Healthy Living

What Harry Potter Can Teach You About Productivity

How to stop procrastinating : a lesson from Professor Lupin
03/30/2017 08:30am ET | Updated June 1, 2017
Gareth Cattermole via Getty Images

“Follow the spiders? Why spiders? Why couldn’t it be ‘follow the butterflies?’” ~Ron Weasley

Remember the scene from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where Professor Lupin introduces his class to the boggart?

A boggart transforms into whatever the person facing it fears the most.

It’s great that we have big aspirations and goals, but sometimes, they are just like that.

  • We think about all the books we want to read and in our mind, the list transforms into a massive, overwhelming stack of books, towering over us, making us afraid it’ll crush us underneath its weight.
  • We think about all the programming languages we want to master and, suddenly, the different tags, and operators, and lines of code chain themselves together into a vicious snake, ready to attack us from every angle.
  • We think about all the projects, papers and assignments we have to submit and soon, they assemble themselves into a floor of glass shards, ready to crack at our very next step, cut us and drop us into a bottomless pit.

Fortunately, the solution to dealing with daunting projects is the same as what Professor Lupin taught us about handling a boggart.

Remember the spell?


What if the task we are about to tackle wasn’t the first step of a massive climb?

What if it was…ridiculous?

Our first goal should be to laugh at the goal. The task you’re focused on completing must be ridiculously easy. Laughable. Not even a question.

“Ha! I can do this with my little finger!”

  • When you want to start reading a new book, make your only goal to read the first page.
  • When you want to learn a new programming language, make your only goal to write a sample line of code with one command.
  • When you want to write a paper, make your only goal to write the first sentence.

James Clear calls this the “two-minute rule.” Your very next task should take less than two minutes to complete. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself completing a lot more than you initially set out to.

An important note to make here is that technically, you’re done after the 2 minutes. It’s okay to stop. Whatever productivity spree follows, it must come naturally.

That’s the tricky part of dealing with a boggart:

You really have to believe in the magic of the spell for it to work.

Now, go. Set the timer. Turn the clock. And do something that’s…


Niklas Goeke publishes a weekly newsletter where he shares his best articles, book summaries and Quora answers with over 10,000 happy subscribers.

This article started as an answer on Quora.

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