We've all been there: There's a super-important task that you know you need to start working on. It's just sitting there, staring you straight in the face.
But you just can't start now. You know how much time it will take to make any significant process--and it's much more time than you've got.
Sure, you could at least start on the task and get some of it done. In fact, if you had used all the little windows of time available over the past days (or weeks!), you might have been finished already.
"I'll be ready to start soon," you think to yourself. "Maybe tomorrow."
So you refresh your social-media timelines for the hundredth time today. Or you get lost in the warm and comforting seas of YouTube. If you're really feeling productive, you identify those small, easy tasks you can knock out quickly, helping to ease your guilt and provide a sense of accomplishment.
Except that your joy is short-lived. Soon you're faced with the horrible reality that there simply isn't enough time left--and whatever you manage putting together won't be nearly as good as you wanted it to be.
Not nearly as good as it should have been.
But it doesn't have to be that way.
In my new book, EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence, I introduce readers to a series of tools and methods that help make emotions work for you, instead of against you.
One of these is a simple five-minute trick that will give you the motivation you need, majorly increase your productivity, and help you do the best work of your life.
I call it "the trailer."
There's a reason Hollywood studios invented the movie trailer: While audiences may not be motivated to dedicate 90 minutes or more to watching a film they know nothing about, most are curious enough to watch a short trailer.
Similarly, by convincing your mind to engage in a five-minute trailer (or preview) of a large task, you can "trick" yourself into getting more done.
The trailer is another name for an old cognitive behavioral therapy trick known as the five-minute rule.
Here's how it works:
You force yourself to work on a task for just five minutes, with the understanding that you can quit after five minutes if you wish. Of course, more often than not, you'll be motivated to keep going.
The trailer works because getting started on a major task is often the hardest part.
"We're scared of the big, amorphous blob of a task precisely because it is so big and ill-defined, and because we worry that it will take two hours or two days to get to the bottom of it," explains psychologist Andrea Bonior in a post for Psychology Today.
But conquering the psychological barrier of getting started gets your energy and momentum flowing. Often, you won't want to stop after those five minutes. But if you do, you can--completely guilt free. After all, five minutes is "more work than you would have done otherwise--and often the hardest part of all," Bonior explains.
The trailer also helps you make the most of the time you have. Whereas previously you might have insisted on working on your task only when you have a huge 60- or 90-minute block of time (that, surprise, just never seems to appear), you discover that by taking advantage of all the five-, 10-, and 15-minute windows in your schedule, you can make significant progress.
Additionally, working on your task more frequently helps you to keep it on your mind, so that you're constantly tweaking it, refining it, making it better.
Now, instead of your final product being nowhere near what it should have been, you can be confident that it's the best version possible.
So, if you're struggling to find motivation to start a necessary task, repeat after me:
Just. Five. Minutes.