Problem 3 - Resistance
Saturday, October 13, 2018 at 20:14
Mark Forster in Articles, long list, problems

Resistance is a huge problem in Time Management. Not only is it the main reason why we need time management systems and methods in the first place, but it is also the main reason why these systems and methods fail. At the extreme, resistance leads to a state of complete paralysis in which one is incapable of doing anything constructive at all. 

It’s important to understand how resistance works. 

  1. Anything which we don’t want to do will tend to build up more and more resistance if we don’t get started on doing it.
  2. The stage of a task which we resist the most is getting started. Once we are working on something resistance will diminish as long as we maintain momentum.
  3. Once resistance to a task or project has been allowed to build it will only get done when not doing it produces more pain than doing it. As you can imagine this is not a happy state to be living in.
  4. The more we give in to resistance, i.e. the more we procrastinate, the more difficult it becomes to do anything constructive at all.
  5. Resistance is stressful. Extreme resistance is stressful in the extreme.

There are really only two ways to work without experiencing resistance: 

Firstly, “Do It Now”. In other words, get started on a project or task before resistance to it has a chance to build up. Since getting started is the point at which resistance is usually highest, from then on the “little and often” principle can keep you going with minimal resistance until the work has either been accomplished or has become a routine.

The problem with this method is that at any one time there are usually a number of new things clamouring for our attention. How do we chose which new project to start now? If we leave one task unfinished so that we can start the next, will we ever get back to finishing the one we’ve left?

The second way is more effective, but does take some practice and requires a rethink about the nature of resistance:

The feelings we identify as resistance are in fact nothing of the sort. Resistance doesn’t exist. Or - to be more exact - it won’t exist in the context of a properly run Long List time management system.

In a Long List system we have a list of everything we want or have to do. Scanning through the list results in certain tasks “standing out” as ready to be done. This implies that the majority of tasks won’t stand out on that scan. The reason certain tasks stand out is that your intuition is identifying them as the tasks best suited to be done at that precise time. The reason the majority of tasks don’t stand out is that your intuition has not identified them as the tasks best suited to be done at that time. It is not a question of easy tasks v. difficult tasks. It is purely a question of suitability to be done at that time. 

The point of a Long List system is to build up consistency of action. It’s consistency that brings about results. But consistency works both ways. If we are consistently slapdash and unreliable, we will produce slapdash and unreliable results.

All this becomes automatic if you use a Long List system and follow the simple rule:

Do what stands out for as long as you feel like doing it and no longer

Article originally appeared on Get Everything Done (
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