The surprisingly simple way to fight fear with your phone.

Phone

There are a few things I am afraid of. Bears, obviously. Mismatched queso and chip portions where you end up with queso left but no chips. (I just got a little sweaty, even typing that sentence.)

But some of my fears are more serious than that, and sometimes that includes writing.

How can something I feel called to do, something I love, something that is my passion, have fear associated with it?

I think it’s because on some level, we’re terrified of the thing that matters most to us. If we didn’t care about it, we wouldn’t be afraid of it. But if we’re able to experience big joy doing something we’ll also be able to experience big fear associated with it. That’s why most people have huge “what if” dreams but never do anything with them.

And so, I often avoid writing. And you avoid whatever your thing is too. But fear not, I developed a very simple iPhone (or Android) trick to beat fear. It’s the simplest thing on the planet, I promise.

Here’s what you do:
1. Open the clock on your smartphone.
2. Choose timer.
3. Pick 1 hour.
4. Hit start.
5. Do your thing until the timer sounds.

That’s it. Sound too simple to work?

Try it first.

Part of our fear is that we think we have to do everything all at once. We’re afraid of the size of the dream or the magnitude of the mission. We think we have to accomplish everything in one sitting. The enormity of that expectation paralyzes us. I can’t write an entire book in one afternoon. But I can do just about anything for 60 minutes. That’s not too scary. I can handle that.

And what often happens is that by the time the alarm goes off I’m in the flow and have a little momentum. I can steal another 30 minutes from fear.

How have I written 5 books in 5 years? How did I finish my new book Do Over, which clocks in at 70,000 words, making it the longest book I’ve ever written? In 60 minute segments.

That’s how.

Give your dream an hour sometime this week and in the process, give your fear a black eye!

Question:
What’s a trick you use to beat fear in order to do the work you feel called to do?

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42 Comments
  • Chandler
    Posted at 05:53h, 28 July Reply

    Sometimes the simplest of tricks can make the most impact. Thanks, Jon!

    • Charis
      Posted at 21:06h, 28 July Reply

      Agreed!! 🙂

      • Steph
        Posted at 18:20h, 03 August Reply

        This was surely God’s timing. Needed this today.

    • Huong
      Posted at 16:35h, 29 January Reply

      Perfect for #TruthbombThursday! Not sure if this caught on yet, but just in case it does, it all started with me here on Jon’s website! 😛

  • Tracy
    Posted at 06:10h, 28 July Reply

    Very similar process except my wife is my timer. I get up at 5:45am and write until my wife wakes up at about 7am. Of course, this morning I’m reading your blog instead of working so I’d better get back to it.:)

  • Lolly
    Posted at 07:28h, 28 July Reply

    The timer trick can be used with lots of seemingly insurmountable tasks. How do you eat an elephant…

    • Erin
      Posted at 15:40h, 29 July Reply

      One bite at a time… this phrase gets my mom and I through things – most famously, her doctorate!

  • Bryan
    Posted at 07:55h, 28 July Reply

    You are spot-on with this suggestion. I use my timer to plot out my entire day. I work in segments with an hour for writing, an hour for social media strategy, etc. My timer not only keeps me on task but also reminds me to stand up every hour and walk around which prevents back stiffness.

  • Kristin
    Posted at 08:35h, 28 July Reply

    I use timers to accomplish most things in my life. I love the 20/10 system. Work on your main hustle for 20 minutes, then take 10 minutes to do the things that are nagging on your brain (laundry, dishes, etc.). For me, writing in 20 minute blocks keeps me from getting distracted. It’s also pretty amazing what you can accomplish in 10 minutes when that’s all you’ve got. I can empty and refill the dishwasher or turn over the laundry and fold a load. It really helps a multitasker like me focus on getting things done.

  • Heather
    Posted at 08:44h, 28 July Reply

    Thanks for this post, I actually have been thinking about how I have been dragging my feet because I feel too overwhelmed by the magnitude. This was a good reminder to break it down into chunks.

  • Kim
    Posted at 10:08h, 28 July Reply

    I think the hardest thing for me is stealing that 1 hour from other things that need to get done. I can always think of something more important (bills, laundry, cleaning the apt, having quiet time with God) that needs to get done and stealing an hour is stealing 1/3 of my time at home for the day. BUT, I love the idea and the challenge, and it’s something I’m going to make myself try this week and see how it works out.

  • April
    Posted at 10:10h, 28 July Reply

    I’ve also done the reverse: Set my timer for 5 mins and allowed myself to freak out for a limited time. That gets it out of my system 🙂

    • Alex
      Posted at 07:56h, 30 July Reply

      That’s a great idea too April! Taking a few minutes to get it all out of your system, knowing you won’t linger on the problems past 5 minutes and that you’ll get back to work. Might have to try this too!

  • Natalie
    Posted at 10:11h, 28 July Reply

    Oooooh, I love this! Gonna try it right now and see if I can get some devotionals written. Thanks for the idea, Jon!

  • Gina
    Posted at 10:13h, 28 July Reply

    My Spiritual Director showed me how to do this with contemplative prayer in 20 minute increments. Being a type A++ personality, being still does not come easily to me. It helped me not worry about time, letting my mind go. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Lindsey
    Posted at 10:18h, 28 July Reply

    Oh my goodness- the notion I have to ‘do it all’ at once…yes, yes, yes! That’s exactly how I feel, and the fear keeps me from doing anything at all. That was a much-needed gut punch this morning. THANK YOU for another great article!: )

  • Brad
    Posted at 10:18h, 28 July Reply

    This approach of chunking time is called the Pomodoro Technique (http://pomodorotechnique.com), and there are loads of great apps to help you incorporate this into your schedule. Just search your mobile’ s app store for”pomodoro”. It can be a great help for anyone who struggles with procrastination, mindless Web surfing, staying focused, etc.

    • Melissa
      Posted at 10:54h, 28 July Reply

      This technique really does help! Of course, it still requires self-control (sometimes I find myself working during the 5 minute break and goofing off during the 25 minute task time)! I use the Pomodroido app (for Android). You can customize the task time and break time, and it tracks how many cycles you’ve completed.

  • Nick
    Posted at 11:23h, 28 July Reply

    Siri helps me a lot although the timer method might be nice and simple enough to push her out of a gig.

  • Josh
    Posted at 11:28h, 28 July Reply

    Fear is why there are such huge time gaps between posts on my blog. Fear is why I have so many unfinished writing projects. Fear is why I have a notebook full of short story, novel, novella, drama, radio drama, and skit ideas that have never gone beyond a paragraph or two. Fear is telling me to delete this post even now.

    Time to punch fear in the face.
    Thanks for the encouragement, Jon.
    .

  • Scott Asai
    Posted at 13:49h, 28 July Reply

    I echo this drill because I schedule in times to write posts & podcasts just knowing the subject, but not the complete content. It’s a great exercise that creates a discipline that produces better material.

  • Kimanzi
    Posted at 15:00h, 28 July Reply

    I have some big articles that I need to knock out, I’m going to be using the timer!

  • Rick Theule
    Posted at 15:33h, 28 July Reply

    Maybe I’ll try this tomorrow as I again try to get out of the writing desert I’m in. Thanks for the tip!

  • J
    Posted at 16:55h, 28 July Reply

    You’re pretty brilliant.

  • Corie Clark
    Posted at 01:50h, 29 July Reply

    One bite at a time! I haven’t spent an entire hour writing in quite some time. I think I’ll aim for an hour when I wake up in the morning!

  • Caleb
    Posted at 07:28h, 29 July Reply

    I often use this technique myself and find it helpful. I usually use http://e.ggtimer.com/
    or just google “30 minute egg timer” and a link to the timer pops up. I usually work in 30 minute chunks, take a break, then get back to it.

    Actually have some things I have been procrastinating lately, so will probably end up using this technique today, thanks for the reminder!

  • Charles Johnston
    Posted at 08:23h, 29 July Reply

    The timer is a brilliant easy concept, we all get derailed in our journey because fear slips in… I am a early riser and try to do my work until the coffee pot starts in the morning..awe man had a timer all along..just need to employ that trick throughout the day.

  • Theresa
    Posted at 08:33h, 29 July Reply

    Love you post Jon! To punch fear in the face 🙂 I will often record an episode of my podcast, or write a blog post knowing I can always choose not to publish it if it doesn’t work out….

    There have been about 5 or 6 podcast episodes I haven’t published… but there is over 30 great ones that I’ve produced in the last 4 months 🙂 By just jumping and not worrying about things being perfect I’ve been able to learn a lot along the way

  • Jim
    Posted at 20:30h, 29 July Reply

    Jon,

    I’m a huge fan and have been reading your work for years. I have to say this is the single BEST idea for fighting fear! So simple. And it could be writing, budgeting, working out, etc…one hour! We can do ANYTHING for an hour! Except levitate! That’s just Criss Angel doing wire/camera tricks.

    Anyway…

    So I’m about to set my timer for an hour. And for 60 minutes no Facebook, eating, Tweets, etc — just work! Go!

    Jim

  • Alex
    Posted at 07:55h, 30 July Reply

    So simple. So perfect. Definitely gonna use this little life hack. I typically waste at least an hour of my day aimlessly wandering the internet. Maybe having a timer to focus me will help keep my mind on track.

  • Jodi
    Posted at 18:21h, 31 July Reply

    Our Night Owl Group works in Google Hangouts on mute. We can see each other and it feels like we are all working together in an office, just on seperate projects. Then on the hour, if you’d like a break or you’d like to share what you’ve accomplished, we unmute and chat for 15 min! It’s wonderful!! I get so much more done because it holds me accountable 🙂

  • DNMP
    Posted at 18:46h, 03 August Reply

    I actually use smaller chunks to get started (10-15 mins). I can push myself to focus for 15 mins. I also use the Pomodoro method to do work (25 mins of work, 5 min break). With all the hats I have, this helps me feel like I can fit it all in.

  • Lori Ann
    Posted at 22:35h, 03 August Reply

    Perfect!

  • Fern
    Posted at 18:33h, 07 August Reply

    Love this! I use that trick quite often! Sometimes all I have courage for is 10 minutes, but then it ends up being 30 minutes or an hour. Starting off timid and ending strong is powerful!

  • Andrew Gilmore
    Posted at 11:52h, 08 August Reply

    I started doing this a few weeks ago, and it makes such a difference!

    It works on things besides fear too: procrastination, writer’s block. And it helps me to focus on the task at hand.

    Can’t recommend it enough!

  • Cappuccino Mumma
    Posted at 01:52h, 11 August Reply

    Stumbled across you on twitter, this sounds so amazingly simple but effective. Everything starts with the smallest step – weeks roll by and I still haven’t started so many projects – this will really help. Thank you 🙂

  • Ben
    Posted at 14:40h, 29 January Reply

    Nice little life hack.

  • Mollie
    Posted at 14:42h, 29 January Reply

    Not necessarily for the same reasons, but on days I need to be super productive – I do 20 minute timers on repeat throughout the day. If I make myself stop and doing something else, I don’t get burnt out and actually get more done because I’m motivated by the appearance that I have “less” time to do something.

  • Joel
    Posted at 14:49h, 29 January Reply

    “But I can do just about anything for 60 minutes.”

    That thought has gotten me through many a child’s music recital, shopping trip, and even a couple sermons. I can sacrifice an hour’s discomfort because it’s important to my kids, wife, and pastor, but had not considered the same rule should apply to what’s important to my long-term goals. Thank you for that insight.

  • Tim
    Posted at 15:33h, 29 January Reply

    While I’m sure this technique works against fear (leftover queso and no chips?!), I’m going to try it for one of my failings: procrastination/lack of focus.

  • Huong
    Posted at 16:34h, 29 January Reply

    I love this post, Jon! Very simple and less scary. Love your new website layout too!

  • Britiney
    Posted at 17:34h, 29 January Reply

    But what if my thing is leaving my comfy little stay-at-home-mom “job” and my 3 school-aged kids (and my husband) to fly half-way around the world on a missions trip. How do I get past that terror? Most of which will express itself over and over from now until the trip (which is in May). So far I’m looking up verses on fear and playing this on repeat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Hi-VMxT6fc.

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