New research shows how to stop procrastinating using this simple '5 Second Rule' 5 years ago

New research shows how to stop procrastinating using this simple '5 Second Rule'

We all struggle with it

It's far too easy to procrastinate now, because it's almost impossible to be bored. If you don't fancy doing the boring, important thing - an essay, some academic reading, domestic chores - there are countless other less important, more enjoyable things to do.


With YouTube, Netflix, social media and video games and an abundance of TV channels available to entertain us, it's so easy to ignore the pressing tasks and binge watch Peaky Blinders.

But deep down we all know that the important stuff has to be done, and it will be eventually, but begrudgingly and not to the best of our abilities. According to the book “The 5 Second Rule” by best-selling author and CNN reporter Mel Robbins, there is one simple rule that will help you conquer procrastination and become more productive.

No, not the food related rule, this 5 second rule refers to the initial moment you have an impulse to do something, like start that essay or whatever your day to day life requires, and states that you should act within the first five seconds of having that urge.

If you don't act immediately, the procrastination will kick in and you'll say 'fuck it, I'll do that later/tomorrow/never'.


By acting immediately, your brain will be less hindered by fears and doubts which therefore allows you to do the task more efficiently and to a better standard.

It sounds obvious and too simple, but there is science behind it: instinctive decisions, like diving into a pool to save a drowning child, are made using a certain part of the brain, known as the prefrontal cortex. This is an emotional decision, with no consideration for how deep the water might be due to our innate need to save this hypothetical child.

The emotional part of our brain isn't used when it comes to making most decisions though, we normally use the rational part of the brain when deciding how to tackle a problem. Bloody... rationale! This just causes more stress and leads to us performing tasks poorly due to the amount of indecision.

The 5 Second Rule trains our brain out of that pattern. That's not to say that if you start doing this, everything you do will be an irrational emotional decision, but gradually it will bring you out of the habit of overthinking daunting tasks.


It will be difficult to begin with, and the key to overcoming that hurdle is to remind yourself that Rome wasn't build in a day and a good essay wasn't written in an hour. Force yourself through the first obstacle and once you've got the ball rolling, whatever you've been putting off will become less stressful.

Some other tips to complement this rule:

  • Stop multitasking; focus on the task at hand.
  • Take baby steps; don't throw yourself in at the deep end.
  • Get away from distractions; if that means turning your phone off and leaving it in a different room, so be it.