We have all done it -- hit the snooze button a few more times than necessary on a big day. The reluctance to face new challenges, make a phone call or finish a major project has affected us all at some point in life. However, habitual procrastination can create limitations for entrepreneurs, who underestimate the importance of taking action immediately.
Procrastination can easily become a habit. In the early stages of building my own company years ago, I used to procrastinate due to the fear of rejection. As I prepared my action list the day prior, on the day of implementation, I would find ways to negate the significance of taking action on the difficult tasks, simply due to fear.
However, the alarm would go off again the next day and the task still needed to be done. The losses due to inactivity began to add up, so I made some major decisions.
Delaying the action does not make it any easier. In fact, the worry and stress compounds the longer you debate the task. In addition, there are haunting reminders of the tasks that need to be done, including the negative self talk and sabotaging behaviors that follow your own indecisiveness.
Building a company takes resilience and requires the elimination of procrastination. Mel Robbins, the leading expert in "kicking" the habit of procrastination, and bestselling author of The 5 Second Rule, gave me some sound advice on overcoming the habit of doubt by using her simple technique to conquer each day.
Mel Robbins is one of the world's most requested speakers. Her TEDx Talk has been viewed over 12 million times and she is one of the most popular on-air commentators for CNN. I initially met Mel many years ago as a guest on her syndicated radio show and her honest, no-holds-bars approach to business led me to following her career ever since.
Robbins' book provides a unique approach to eliminating procrastination by counting down to hold you accountable. Her research is backed by science and Mel often credits her discovery of the method to watching a commercial about launching a rocket ship.
"The moment your instincts fire up but you feel yourself hesitate, that's when you use the '5 Second Rule.' You have five seconds. Start counting backward to yourself from five to one, then move," says Robbins. "If you don't move within five seconds, your brain will kill the idea and you'll talk yourself out of doing it."
Robbins makes it clear that the intent will lead to taking action. "Thinking about change won't change you," she says. "To change, you have to take action." She describes that counting backward from five will awaken the prefrontal cortex and allow you to move forward: "Five seconds at a time, your life will change."
Lastly, Robbins is a true believer that "motivation is garbage." As we began to explore the issue of success and how motivation impacts leaders, she clarified further:
"If you keep waiting to feel ready to start your business, ask for a raise, move your business or work to the next level; you name it, I can promise it's never going to happen. You'll never get there. Your feelings will hold you back."
Instead, Robbins recommends consistent action will keep you motivated the moment you feel the urge to hesitate.
Here are three things you can learn from the 5 Second Rule, which will increase your productivity and eliminate procrastination:
- You can only count backward starting at five. This action will give you an end point, which will hold you accountable to take action immediately. "You need to feel the fear and 5-4-3-2-1 do it anyway."
- Take action. Procrastination and delaying the inevitable are often habits that have grown over time. Successful leaders calculate their wins as a result of small victories each day. "Once you're moving, it's easier to keep moving," Robbins added.
- Be courageous. Procrastination is also a direct result of constant worry and negative self talk. Robbins says, "To improve anything, you have to find your courage to try."
I introduced my husband to the '5 Second Rule' a few months ago, after years of watching him press the snooze button each morning. Today, once the alarm goes off, I hear him make the countdown and launch into action, as a man who has never been a morning person. It only takes five seconds of daily self assessment to hold yourself accountable and take action.