Timer designed by Simple Icons from the Noun Project

Timer designed by Simple Icons from the Noun Project

We tend to procrastinate at the start of a project either because of fear or uncertainty (or some combination of the two). In order to overcome the daunting or unclear start of any project, Andrea Bonior recommends we give ourselves a five-minutes rule for getting started. The catch is that you can’t work for more than five minutes. On Psychology Today Bonior writes:

You pick the task you want to work on, and you vow to work on it for five minutes, and five minutes only. Yes, you must stop after just five minutes….the biggest magic of the five-minute rule comes from the fact that often, for procrastinators, starting is 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….And—here is another reason why the rule is so great—it will make you much more likely to come back to that task when you try for another five minutes (or perhaps you allow yourself 10 or 20) in the next day or so.

How you spend those first five minutes doesn’t necessarily matter, it’s the ability to get into the work that you should be focused on. You could spend your five minutes outlining what you need to do or starting the grunt work. Five minutes, as Bonior explains, is enough time to get momentum going without feeling overwhelmed or stressed.

Breaking your tasks into small, five-minute chunks is a great way to start even the most daunting project. And because it’s only five minutes, you’ve got no real excuse not to at least try it out. Who doesn’t have five minutes to spend?

Read Bonior’s full exploration of the five-minute exercise for getting over procrastination on Psychology Today.

See also: Five Productivity Paralysis with the 2-Minute Rule

  • http://nathanambrose.com/ Nathan Ambrose

    It’s so true!

  • Tomas Pukalski

    My five minutes starts with pencil and post-it note, bulletpointing steps required. What is your way?

  • tee O

    this is great for some tasks, but for others that require set up or some sort of “lead time” or other kind of organization required before you can start the 5 minute, 5 minutes may not be worth the effort of the preparation. (at the risk of solving my own dilemma, perhaps committing to 5 min a day for 5 days and leave it set up, if you can, for the whole week….. it’s worth a try… i have a slew of UNDONE “to-do’s” that aren’t critical and just sit undone indefinitely! I will try the 5 min approach for some long standing writing I’ve been avoiding! Thanks for the tip!

  • James Eugene

    Good advise. Thanks

  • http://www.rachel-swann.com Rachel Swann

    If you are really struggling then I think the idea of 5 minutes is great but we all know that most tasks take longer than 5 minutes (unless it’s one of those small but boring ones). If the issue is that the quantity is an unknown ‘amorphous blob’ you can set yourself a limit of any amount of time, provided you agree with yourself that after that you will stop, reassess or take a break. Sometimes you just have to pin yourself down and get on with it.

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