I don’t really like to admit it, but I have a bad habit of procrastinating.
If there’s something that I need to do that, for whatever reason, I don’t really want to do, I’m pretty good at distracting myself with other ‘important’ jobs.
This is a habit I’m trying to break though. I dread to think how much time I’ve wasted over the years procrastinating instead of just cracking on with the work that needs to be done.
If you’re like me and you want to break your habit of procrastinating, and start taking action and making changes in your life, then try this really simple trick.
The next time you have something to do, count backwards from 5 and then just DO IT.
Let’s say you need to make a phone call to book your smear test. This seems like something that most of us women have put off doing at one point or another right?
When you see the letter reminding you to book the appointment and think ‘I should book that now’, simply count down from 5 and when you get to 0 you grab the phone and dial.
Don’t give yourself enough time to come up with excuses as to why you shouldn’t do it right now.
It’s a really simple idea, but so effective in helping beat procrastination and stopping fear and excuses having time to take over and stop us from taking action.
I only came across this idea quite recently when I discovered the amazing Mel Robbins.
She’s written a whole book on it – the five second rule – that is well worth a look if you want to really get into the psychology behind this.
I watched an interview with her where she explained how powerful this rule has been for her, and so many other people since she started talking about it.
You can apply it to pretty much any area of your life.
Mel talks about how for her it started with forcing herself to get out of bed in the morning instead of hitting the snooze button on her alarm.
She had the thought that she would jump out of bed, then counted 5-4-3-2-1 and did it. Before she had a chance to think about it and give in to the thoughts of how much cosier it would be to just stay in bed.
We can use it is so many different situations though, and the principle is always the same.
The moment you have a thought about acting on a goal of any kind, count down from 5 and then take action. Any longer than that and you’ll start coming up with excuses and ways to procrastinate.
See the thing is, our brains are wired to protect us. They will do whatever they can to keep us safe. Which is lovely and all, but not all that useful when we end up reacting to ‘making a phone call’ as if it were a genuine threat to us.
If we’re not careful we analyse the situation far more than we need to. We convince ourselves of all sorts of reasons why it’s safer for us to not make that call. Or that now isn’t the perfect time to do it, because the children will surely interrupt us, or the washing needs to be put on the line and that’s more important right now.
The trick is to take action straight away, before we start thinking and then over-thinking.
Mel Robbins explains it like this:
“You have five seconds. Start counting backward to yourself from five to one, then move. If you don’t move within five seconds, your brain will kill the idea and you’ll talk yourself out of doing it.”
There is some fascinating psychology behind this that Mel goes into in more detail in her book and on her website. But the general idea is that taking action quickly like this wakes up the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the part of our brain that’s involved with things like decision making and working towards goals.
Firing up this part of our brains by taking action makes us feel more in control.
And when we feel that more parts of our lives are in our control then we’ll take more action again and again to get the things we want and achieve our goals.
The more you read into it the more complex it actually is.
But the beauty of it is that you don’t need to read more into it. You don’t have to understand why exactly this works. You just need to do it.
Count backwards from five, then GO.