“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.