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  • Writer's pictureNancy Schmidt

5 Seconds to Stop Procrastinating

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

We have all been there. Staring at the one thing we know we should be doing, but busying ourselves with something else entirely different -- in my case, I clean the house. Yep, I am sometimes guilty of -- drumroll please -- procrastination. Aaaah - my secret is out! Luckily, I have learned techniques like the 5 second rule to avoid chronic procrastination. Don't get me wrong, procrastination still comes up for me from time to time but now I can recognize it quickly, use the 5 second rule, and get on with what I need to do. This strategy is so easy to use and it really does help. Read on if you are ready to stop procrastination in its tracks!

Now, it is completely normal to put things off sometime. The problem occurs when you keep putting things off that you need to do or would like to do. When you procrastinate you busy yourself with trivial tasks instead of the meaningful things on your to do list. Procrastination can become a bad habit that leads to missed deadlines, broken agreements, and not achieving goals you have set for yourself. It might even lead to more serious consequences like losing the trust of someone you admire or even losing your job.

Procrastination is often viewed as a reflection of ones' attitude or work ethic. However, if we look at it from the perspective of how the brain works, we get a much clearer picture. Mel Robbins, in her book The 5 Second Rule, explains that procrastination is a behavior that helps us cope with stress. We are hard wired to avoid stress, so when we are faced with a stressful task, we want to avoid the task and procrastinate. If we distract ourselves or focus on something else, we can temporarily relieve our stress. Basically, we aren't trying to avoid the task itself, but we are trying to avoid the stress associated with it.

There are times when we are faced with an emergency that requires immediate action. For example, if your child was about to run into the street, you would automatically spring into action and try to stop them. You don't have to take time to weigh the pros or cons, you just act. Our brain can quickly make decisions in emergency situations. In non-emergency situations, however, we have more time to think about the task. If we associate stress with the task, our brain can get short-circuited and may not be able to make a decision. So, in order to get out of the procrastination cycle, we need to somehow re-set our brain. We need a way to launch ourselves into action. How can we do this? This is where the 5 second rule comes into play.

Okay, are you ready? Here is the 5 second rule: If you start having a thought about acting on a goal, you need to act on it within 5 seconds. That's it! By moving yourself into action right away, you are pushing past any fears, doubts, or other emotions that your brain might activate that can lead to procrastination. It is as simple as that! For example, if you are trying to get an A in your college course, you know that you have to set aside time to study and work on assignments. You may already have the times all scheduled in your planner. When you look at your planner and see that you have to read a Chapter in your textbook, don't wait or think, just act. Start getting out your textbook, arranging for a place to sit, and start reading. You can even count down from 5 while doing this. It really works! If you wait too long, your brain may hijack your actions. You may start to let your feelings and emotions get in the way of getting your task done.

Once you start using this technique successfully, you will start to gain momentum towards achieving your goals. This momentum can keep you going from one task to another until you have accomplished what you set out to do. I know that the 5 second rule has worked for me and for many of my college students. Try it out and see how this simple strategy works for you too!



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