The Women in Medicine Badass Radioshow

Episode #48: How Counting Down Can Help Eradicate Procrastination

Show Notes:

Ladies, welcome back to this week’s episode on procrastination and we’re going to have a bit of fun with this one. 

If you’re someone who struggles with procrastination, you already know that thinking about tasks you’re not to enthralled with is a buzz kill. And typically when we talk about how to overcome procrastination, many of the tips and strategies are likely things you’ve already heard of or thought of but they aren’t helping you move the needle. 

So today we’re going to apply some pressure and get things bubbling again and I encourage you to think of something you’ve been procrastinating on that you’d really love to complete and play around with this. See if you can move the needle on this by using what I’m about to share with you. 

In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, there is a technique called the 5 Minutes Takeoff. This is for people who have a hard time getting started on a task because they think it will be too hard, take too long, or absolutely suck. There’s no motivation. You’d much rather do anything else. And not too infrequently, my clients tell me how they organize their desks or office. So if you’re anything like my clients, you likely have a super organized work environment by now. It’s time to face your demons.

Here’s how we’re going to do it. Rather than think about completing this monster of a task that you’ve been putting off, I want you to take a timer and launch into the task for just 5 minutes. Anyone can do anything for 5 minutes, right? 

I used to have a colleague who hated washing dishes. She’d use the 5 Minutes Takeoff. After dinner, she’d put on a timer for 5 minutes. And you know what happened? Most evenings she’d finish the dishes within those 5 minutes. And when there were tons of dishes and she needed more time, she would feel motivated to just keep going a bit longer to finish up. 

You see, the trouble for most people is getting started. This technique removes the barrier of starting because you are limiting the time you have to work on a task you don’t love and you’re essentially giving yourself permission to quit after 5 minutes. If you get into the task, which sometimes happens, and want to keep going, that’s up to you. The point is to jumpstart the task. 

In this approach, we are taking the pressure off. 

But now I’d like to share with you another way you can use a timer for those tasks that perhaps are taking you a lot longer than you know they should. Let’s say you’re supposed to write an article and it would normally take 30 minutes but it takes you an hour because you’re distracted or filled with negative self-talk. 

Set a timer for 30 minutes and force yourself to get it done by the time the alarm goes off. This helps your brain be laser focused. You end up saving time in the process and getting some of your time back. Who doesn’t want that, right?

And finally, let me share with you what author Mel Robbins coined as The 5 Second Rule. According to science, it takes your brain 5 seconds to kill an idea if you don’t jump on it. What Mel does is she has something in mind that she’s hesitant to do. Then she counts down from 5 to 1 and when she gets to 1, she catapults herself into the task. This way, she knows she’ll at least start it before her brain steers her away. 

This is how she talks about it in her book of the same name: 

The 5-second rule is simple. If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it. …. Hesitation is the kiss of death. You might hesitate for a just nanosecond, but that’s all it takes. That one small hesitation triggers a mental system that’s designed to stop you. And it happens in less than—you guessed it—five seconds.

So there you have it. Three ways you can use a countdown timer to help you jump start tasks and get them done more quickly. No more excuses. No more procrastination. It’s time to move beyond those stuck points and at the very least, dip your toe in the water. The task is not a shark. It won’t bite. Give it a shot. You’ll be glad you did when you no longer have to carry around the guilt for being behind but instead can feel proud of yourself for being able to tackle anything. It’s as simple as 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

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