One very useful self-improvement technique is self deception: being able to lie to yourself. What if you could just tell yourself: “let’s just do this hard work, it’s going to take a couple of minutes”; when in reality it takes a few hours. This way you can actually get it started, which is the key to get it done.

Unfortunately, self deception is hard to master, because the mind-making-the-lie, and the mind-being-lied-to are one and the same.

I’ll give two practical examples and let you extrapolate from there.

The first one is the self deception cookie. When I prepare some food, I always make too much. And I know that I always make too much. But still, I make too much knowing that I’ll make too much. This is because at the time of making dinner, appetite has more bargaining power than rationality.

But there is a way out: instead of trying to convince yourself with rational arguments, there is a cheap way to trick the appetite. Just tell yourself:

I’ll downsize the food that I prepare. But in return, I’ll eat cookies as a desert (because I’ll have some appetite left).

And when the desert time comes, invariably, you have no appetite left, so you just don’t eat the cookies. Congratulations, you just deceived yourself !

Notice that the cookies (as the rubber duck) needs to be in your cupboard, ready to be eaten. Otherwise you wont believe that you can have cookies for desert, and the whole self-deception doesn’t work.

The second one is about setting up habits: when planning to do a task (one shot or periodically), commit yourself only to do the minimal version. For example: a jogging that is comfortably short, or a blog post that is not too long.

This way, when it is time to start the activity, which is a crucial moment, actually starting it is a bit easier. And it works because it is easier telling yourself you’ll write a 50-word blog post than telling yourself you’ll write the 339-word version (current size of this post).

So you start the task, get in the flow and then continuing is easy. Again, self-deception at work.

How to apply this principle in other situations is left as an exercise to the reader.