The Time Limit Method

How much longer?

All we need to do on the first day is to postpone the first cigarette with an amount of time that feels comfortable to us and is not too easy. One minute or five, one hour or half an hour. Any amount of time that is not too long and not too short, for each of us as an individual. We can sit down on Sunday and plan the next week. We usually smoke the first cigarette at 08:00, so we adjust our schedule accordingly. We will use five minutes time limits in the example below:

Monday morning, we wait five minutes. Light up at 08:05.

Tuesday, day we double amount of time of waiting before we light up the first cigarette. So we wait ten minutes. Light up at 08:10.

Wednesday. we add 3x the amount of the initial waiting time, in this case 15 minutes. Light up at 08:15.

Thursday, we add 4x the amount of the initial waiting time, or 20 minutes. Light up at 08:20.

Friday we wait 20 minutes and not 25 because on we were out on Wednesday night and on Thursday morning our impulse control was disabled because of a slight hangover and we light up at 08:20.


Here is a more practical example with well-defined time units and limits of a person that wakes up at 07:00 on weekdays and smokes the first cigarette at 08:00 as he arrives at the office, we can all guess that this person is either fictional or used to be the author himself, let there be some mystery. He makes a time limit plan to cover five workdays and two weekend days. He adds ten minutes of waiting time for every passing weekday and stops adding time on the weekend:

Monday: Wake up at 07:00, arrive at work at 08:00 and light up at 08:10.

Tuesday: Wake up at 07:00, arrive at work at 08:00 and light up at 08:20.

Wednesday: Wake up at 07:00, arrive at work at 08:00 and light up at 08:30.

Thursday: Wake up at 07:00, arrive at work at 08:00 and light up at 08:40.

Friday: Wake up at 07:00, arrive at work at 08:00 and light up at 08:50.

Saturday: Wake up at 09:00 and light up in bed.

Sunday: Wake up at 08:00 because the sun is especially shiny. Drink four double espressos and lights up at 08:48.


We can see that we have been practicing non-smoking for the first ten minutes of five days and the habit of not smoking between 08:00 and 08:10 is ingrained in the brain. We have practiced non-smoking for the first 20 minutes of four days. We will have had at least one, preferably a few, craving episodes without giving in to the urge in the course of five days. On Saturday and Sunday, most of us sleep in and the time limit will be covered by sleeping in. If we do wake up before the time limit is up, we need to consult our plan that we made the previous Sunday evening on how to proceed. We see that we made great successes during the weekday, we made some gains on Saturday and caved in on Sunday. Over the course of one week we have changed our smoking habit and moved it 48 minutes in time. We can be sure that we can abstain from smoking for the first ten minutes of any given day because we have been practicing this for seven uninterrupted days.

Ten minutes might not seem like a lot of time. Ten minutes every morning add up and move us away from the smoking habit towards the non-smoking habit. Every minute of non-smoking is a victory.

We sit down on Sunday evening and make plans for the next week. We consult our intellect and our emotions and make plans accordingly. The next week we may pick up at the 50 minutes mark and add ten minutes for each passing day.


Monday: Wake up at 07:00 and light up at 08:50.

Tuesday: Wake up at 07:00 and light up at 09:00.

Wednesday: Wake up at 07:00 and light up at 09:10.

Thursday: Wake up at 07:00 and light up at 09:20.

Friday: Wake up at 07:00 and light up at 08:30 because we are still humans and it is human to err. The will to abstain was just not there this day and this is to be expected from time to time.

Saturday: Wake up at 08:00 and light up at 09:30.

Sunday: Wake up at 10:00 and light up in bed because we’ve earned it.


We notice that on Friday morning something didn’t go as planned and we didn’t reach the time limit. We also notice, after the initial shock of “the relapse” has passed, that we didn’t fall back to the old habit of smoking at 08:00, we fell back to the new habit we have been practicing, smoking at 08:30. We picked up our progress and exceeded it on the very next day when we didn’t smoke until 09:30. Our falling short of our goal has proven to us that we have in fact made progress. This “failure” contrasts to us the real success we have made. Within two weeks we have progressed to the hour and a half mark and we have had a couple of failures and successfully weathered out a few intense craving episodes without giving in. We have been succeeding. Within four weeks we will have expanded the time limit to three hours. Within four weeks of not quitting cold turkey or torturing ourselves, through slow and steady change, we have managed to become non-smokers for the first three hours of every day. We can feel the difference and we can feel how we have moved along the scale from heavy smoking towards non-smoking.

We have not been disrupting our daily lives, our loved ones and friends have not experienced angry outbursts of withdrawal-induced rage. We have changed ourselves slowly and peacefully. The monkey is calm and it is becoming tamer for every passing day. We are slowly making progress from hardcore smoking towards non-smoking. We are moving towards freedom.

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