather than helping them to face their fears, such threats will only contribute to the procrastination cycle: threatening self-talk leads to anxiety, then to resistance, resulting in procrastination. Procrastination May temporarily lessen the tension of facing a challenging project and the risk of failing, but it cannot help you escape worry.

. . .

For 10 years Judith, a bright young accountant, suffered from worries about losing her job because of her continual procrastination. Judith continued to push herself to work in an insurance firm that others had left years before because of the cold and pressured atmosphere. After all, she had learned at an early age that she was lazy and inadequate, that there was always more that could be done, and that she needed constant reminding and pressure from those who said they cared about her.

In Judith's family individual progress was seldom acknowledge unless it was compared well with what others were doing. This pressure to do the best was constant whether the arena was school, sports, or musical talent. So it it did not surprise Judith when her boss turned out to be someone who provided a similar scarcity of praise and in abundance of pressure. From the boss's point of view, Judas motivation was supposed to come from her salary and the pressure and threats he used so frequently.

But for Judith, her working conditions only verified insecurities learned much earlier. She felt that she didn't deserve much, and fear both failure and success. She said: "I might do something wrong, and they'll think I'm dumb. I feel that people are constantly judging me and that I keep coming up short. But I know, if they were to say I'm smart or talented, I'd still feel anxious because then I'd have to be that way all the time."

The constant fear of being criticized or fired kept Judith in stress and poor health most of the time. But it was her procrastination and her fear of doing increasingly poor work that motivated her to seek help. Like most procrastinators, Judith was a good worker. She wasn't lazy. It was the pressure and the fear of failure that began to block her ability to work. As the stress of anticipated criticism for inadequate work increased and the praised dwindled, Judith's motivation and self-confidence began to dry up. More and more she relied on procrastination as a way to escape and to express her resentment.

It didn't take much for Judith to see that her boss's threats and withholding of praise recreated her family environment. And when Judith recognized that her family environment had taught her low self-esteem, victimhood, resistance and then destructive coping strategies such as procrastination, she was eager to change her current environment.

Even before I discussed the work of worrying as a way to reduce her stress, Judith on her own had begun to consider "what is the worst happened." She realized that though it would be extremely embarrassing and difficult for her, she could face being fired and that, in some ways it would be a welcome relief. In fact, given her timidity and low self-esteem, it was hard to imagine how she would ever be motivated to look for a better job unless she was fired.

But Judas had decided she wanted more. She wanted to be freely acknowledged for her work and her talents. Judith was determined to find people who could appreciate her for who she was and what she could do, rather than seeking out those who always demanded that she be something different. She no longer wanted to work under conditions that lowered her self-esteem. Having face the worst that could happen - being fired - Judas has prepared herself with safety nets of compassionate self-talk and concrete alternatives that would help her cope while looking for a new job.

Judith had started the first step of a six-step process for facing fears and creating safety. These steps take you beyond "what if" and direct the block energy of anxiety towards constructive preparation for potential danger. When you are continually worried about failing on a project or losing a job, ask yourself these six questions as part of your work of worrying:

One. What is the worst that could happen? Too. What would I do if the worst really happened? Three. How would I lessen the pain and get on with as much happiness as possible if the worst did occur? Four. What alternatives would I have? Five. What can I do now to lessen the probability of this dreaded event occurring? Six. Is there anything I can do now to increase my chances of achieving my goal?

By using the work of worrying, creating safety, and using the language of the producer, you are establishing skills for maintaining genuine self-confidence. Most people wish for an illusory confidence that says, "I must know that I will win; I should have a guarantee that nothing will go wrong." This leaves you at a severe disadvantage because you haven't considered "what will I do if something does go wrong?" Trying to control things so they go just as you imagine them takes enormous energy, keeps you blind to what could go wrong, keeps you from planning for a strategic retreat, and drains you the energy necessary for bouncing back.

True confidence is knowing that whether you're calm or anxious, whether you succeed or fail, you'll do your best and, if necessary, be ready to pick yourself up to carry on and try again. True confidence is the ability to say, "I am prepared for the worst, now I can focus on the work that will lead to the best."

-- Excerpt End--

[0] (affiliate/commission link: ), (non-affiliate/non-commission link: )

throwdep · 2015-07-22 · Original thread
If your procrastination is causing or deepening your depression, consider this book: It helped me understand and break the procrastination cycle.
kilo_man · 2014-07-30 · Original thread
Just listing books that have had a big impact on me:

* The Now Habit -

* Getting Things Done -

* Simply Christian -

* Surprised by Hope -

* The Great Divorce -

* Mere Christianity -

* The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius -

* Tao Te Ching -

Books from the Bible that I like:

* Genesis

* Judges

* Ruth

* Tobit

* Job

* Psalms

* Ecclesiastes

* Sirach/Ecclesiasticus

* Everything written by John

quarterto · 2014-01-08 · Original thread
This is basically a stripped-down article version of The Now Habit [0], without the good bits, such as guilt-free play, the idea that you should set aside time to do whatever without constantly thinking "I should be working", or the Unschedule, where you mark down the times you actually did good work.


oblique63 · 2013-08-22 · Original thread
The last point is particularly useful, and quite reminiscent of what 'The Now Habit'[1][2] advocates. Some weeks I get so completely burned out, I have to force myself to do nothing but 'veg out' by watching endless netflix shows through the weekend without thinking about anything else. It's hard to allow it at first because it feels like a ludicrous waste of time, but it becomes surprisingly refreshing by the end of it.


[2] Here's a good video series that summarizes it's key points:

gauravk · 2013-08-02 · Original thread
Relevant: "The Now Habit"

This book talk about some of the topics you touched upon in great detail.

I recommend "The Now Habit" book. I particularly like the "unschedule" trick. Instead of scheduling works and ending up procrastinating, schedule for fun activities instead and fill the unscheduled time with work. I'm not sure about you, but I have flex working hours (I'm a freelancer) so I can get this trick work for me.

ianox · 2013-03-07 · Original thread
The Now Habit -

Mind Hacks: Tips and Tricks for Using Your Brain -

Mind Performance Hacks: Tips & Tools for Overclocking Your Brain -

DenisM · 2011-11-24 · Original thread
I think this simplistic explanation does not do justice to the complex subject which is procrastination. If it were that simple, we wouldn't be having those problems, would we?

For a more rounded perspective on the subject of procrastination I suggest reading someone who observed a few hundreds of cases and helped in fixing most of them:

squasher · 2011-07-15 · Original thread
If you liked/needed this post, you'll LOVE The Now Habit:
peregrine · 2010-02-21 · Original thread
I have the same problem and its tough but this is not a new issue and some books/videos exist to help.

'Seth Godin: Quieting the Lizard Brain'

"The Now Habit"

"The War of Art"


All of these books have one thing in common and that is getting used to shipping things. I noticed lately that while I was horrible at shipping my little pet projects I could cook and prepare meals for me and my girlfriend without worry that it tasted bad. I just cook it and good or bad we eat it. I've gotten over the fear of failure here.

Now I just need to get over the fear of failure for my projects.

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