Most of us know that the key to maintaining momentum with our goals is by overcoming procrastination.
Have you ever noticed how the smallest things can feel so difficult? I know I’m not alone on this. Without a doubt, we all have that one thing (or many things) that needs to get done, but we tend to procrastinate doing it. For me, it used to be a resistance to folding socks and doing the dishes. Now, I’m the kind of person that likes to check off the boxes and get stuff done, but, there was just something about folding socks that drove me bonkers. Don’t judge me LOL
Until I realized how little time those two tasks actually took me. I literally timed myself one day.
Those tasks took me less than two minutes.
Overcoming Procrastination in Less Than 2 Minutes
Personal growth is a form of change. Unfortunately, there is an unconscious, deeply rooted part of us that resists change.
Even if it’s a positive change.
This internal resistance can show up in a variety of ways, from feeling lazy, scared, complacent, doubtful and that overwhelming feeling of procrastination.
Here’s the deal…
Most of these things we procrastinate aren’t actually difficult to do (I mean, come on…folding socks? What was I thinking?) We just avoid getting started on them for some reason. Of course, the more time-consuming the activity is, the bigger resistance to starting it is created in the mind of the procrastinator.
How do you overcome?
The two minute rule
Relative to the size of the task, the 2 minute rule can be applied in two ways:
- The first way is to do short and easy tasks right away.
- The second way is applied to bigger projects that require added time and effort. And just start chipping away.
Originating from Newton’s first law of motion that states that objects in rest stay at rest and objects in motion stay in motion, the 2-minute rule in this case means finishing that bigger project 2 minutes at a time. Research shows that the way to start big projects is to break it down into as many small tasks as possible where completion will lead to an increase in motivation. For example, get dressed for a workout and lace up your shoes (2 minutes, check!) and you’ll be more likely to go to the gym, exercise and have more energy! Or sit down to write your grocery list and you’ll be more likely to go grocery shopping, meal prep and eat healthier.
Countdown from 5
But, getting started can be harder than it sounds – even if it’s just for two minutes. So, try this trick. The moment you have an instinct to act on something, count out loud: “5,4,3,2,1” and then physically move your body before your brain has a chance to stop you. The counting distracts you from your excuses and help you focus your mind on moving in a new direction. It interrupts your default thinking and becomes a “starting ritual” that activates your prefrontal cortex which will help you change your behavior.
Try it! I promise the 5 second countdown preceding the 2 minute rule will ignite something powerful if you just give it a try!
Procrastination Trigger: Feelings
You can probably name a handful of things you’re currently procrastinating. The truth is, overcoming procrastination is not necessarily going to be your cure-all. It’s about teaching yourself to anticipate your specific triggers and coming up with a plan in advance on how to get started without hesitation, such as the two-minute hack.
Common procrastination triggers are the fear of the unknown, distraction, lack of motivation and resistance to get started (doing the dishes). Big or small, every task comes with a certain level of resistance.
And one of the most common reasons why we procrastinate is that we want things to be perfect. Our feelings get in the way. Instead of focusing on getting started, we obsess about achieving perfect results and end up paralyzed.
According to neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio, our feelings decide for us 95% of the time. We FEEL before we think. We FEEL before we act. As Damasio explains, humans are “feeling machines that think,” not “thinking machines that feel.” Ultimately, our feelings have a strong influence on how we make decisions. You need to learn how to separate what you are feeling from the actions that you are taking.
The 5 second countdown to the 2 minute rule is a remarkable took in this regard. For example, the moment you don’t feel like meal prepping, you won’t. But if you countdown from five and tell yourself that you’ll just take 2 minutes on the task, you can untangle your feelings from your actions and get started.
Remember, set realistic expectations and strive for progress, not perfection.
Remember to Reinforce Your Habits
William H McRaven said it well in his book, “Make Your Bed,”
“Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room, and the first thing they would inspect was your bed. If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard, and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack.
It was a simple task, mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that we were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle-hardened SEALS, but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.
If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.
If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made-that you made-and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.
If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”
Overcoming Procrastination in a Simple, Yet Powerful Way
What is that one thing you have been procrastinating that might be holding you back from achieving your goals?
Are you paralyzed about food choices?
Does taking the time to stand there and fill up your water bottle hold you back from staying hydrated?
Does the latest episode on Netflix prevent you from getting enough sleep?
Whether you’re waiting for the “perfect time” to start exercising, eat better… or do the dishes, I encourage you to use these tools to help you overcome procrastination and attack your goals head on. Whatever it is that’s taunting you, hanging over your head, if it takes less than two minutes to get started, then do it now.
Knowing what you need to do is the easy part…pushing yourself to do it takes courage.
If you already started making positive changes, you’re likely learning a lot about your body and mind. Hopefully, these are changes that you can embrace and carry through with you for life. Ride that momentum and take the steps you need to feel confident and become a better, healthier version of you.
Let me know how it goes!