One Trick To Stop Procrastinating And Start Doing, In 5 Minutes A Day

Part III of a 4-part series on: Procrastination

If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done. —Bruce Lee

Previously in this series we looked at how our choice of words can affect our attitude towards taking action, as well as how to fight procrastination using our timing as a secret weapon.

Today we take the approach of building a daily habit.

Thinking about a task, postponing a task, delaying a task will obviously not get it done. We know that.

A good question to ask the next time you push something away is: “If not now, when?”

Pay attention to your answer …and the excuses.

…when I’ve done everything else on the list
…when I have more time
…when I have more energy
…when I’m commitment-free
…when I’m more prepared

What is the likelihood any of these circumstances will ever be the case? As my late Grandmother would say, “Two chances: Slim and None, and Slim left town!”

The circumstances will never be perfect. So let’s stop waiting for Godot and get in gear instead, by establishing a daily habit.

A helpful tool is the humble timer.
A helpful trick is the do-ability of five minutes.

It’s the entirety of a task that’s overwhelming. But if we limit our time, even restrict it, to a small duration, a task will feel less threatening.

For example, maybe you’re resisting sorting out a pile of paperwork. You project all sorts of outcomes: It could take hours. It will be tedious. I might uncover something I neglected.

But if you were only allowed five minutes, wouldn’t that feel manageable? Perhaps not great, but at least tolerable.

Starting small, taking regular action on things we avoid can help us gain daily traction, make the act of getting started more automatic and increase our tolerance.

From today, begin a new habit – the habit of little and often:

  1. Select any undesirable task or activity. It could be a different task each day, or perhaps stick with a meaty project you continually postpone. Choose a task you tend to put off ‘until later’ that never gets done.
  2. Pick a consistent time, preferably before midday, as we discussed in the previous post. You’ll want your peak energy on your side, as well as the satisfaction of making progress early in the day.
  3. Acknowledge your thoughts or feelings associated with the task, then ignore and proceed. This will help establish an ‘objective’ view of what you’re trying to avoid and act as a reminder that you won’t feel any differently ‘later’. Postponing is of little use and this will help solidify the habit of taking action regardless of how we feel.
  4. Set a timer for five minutes, no more, no less. Eventually increase the duration in increments, say fifteen minutes, then thirty, and so on. But give yourself ample time to establish the habit in the first place, then build from there.
  5. Don’t think, hesitate or prepare – Do! You may feel you need to get ready to get ready. Or it may be tempting to have a quick look at email or social media or clean out the refrigerator, but resist all temptations to do anything else other than this one task for the next five minutes.
  6. When time is up, honour the stopping point. This is extremely important. What we’re looking to do is build a trust with ourselves. Even if we feel like carrying on, we run the risk of overdoing it or going too far. We’ll associate a poor experience with the task and be inclined to dig our heels even more in future.

Your turn.

Stop procrastinating and start doing.

Your assignment is to tackle one dreaded task for five minutes today.

Be sure to rinse and repeat tomorrow, the next day, and the next…

Don’t focus on the task, focus on the traction you’ll gain and the satisfaction of getting things done.

What can you do for five minutes?

Watch this space for Part IV when we look at good ol’ mental trickery.

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