The “First-Hour” Rule will help you tackle tough projects

You can listen to an audio version of this article here.

We all have tough projects we’d like to tackle, but we just can’t. It seems so big, we don’t know where to start. We’re full of fear even when we think about starting.

Making things is one big battle with the Pressfieldian Resistance. However, with a little Motivational Judo, you can lay The Resistance flat on its back. I call this move the First-Hour Rule.


With the First-Hour Rule, you commit to working on that tough project for the first hour of each day. When that hour is up, you stop if you want to. If you really want to keep going, you do.

There are two key mechanisms that make The First-Hour Rule work:

  • It’s a modest goal: It’s hard to start that big project because your brain hates work. The Resistance is so strong, it’s better to scan Facebook or watch Netflix, rather than fight it. But your Ego can’t fool itself into thinking it can’t work on that project for one measly hour.
  • It builds momentum: Every time you recoil from starting that project, you train yourself to feel negative about it. When you finish your goal of one hour, you feel good about yourself, and you feel better about that project. The work you’ve done carries over into your thoughts throughout the day. The project begins to take up more space in your mind.

Imagine you were thinking about getting a puppy. You could do a bunch of research on what breed you’re going to get, read some books on dog training, and brainstorm how you’d fit taking care of the puppy into your schedule and budget. You might never get the damn puppy.

But if someone just gave you a puppy, you’d be sprung into action. You’d just figure out how to fit it into your schedule, and train it. After all, the puppy is right there in front of you.

With the First-Hour Rule, you give yourself the puppy. Your project is no longer an imaginary fortress. It’s a living breathing thing that needs your care.


The First-Hour Rule takes some patience and breathing room. It might take a few weeks to catch on. You may find yourself fighting The Resistance just to work on your project for that one hour. You’ll feel relieved when your hour is up.

Just keep putting that one-hour block on your calendar, and keep congratulating yourself for finishing it.

Eventually, you’ll find yourself compelled to work on the project more. Thoughts about the project will bleed over into the rest of your day. Like a crack on a sidewalk that widens each winter, its presence will grow in your mind. You’ll look forward to tomorrow’s session, and start a virtuous cycle of positivity that will have you doing longer and longer sessions — though you’ve still only committed to that one hour.

You will overcome The Resistance, and complete your project.


On my podcast, Love Your Work, Timehop’s Jonathan Wegener talks about how he broke down his efforts to build an app with millions of users. Subscribe on iTunes.

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