The Not Now Technique2 min read

It’s extremely difficult to overcome unhealthy doubt just by trying to talk yourself out of it. If self-doubt is a person, he’s that skeptic who objects to whatever you say. He is never convinced. 

There is a place for doubt; but it is not always. Healthy doubt helps you see a new perspective; unhealthy doubt makes you uncertain and paralyses you—and this is a big obstacle to self-discipline.

To prevent doubt from ruining your efforts, consider running a doubt-free experiment, during which no doubts are engaged in. During the experiment, whenever a doubt, fear, or anxiety comes up, simply say: “Not now!”, and move forward. After the experiment ends, you can then review or question yourself and your chosen strategy, if needed.

This simple shift in mindset works because it’s “just an experiment.” Your mind can then cut you some slack, because it knows that it’s a temporary thing, and eventually it will be able to doubt again—it’s just “not now.”

During the experiment, focus wholeheartedly on the task at hand, with conviction and enthusiasm. Feel that you are on the right path, that achieving your goal is just a matter of time. Trust you are nearing your purpose with every step. Know that you can do it. Take action as if no doubt ever existed.

If needed, be delusionally optimistic and fanatically dedicated—for that limited time. Later, pause to reflect and learn. 

During your experiment, “snooze” whatever doubts or fears come up. The Not Now technique is the snooze button in your brain. It is a chance to use procrastination on things that are actually worth procrastinating!

Procrastinate on doubt, fears, worries, anxiety, dramas, limiting beliefs, and distractions. For the chosen time period, focus your energies on your goal, and hit “snooze” on everything else. Act first; doubt later. If doubts return, repeat “not now” with a firm, calm inner voice, setting boundaries for your thoughts. 

Claim back your power—this is the core message of meditation. Eventually the mind will learn. Your doubts may give up knocking at your door, knowing that nobody will open, just as it happened for me.

The length of the doubt-free experiment depends on your needs. It could be an hour when you leave aside insecurity about your writing and just write. It could be a month when you follow a diet and don’t step on the scale. It could be a year dedicated to a single business idea, “snoozing” other opportunities. Design your own doubt-free experiment, and follow through wholeheartedly.

Not Now is an analysis-free zone, a vacation from your self-defeating mind. You’ll be surprised how much you get done. You’ll tap into resources you didn’t know you have. 

This technique will not resolve the emotional pain behind the doubts, and it may not eliminate doubts entirely, but it will prevent doubts and fears from spoiling your journey. Not Now frees you from analysis paralysis, letting you move forward with less friction, so you taste wins sooner. Doubts may still exist, but they cease to define you, and they can’t stop you anymore.

This article is a summary of key ideas taken from Chapter 6 of Mindful Self-Discipline. To dive deeper, get the book or audiobook.


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