I’d love my clients to think I have a super-human ability to get down to work and churn out amazing copy.
However, the truth my students need to know is that I absolutely do not have that super-human ability, and I often find it just as hard to get focused and sit down to work as anyone.
And because I know I face this challenge—and because I get the questions about it from students all the time—I’m on a regular quest to find ways to overcome procrastination and lock in motivation.
But you know what I’ve recently discovered? Motivation doesn’t work. Or, as coach and speaker Mel Robbins says, “Motivation is complete garbage.”
I’d been hearing about Mel Robbins’ work for a while, but when I stumbled across her book The 5 Second Rule and its bevy of five-star Amazon reviews, I was intrigued.
To be honest, though, I almost didn’t buy her book. I mean, her premise is simple: when you’re facing something you don’t want to do, count down, five, four, three, two, one and then move.
“Meh,” I thought, “I get it. I’m not impressed.” After all, Mel herself calls the premise “silly” (because it’s so simple). But one day the book was on sale on Amazon, I bought it…and I’m infinitely glad I did.
Why the 5 Second Rule Works for Me
See, the tactic itself is absurdly simple—which is part of what makes it so powerful. But what’s more powerful is that it makes you work around the things that hold you back.
As Mel Robbins says, “You can’t control how you feel. But you can always choose how you act.” The reason we don’t take action, even though we really, really know we should is that we don’t feel like doing something. We know we should get started, but we hesitate. And that hesitation turns into procrastination and maybe even putting something off forever.
“Hesitation is the kiss of death,” Robbins says. “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.”
Using that countdown “Five, four, three, two, one, GO!” and then taking action disrupts that hesitation. You don’t try to change your feelings; you stop them from making your decisions for you.
When you think about anything that you know you should do but that requires any amount of extra effort for more than five seconds, it’s highly likely that your emotions will take over and stop you from doing it.
Or even if you’re able to overcome your emotions every once in a while, it takes such an extraordinary amount of willpower—of which you have a limited amount every day—that it wipes you out from doing anything else that requires a little effort. (Things like eating healthily, making a phone call that you don’t want to make, moving on from one project and then starting another…)
The 5 Second Rule is a tool for overcoming all of this—the emotional decision, the willpower overload, the beating yourself up for not doing what you need to do. Five, four, three, two, one—then move. It really is that simple, and it really is effective.
Test Several Tactics to Find What Works for You
Clearly, I’m a major evangelist and I highly recommend you read the book for yourself and test out this tactic. It works for me—and it may just work for you, too!
But when it comes down to it, the key to beating procrastination is to find what works for you. That may mean the 5 second rule works, but more likely it will require experimentation with several different tactics.
For example, one Comprehensive Copywriting Academy student, Kate K, finds the Pomodoro Technique extremely helpful. Learn how she uses it to get work done >>
There are also tactics like ultra scheduling, which involves looking at your to-do list and block off your calendar with chunks of time to get each item done.
You may even find you need to combine several tactics. Here are some ideas for those who work from home, for instance.
Or you may find you switch tactics based on a certain day, or even phase of your life. What works for months, or even years, may suddenly stop working.
When you are staring at your screen or otherwise struggling to take action, this is a signal you may want to reevaluate the tactics you’re using to get work done. It may be time to experiment with a new tactic for a week or two!
So, whether it’s the 5 second rule or another tactic or a combination, try it all out and find what helps you get working.
Have you tried The 5 Second Rule? Has it worked for you? What other tactics do you use to get down to business? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on October 4, 2023