A Simple Strategy That Stops Procrastination and Turns You Into a Workhorse

Rich Habits

If you find value in these articles, please share them with your inner circle and encourage them to Sign Up for my Rich Habits Daily Tips/Articles. No one succeeds on their own. Thank You!

I’ve been “working” on a research article. This includes about 200 pages of research to read before I complete the article.

The truth is, I’ve been procrastinating.

For two weeks I’ve been been lugging this research around with me inside my car, rationalizing that lugging it around will act like an accountability partner, nagging me every day to get through the reading.

This morning, finally, I got fed up looking at my the reading material on the passenger seat of my car and decided to commit to just five minutes of reading that morning. Nearly two hours later, I had most of the reading done and was even able to start writing my article.

As human beings, we have a tendency to overestimate the difficulty and time commitment of challenging tasks. As a result, we procrastinate.

I knew this from my research, yet despite my knowledge, I still procrastinated. Once I realized what was going on, I immediately leaned on one of my favorite anti-procrastination tools. I’ve come to refer to it as the Baby Step Strategy.

This Baby Step Strategy really works in overcoming procrastination. It gives you permission to start small on any project, say five minutes, and then quit. The interesting thing is that every time I’ve used this strategy to get started on some project, I always go way beyond the five minutes.

Starting small is a powerful tool to overcome procrastination.

Why does it work?

It’s neurological. Once your prefrontal cortex gets going it’s hard to turn that engine off. Our brains, believe it or not, like challenging tasks. They like being used and especially like working on challenging projects.

So why do our brains fight us so often, forcing us to procrastinate?

Well, our brains are also lazy. It’s like having a Jekyll and Hyde living inside your skull. Part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, loves to work while another part of the brain, the Basal Ganglia, is obsessed with conserving brain fuel, or keeping our brains from going to work.

So, these two brain areas are constantly in a tug of war, competing with one another to get their way.

The Baby Step Strategy works because the Basal Ganglia is not threatened by five minutes of work – five minutes will does use up that much brain fuel. As a result, it does not fight us during those first five minutes and allows you to light the fuse, so to speak.

But once we get started, once you light that fuse, the prefrontal cortex, like a sleeping giant who has been awakened, overpowers the Basal Ganglia and takes over. This turns into a flow state that can last for hours at a time, or until your willpower reserves run dry.

We have about 2-4 hours of willpower reserves, depending on the amount of glycogen (stored glucose) you have.

So, baby step any project you’ve been procrastinating on.  Five minutes is all you need. After that five minutes, you will awaken the sleeping giant inside of you, your prefrontal cortex, and you will soon find yourself in the flow state, happily working away, getting the project completed.

Tom Corley is an accountant, financial planner and author of “Rich Kids: How to Raise Our Children to Be Happy and Successful in Life”, “Effort-Less Wealth”, “Change Your Habits Change Your Life”, “Rich Habits Poor Habits” and “Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals.”