One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted…Do it now.
Stop waiting. Start doing.
Ever experience that wave of panic after looking at your never-ending to-do list? You built up that project in your head to the point that it became so overwhelming that you put it off. And you kept putting it off.
Don’t beat yourself up. Even the most productive people struggle with procrastination, myself included.
Many of us associate procrastinating with laziness or incompetence, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. According to Mel Robbins, author of The 5-Second Rule, procrastination does not reflect your attitude or work ethic. It’s our brain’s coping mechanism for stress. In short, it’s not the task itself we are avoiding; it’s the stress that goes along with it. Our brains are wired for short-term satisfaction, and have a difficult time processing long-term gain – also known as the present bias.
The key is to “find a way to boost the subjective value of working now, relative to the value of other things. You could increase the value of the project, decrease the value of the distraction, or some combination of the two,” according to Dr Eliot T Berkman.
The good news is there is a quick fix – literally, five seconds – to overcome your procrastination habit, once and for all. Here’s how it works:
The first step is to accept you’re stressed. Simply admitting it to yourself activates the prefrontal cortex of your brain – the conscious part that manages your decision-making. Since many of our thoughts and behaviors are automatic and unconscious, this step is crucial because it puts you back in the driver’s seat.
“Owning this realization unleashes positive motivation — because deep down we know that things that are important shouldn’t always come easy,” according to Alicia and Thomas Crum’s article in Harvard Business Review.
The sad truth is that we hold ourselves back more often than we even realize. “Life comes down to five-second decisions,” Robbins says. Five seconds is how long it takes for you to doubt yourself and for your brain to work against you.
Now, count backwards: 5-4-3-2-1. This simple technique outsmarts your brain and moves you from a mindset of overthinking to a mindset of taking action. To put it simply, the 5-Second-Rule encourages you to just do it, as Nike would say.
This will take practice and patience at first. But the more you do it, the easier and more natural it will become.