How to Make Each Day a Downhill Stroll Instead of an Uphill Struggle

ResistanceBack in college, I came across a life-changing personal development concept. It made an immediate difference to my academic work – and it’s still something that helps me every day.

That concept was the idea of resistance, set out in Mark Forster’s book Get Everything Done and Still Have Time to Play. Resistance is that feeling you get when you think about a big project or a difficult task; you naturally want to put it off in favor of something easier.

Resistance crops up when:
  • You’ve got a book/article/newsletter to write
  • You need to completely rework your resume
  • You have to make a difficult phone call to a problem client
  • You know you should go for a jog … but it’s raining outside

…and in pretty much any situation when you’re facing something hard.

Why You Shouldn’t Let Resistance Win
Giving in to resistance might feel tempting, but it’s not a good idea.

In the short-term, it means that every day feels like an uphill struggle.

You’ll put off the hard, important tasks in favor of the easy, less important ones – and as they day goes by, you get lower and lower on energy as the tasks get harder and harder.

In the long-term, it means you won’t meet your goals. Almost anything worth pursuing will involve at least a few moments of high resistance. If you want to write a novel, run a marathon, have a successful business … you can’t do it if you keep letting resistance stop you.
So, what can you do to stay on top?

Use Resistance as a Signpost
Forster suggests that instead of seeing resistance as a signal to procrastinate, you should see it as a signpost to what you need to do first. If you really don’t feel like making that difficult phone call, it’s probably a good thing to begin your day with.

There are lots of reasons to complete the high-resistance tasks first:

  • Once they’re done, they’ll be off your mind.
  • You’ll feel good about achieving something meaningful at the start of your day.
  • The rest of your day will look simpler and easier in comparison.

When you keep putting tasks off, they get harder and harder. Charlie Gilkey describes them as “frogs”, explaining, “a frog project is just one of those projects that you really don’t want to do but know you need to do.” (3 Things to Do to Have a Productive and Fun Week.) By catching those “frogs” early, you prevent them growing big and ugly.

How to Beat Resistance – Right Now
What are you resisting today? I bet there’s something on your to-do list that you’ve been putting off for a while. It could be something tiny, like tracking down and ordering a spare part for a kitchen appliance. It could be something huge, like starting your marathon training plan.

Today, spend ten minutes working on something that you’ve been resisting. You can do anything for ten minutes, however tough it might seem. (And if ten minutes sounds pointless – do it anyway; you might be surprised how much progress you can make.)

How to Beat Resistance – Tomorrow
Tomorrow (and every other day), take a good look at your to-do list in the morning. Instead of starting off with an easy or habitual task, like answering emails, start by spending 20 minutes on a high-resistance task, like that big report with a looming deadline.

Even just 20 minutes a day makes a difference … but there’s also a good chance that, once you get going, you’ll find that resistance magically melts away.

If you’ve successfully beaten resistance, or if you have any tips to share with us, leave a comment below.

Written on 5/31/2012 by Ali Luke. Ali writes a blog, Aliventures, about leading a productive and purposeful life (get the RSS feed here). As well as blogging, she writes fiction, and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing. Photo Credit: pasukaru76
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