3 Words That You Need to Tell Yourself Daily

I was a really messy kid.

Growing up, my parents referred to me as Pig-Pen…often. Yeah, the kid surrounded by a dust cloud from Peanuts.  I had the uncanny ability to make a mess in a matter of seconds, no matter where I was or what I was doing.

I was a walking crime scene, leaving evidence EVERYWHERE: dirty dishes in the sink, change from my pockets on the counter, a movie case left out on the living room floor, or a blanket left unfolded on the couch.

Now, over the years I’ve gotten a bit better, but it wasn’t until recently that I had a breakthrough, thanks to three simple words taught to me by my friend Brett over at Art of Manliness.

Since my epiphany, I’ve applied these words to a few different aspects of my life like building healthy habits, n0t missing a workout, preparing healthy meals, and even paying my bills.

If you can successfully implement this rule consistently, I guarantee that not only will your life improve, but the lives of the people IN your life — roomates, a signifigant other, or your family – will improve as well.

Everybody wins!

This is going to sound WAY too simple to be effective, but trust me.

Are you ready?


The epiphany

light bulb epiphany

I tend to leave things out after using them, and put things off until later when I’m “less busy.”  Sound familiar?

It wasn’t until about 10 of these things happened at the same time one night that I realized I needed to make a change.

A few weeks back, I didn’t have any work to do and was looking forward to an evening of playing Batman: Arkham Asylum (I realize I’m late to the party of this one, but fantastic game). Before firing up the game, I walked over to a local restaurant and grabbed a burrito bowl to bring home…burrito bowl and Batman? Win.

I walked in the door, and that’s when I noticed just how bad my “I’ll do it later” behavior had become:

  • I went to grab a fork, but all of my forks were in the sink or dishwasher.
  • After cleaning off a fork and eating, I went to throw my food away, but there was no trash bag in the trash can, as I had taken the trash out earlier that day and failed to put a new liner in.
  • After a few hours of playing Arkham Asylum, I was pretty tired and wanted to read before bed.  I walked into my bedroom and discovered the giant pile of laundry on my bed I had neglected to fold and put away earlier that day.  I was so lazy, I just pushed the clothes to one side of the bed and got in (shut up, you know you’ve done it too!).
  • I opened up my Kindle Paperwhite (to read Jack Reacher #8), and it died after 5 minutes – I’d forgotten to charge it the night before when it gave me a low battery warning.
  • So I woke up on a pile of unfolded laundry (well played, Steve), and wandered into the kitchen to make a smoothie and a cup of green tea.  My blender was  full of water (“soaking”) in the sink from my previous smoothie the evening before…and so were all of my mugs.

Uber fail.

It was at this point in the morning that I said to myself, “Steve, you’re an idiot. And lazy. And an idiot. It’s time to make a change.”

And that’s when I remembered a video from Art of Manliness five months earlier that I had watched but hadn’t really bothered to pay much attention to.

Stop making extra work, fool!

Art of Manliness – Do It Now

After I watched this video and noticed just how much extra work I was making for myself – just how much time I was wasting by putting things off.  Instead, I decided to only deal with something ONCE, and then move on.   Big thanks to my friend Leo Babauta for this tip.

I was doubling the amount of work and brain power required to get things done:

  • If I put my coat on the back of a chair, eventually I have to pick it up and then move it to the closet.  That’s two moves, instead of just one.
  • After eating dinner, putting my dishes in the sink instead of in the dishwasher is two moves: Eventually they’ll have to end up in the dishwasher, why not just do it the first time?
  • Leaving things in the sink to “soak” is two moves. In order to use that item again, I would have to get the soap out and clean it. Why didn’t I  just clean it immediately so that it’s ready for when I needed it again? Too many moves!
  • Reading an email and then reminding myself to respond later (only have to read it again and then respond) is two moves.  Why not just take the time to read once, respond immediately, and move on?  Less work!

“Eventually” is still my responsibility

Long Road

On top of that, I came to the realization that no matter how long I put something off, I still had to deal with it eventually.  And not only that, but I would often have to deal with a LOT of things I put off…all at the same time.

Apathy does not allow us to neglect responsibility: We’re gonna have to deal with it at some point, usually when we’re too tired to deal with it (but have to, like laundry on the bed), or because we’re up against a deadline, (like when our rent is due but we put off buying stamps which we need to mail the damn check in)!

Not only that, but we also are adding the extra mental stress of having that thing having over our head: When we have to walk past the sink full of dishes, look at the half-finished paper that needs to be finished, or see the laundry that needs to be folded, we mentally take on the weight of those things!

No joke, I think I’ve had to file for an extension to file my taxes each of the past four years – not because I was sooooo busy with life (that’s a lie), but because I continually pushed them off until it was too late, making extra work for myself in the process.  In this Simpsons clip, I am definitely Homer, not Ned (“I have a to-do pile!??!?!”). 

Here are some other things that I would put off, only to have to deal with them later or get screwed because I ran out of time:

  • Dumping laundry on my bed to fold later – The same goes for sheets…is there anything worse than wanting to go to bed and then remembering that you still have to put sheets on the bed?
  • Not working out when I’m full of energy, saying “I’ll do it later.”  Suddenly, it’s 11 o’clock and I haven’t worked out yet – then I have to work out at home or not at all, because the gym is already closed.  Damn!
  • Not writing a Nerd Fitness article during the day because there are more fun things online (Twitter! Facebook! This!), and soon it’s midnight and I have to write an article due the next day…Sorry, team Nerd Fitness, I’m definitely getting much better!

The challenge


Over the past few weeks, I’ve taken steps to level up my life.

I want you to level up with me.

Take the “Do It Now” challenge.

Stop making extra work for yourself – just remind yourself to freaking DO IT NOW, which accomplishes three crucial things:

  • Less work – Why do more when you can do less and get the same results?
  • It gets done – It’s gonna have to happen eventually, why not now?
  • Less mental stress – Every day spent procrastinating is another day spent worrying about that thing. Do it now, and move on with your life!

When faced with a task, you have a split-second to decide to “Do It Now” rather than put it off til later.  The second you start to waver, it becomes easier and easier to rationalize the lazy behavior.

  • If you are going to work out today – do it immediately upon waking up.  Certainly do it before you sit down on the couch to watch TV after work.  If you wait ’til the end of the day, you’ll be out of willpower and you’ll put it off til tomorrow.  Get off your ass and  go do it now! Like, right now. It only takes 20 minutes.  If you can’t get yourself to believe in 20 minutes, just drop and do 5 push ups. Go for a five minute walk.  The important part is getting started, so put on that hard hat and GO TO WORK!
  • If you’re going to cook meals for this week, cook them all on Sunday.  Get everything done ahead of time, so you don’t have excuses when work gets busy and you get to use the lame “oops, forgot to cook, off to McDonalds!” Excuse. You’re better than that!
  • If you spend all day in your email inbox, stop making more work for yourself.  Read, respond immediately, or archive.   I cover  email productivity in my Guide to Productivity (big props to Jared from AwayFind for the email tips). I guarantee that this one trick alone will save you hours a week.
  • Do the dishes immediately after dinner, or start cleaning while you’re cooking the rest of the meal – put them right to the dishwasher or wash them right away.  When your laundry is done, fold and put away immediately.  If you have mail, open it and deal with it posthaste 🙂

How to follow through


Yes, I know, easier said than done – we are stubborn creatures of habit, and making these changes can be difficult.  However, change is certainly not impossible.  Here are some tips to make sure you actually follow through with your goals:

  • Reinforce “Do it Now” CONSTANTLY.  I have my post-it notes above my laptop to remind me to just do the damn thing now.  Set a reminder on your calendar to ping you twice a day that just says “Do It Now.”  If you are not constantly reminded up front, you’ll forget and slip right back into old habits.
  • Make it a focal point for the next 30 days.  Don’t try to change anything else while you try “Do it Now.”
  • Make yourself accountable – Put out a ‘lazy’ jar.  Every time you catch yourself putting something off that you should do now, add 5 bucks to the jar (this money gets donated to a charitable cause…or if you’re maniacal, the political party that you oppose).  Conversely, every time you do something now that you would normally put off, give yourself a check mark in a google doc or on a piece of paper!  50 check marks = new pair of pants, video game, or a trip to space  (budget dependent).
  • Make others make you accountable.  Recruit your housemates, significant other, or children.  Ask them to call you out when you’re slacking.  It’ll be a fun game for them to call you out guilt free, and it will make you take personal responsibility for your actions.

Are you with me?  

 Do you have a funny tale that ends with “I can’t believe I was that lazy?”  

What steps are you going to take to make sure that doesn’t happen again?

Leave a comment – I’d love to hear it!


PS: Greetings from Florianopolis, Brazil…one of the most beautiful places in the world, full of quite possibly the most beautiful people in the world.  I’m here for just a few days, recovering from the chaotic adventures during Carnival in Rio De Janeiro. It was by far the biggest and craziest party I’ve ever attended.  Tchau!


photo source: pigpen, field, evolution, lightbulb, long road

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  • Ceolwulf

    Sooo … what you’re telling me is this.

    I’ve been procrastinating because I’m lazy.

    But procrastination always ends up causing additional work (more actions). And since laziness is the avoidance of work,

    In order to facilitate and optimize my laziness, I must never procrastinate.

    This way of thinking has potential!

  • Hahaha, your story from a few weeks back sounds exactly like my daily life. 

    Want to throw food away. Thrash is full. Need a smoothie. Have to find a blender jar somewhere in the appartment, then wash it. Going to bed. Sheets are still in the dryer.

  • Great post. If you don’t have time to do it now, how will you ever find time to do it later?

  • This one really hits home! My friends and I were going to start a personal 6 week challenge on Sunday, but I guess I should just DO IT NOW! 🙂

  • This has been a revelation for me too, but mostly in regard to EMAIL. I HATE email, every day it adds up, and when it’s important I often leave it until later so I can invest a lot of time and respond… and then I don’t respond.

    I found this technique somewhere (not sure where) and it has pretty much revolutionized my email life haha. Dealing with it just once.  Doesn’t Leo also mention some kind of software that will blow up your emails if you don’t answer them then and there?

  • Andrew

    Stolen from Athena a few weeks ago, but now on my white board:


    Completely fail though, I currently have both blender cups in my sink “soaking”

  • I had to learn this the hard way.

    In a Military Academy :pBut it has paid off a thousandfold in my life.

  • Eridian

    I used to be very adamant about doing these kinds of things until I got married. Now I’m conflicted between a clean house or picking up after my husband. Lame. No more excuses! I’m going to go back to that “do it now” attitude! I want a sparkly house again.

    As for pathetic stories, I actually had one point where I had not cleaned up the house or made a meal and had to scramble between classes. Instead of something healthy on real dishes….I ended up with a Pop Tart on a pot lid. Yup. Just that fancy.

    The house was cleaned immediately that night.

  • Rosita

    Definitely fallen asleep in a pile of laundry before, sans sheet or pillowcase (I’m sure they were in the pile somewhere – does that count?) and surrounded by laundry baskets that are full of other things to be taken care of “later”. Some days my room gets so clogged up with half stalled projects that I have to jump, climb or scramble over obstacles to even get to my mattress.

    Sometimes I look at myself in third person and wonder how I’ve made it this far in life. I’m scared to let someone visit (or see my car, eek) for fear they would think I’m nuts. On the bright side, I have a very understanding roommate. Bet she would totally help me out with accountability, especially if it means the place looks nicer. Thanks, as always, for the rockin’ insight and action plan!

  • Joshua

    This will be really corny, but 3 other words you need to tell yourself daily: “I love you”

  • Joshua

    With one exception. Never put off until tomorrow what can be avoided altogether. 

    What I mean by that is when you procrastinate something, try to figure out if it is something you never intend to do at all. If so, face that fact and communicate it to anybody who might think you were serious about “later”. 

  • BARZ

    Love Brett’s site! Great article. 

  • My natural way of moving through the day is, in fact, ‘do it now’. Except when I’m so tired I’m just about to drop where I stand (happens frequently). And there’s the other thing, where my husband is a moving maximal entropy zone. My house will be clean and organised – and he’ll spend five minutes in the kitchen and I’ll spend half an hour the following morning straightening it up enough so I can make myself breakfast.

    We’re working on it. SLOOOOWLY.

    … and sometimes, things really do need to soak.

  • Steve – I can definitely realte to this and it applies to the little things as well as the big things.  We’re off to embark on our round the world trip in less than a month – something we never thought we’d do.  However, we’re taking the “do it now” mentality and it’s happening!  Another three words that helped us is, “It’ll be ok”.  I just wrote a post about that… we just need to have faith in ourselves and our future!

  • Gretchenamorris

    I learned this over 20 years ago – it is always good to be reminded – it is too easy to slip back out of this even when you do it for a long time – thank you!

  • ericstarker

    I’ll read this article later.  🙂

  • Haha, Steve, I am just like you! But I’ve also become WAY more organized in the last year. Don’t think I’ll ever be an instant-neatener-upper but I am way better than I used to be.

  • Laces High

    Are you sub-letting my brains?? I was JUST, in the last two weeks, making myself “Do it now!” Well-written, funny, and with uncanny timing as usual, Steve. Very well played.

  • Trevor B.

    Great post Steve! My wife and I suffer from laundry on the bed syndrome. Hopefully this will inspire us to DO IT NOW!

  • Artinum

    Getting things done right away often makes them easier. It’s much, much easier to get the washing up done sooner rather than later when everything gets dried on. I’m the only person at work that seems to wash up their mug after a hot drink rather than before. This proved particularly unpleasant for one colleague, who left her mug out and then ended up on extended sick leave for about six months. She came back to find her mug had turned green.

  • Sinuosette

    This article (and video) looks very close to what I used to do up to a few weeks ago: 
    the apartment the boyfriend and I share was a mess, cause we kept postponing everything.

    A couple of weeks ago, I cleaned the apartment thoroughly and I told him that from that moment onward, we would both have to keep it that way as it was going to be easier. It’s true and it worked!

    No more dishes in the sink, clean floors, boring paperwork taken care of and so on 😀

  • Pingback: Zen Habit 1: Stop Procrastinating (AKA Do It Now!) « Breath by Breath()

  • Paul

    This makes some sense, but there are always things to be done. If you have this mentality constantly, you’ll be frazzled from doing chores all the time.

  • L. T.

    My husband hates this about me. I often think, “Why didn’t I just do it to begin with?” But that doesn’t occur to me until he’s pissed about my laziness. Most recently, I brought the recycling bin from the curb to the front door and left it, rather than walking the extra 10 feet to put it on the side if the house where it belongs. Got the silent treatment for an entire day over that.

  • JoRocka

    I totally sleep in my laundry- daily.  But I’m usually okay with it- it’s like body pillow- I like the conforting affect of not being completely alone in a huge bed.
    That being said- when my BF is there- he HATES it- he puts everything on the chair- or worse it gets kicked to the floor.   now I have laundry laying around everywhere and no time to clean. It’s tragic.

    I really try with the dishes- but laundry- projects- paperwork- not so much.


    so here’s to trying to be “on time”  AND more “do it NOW!!!!” now- if only I could get my roommate on board with that- he’s like the epitome of lazy (school and full time job at night…. but I balance full time job- part time job- full time hobby/off schedule bf)… seriously- he’s so lazy- all the forks and tupper wares disappear because he takes them upstairs to eat and never brings them down!!!

    Do it… DO IT NAAAAAOoooooooooooooo

  • Affliction Reckoning

    For anyone battling this, as I am currently, check out HabitRPG. It still has a few kinks to work out but it is pretty awesome. Similar to Fitocracy!

  • ang

    I started to read this post, thought it was awesome and totally written for me….then decided to read the rest later. So now I KNOW it was written for me!!

  • Linkovich

    Those darn husbands should come with a “pick up after yourself” setting!  🙂  It normally does take a pop tart on a pot lid to light the fuse, but it feels so good once everything is sparkling again!  I had the terrible idea once to place dishes under the sink in a “dish box”.  The idea was to clean them once the pot was full, but of course out of sight, out of mind.  I was humiliated when someone came around and caught sight of this full and probably stinking “dish box”.  🙁

  • Brandon Scriver

    Thanks for the kick in the pants, and I love the clarification about actually having to do more work in the long run.

  • catherine marshall

    Another great tool is “Everything has a Home.” I’m currently in the process of getting my bf on board with this. I’m possibly a little OCD (maybe without the D) and I need everything to be organized.
    So I decide where something lives, and I always put it back there. (Coats live on the coat rack, current book lives on the nightstand/in my purse, phone lives on corner of desk/in purse, cups live on coasters, keys & wallet live in purse…..)
    I never lose anything and I never have clutter. It’s very efficient.

    Also, I am SO jealous that you have a dishwasher!

  • O.M.G. My Christmas Tree is sitting unassembled on the front porch with the box right beside it since 12/26 ;-/

  • I am so happy I came across this site. I found it about 2 weeks ago, read through some posts and became intrigued. Then I signed up and received more information, toured around the site a bit and became inspired. I was at a bit of a low, not doing well with school, not motivated and unhappy… very unhappy… and then BAM! Here I found the exact cure I needed: the encouragement and inspiration to reach my full potential. I purchased the rebel fitness guide and started this lifestyle change. I’m tired of feeling sorry for myself, of trying to hide myself away. No more of this”I’ll do it tomorrow” nonsense for me. Thank you so much Steve for being the Gandalf I needed and for providing the inspiration! Now to tackle that pile of laundry that’s been in the basket forever!

  • Joshua

    Any other Og Mandino fans? This made me think of scroll IX “My dreams are worthless, my plans are dust, my goals are impossible. All are of no value unless they are followed by action. I will act now.” and “This is the time. This is the place. I am the person. I will act now.”

  • Mara

    I was so meant to read this article today!…I have a pile of dishes, laundry that needs to be folded, a pile of mail, tons of clothing on the kitchen table, a suit case still full with clothes (from a week ago), a full inbox…..horrible! 

  • Patrick

    I spent all of high school and undergrad putting off writing papers, and studying.  Putting off my work caused me to live under extreme stress because I knew in the back of my head these things would need to eventually be done, and the longer I waited the harder they would be to do and the less successful I would be at doing them because of the time constraints/deadlines. 

    I’m not sure when it happened but sometime between graduating from undergrad and going to grad school “Do It Now” kicked in big time.  I would do my homework as soon as i got home from class, and spend all week studying for tests instead of cramming.  I had little stress through much of graduate school and earned the best grades of my life, all because of “Do It Now.”

  • WalkerSister

    I can really relate to this article. I arrive home and throw my coat on the bed, so when it’s time for bed I have to hang it anyway… or throw it somewhere else. I’m an expert kitchenware soaker and unfolded laundry tower builder, and it’s definitely a waste of time. But it’s a bad habit that I’m overcoming little by little. For example, a year ago I would consider that I had done the laundry when I’d hung out the clothes to dry (I don’t have a tumbledryer), but now I don’t cross it off my to-do list unless the dry clothes are folded and stored too.

  • JG

    Haha it’s great when you link to other sites, AoM and NF have long been my favourite sites to learn from. It’s like the awesome corner of the internet, and you all know and acknowledge each other. Cheers!

  • Sascha Coursen

    Too funny! Just yesterday I chose “things I am procrastinating on” as my journaling topic… and came up with over 60 DIFFERENT responses to it. This is definitely a sign…

  • Julie

    I recently read, in a book by John Maxwell, the suggestion to say “Do it now” fifty times to yourself before going to sleep at night and then fifty times when you first wake up. Do this for six months to help reprogram your mind.

  • Pallas Athena

    Lazarus Long, a character in several of Robert Heinlein’s sci-fi books, said (paraphrased): “In order to be truly efficient you have to be truly lazy.” A truly lazy person doesn’t want to deal with anything more than once or think about it for a second longer than necessary. (Side note: it’s amazing to me how often people have reacted by being offended when I’ve mentioned that quote. The idea that someone who is lazy could be efficient seems to be annoying to some. Personally, I love the quote. It’s helped improve my efficiency many times.)

  • Amplifytoday

    The “Do it now” mantra can also be found in Success through a Positive Mental Attitude by WS Clement and Napoleon Hill. Great book and 3/4 of way through it. I’ve just started to develop this same habit…challenging especially when I’m tired. But I have some success already. Just need to with it. The trick is to be quick and act as soon as you say “do it now!”.


  • Emma Jane

    Hahaha, soooo sending this to my boyfriend!!! 

  • When I lived in San Diego, my brother and I got a real christmas tree because we couldn’t make it home to Cape Cod for Xmas.  The tree stayed in our apartment until FEBRUARY.  It was a real tree!

    So, don’t feel TOO bad.

  • “All you have to do is decide what to do with the pile of laundry that is given you.” Wait, that’s not the quote…

  • Just do one thing. Then tomorrow, pick another one!

  • Xfire06

    I just want to pick on the video. Changing how you live at home does not guarantee getting a job. That was the biggest logical fallacy I’ve seen in a long time, and it’s a bit insulting. The only way “Do it now” could help me get a job is if I followed “Do it now” when I thought about killing someone so their job position was now open.

  • Xifre06

    Realized that can be misunderstood as me saying I didn’t like the article. I loved the article, I just didn’t like the movie.

  • Becky

    I’m very good at the “do it later part”.
    Mostly it turns into “do it never, until I really have to”.
    I’m very good at moving problems around. Most noticably laundry and dishes.

    Dishes? I’ll just restack them instead of putting them in the dishwasher, I’M STANDING RIGHT IN FRONT OF. But there’s clean dishes in the dishwasher. Still every morning I’ll fish out a clean bowl instead of putting all the dishes away.
    Just yesterday I had to tell myself if I wouldn’t put the dishwasher on TODAY I wouldn’t have a clean bowl the following morning.

    Laundry is likely even worse, because my washing machine is broken and I don’t have money for a replacement yet, my mom is doing my laundry. Meaning the ONLY thing I need to do is PUT IT AWAY. But it just gets dumped on a table in my room for days.

    I really could use a great DO IT NOW reminder. But I have reminders to go do stuff and I just ignore those. I have an exercise reminder, and even a dinner reminder…
    It’s not really working out for me just yet.

  • Damn, it sounds soooo familiar..

  • D_chelyst

    I LOL’ed when I saw the pic, then immediately got a piece of scrap paper and copied it because I needed to have this visual…it’s hanging on my fridge.  Even my DH got a laugh 🙂

    On a less fun note, it’s this whole chart/”Do it now” business that made me stay at my teaching job until 8:45 PM tonight to get things done.  But at least my desk is less cluttered, papers are copied, tests are graded, lesson plans are in the books, and the bulletin board is finally up.  Sucks to be absent for 2 days!