Everyone at least occasionally puts things off. Everyone at least occasionally avoids doing things they need to do. Everyone, at some point, procrastinates.

And everyone who procrastinates hates the fact they procrastinate -- especially when they put off things they actually enjoy doing or, more likely, put off the things that matter most to their success.

Of course, that doesn't make sense. Finding ways to avoid starting the tasks that will make the most difference to your professional or personal life is, well, stupid.

And that's why it's so frustrating when we do.

So let's fix that -- once and for all.

Say you've been putting off pulling together a proposal for a potential client. Do what Instagram founder Kevin Systrom does, and make this deal with yourself. "If you don't want to do something," Systrom says, "make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of it. After five minutes, you'll end up doing the whole thing."

That's all you have to do. Commit to only doing five minutes. Just five minutes.

And what happens? Once you get started, you'll almost always end up finishing.

Why does that work? Research shows that people tend to procrastinate due to lack of motivation, lack of discipline, fear of failure, perfectionism, impulsiveness ... the list goes on.

But mostly we tend to procrastinate when a task seems hard -- when a task seems extremely difficult or we know it will take a long time to complete.

So we don't start, because all that time and effort just seems too daunting.

But five minutes? I can do anything for five minutes.

You can do anything for five minutes.

And once you get started, something magical happens. You realize that what you were afraid of starting isn't so scary after all. Maybe it's the endorphins kicking in. Maybe it's because your mental muscles have warmed up. Maybe it's because you feel proud that you can do something hard -- and do it well.

Wanting to put off a difficult task is normal. Avoiding a challenge is normal. I sometimes do. I'm sure you sometimes do too.

But I'm also sure you've put off a task, finally gotten started, and then once into it thought, "I don't know why I kept putting this off. It's going really well. And, jeez, it didn't turn out to be nearly as hard as I was thinking it would be."

And here's the thing: It never is.

So forget playing mind games or looking for external motivation or figuring out how you'll reward yourself for doing something hard. When you're struggling to get started, don't think about all the work involved.

Just commit to putting in five good minutes.

When that five minutes is up, you'll be engaged and involved, and all your hesitation will melt away. 

Sure, the first couple of minutes might be hard. But once you get started, it will all be downhill from there.

Published on: Jan 5, 2018
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