How to overcome procrastination

In their book Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard, Chip and Dan Heath share a great way to overcome procrastination taken from “The 5-Minute Room Rescue,” a technique to overcome chore inertia.  Let’s say you have to clean your house and you’re procrastinating.  Set a timer for five minutes and head straight to the dirtiest room in the house.  When the timer goes off, you can stop and feel good about it.  That doesn’t sound so bad.  So you get to it.

The trick, not surprisingly, is that you won’t stop after five minutes.  As the Heath brothers put it, "Starting an unpleasant task is always worse than continuing it."  Once you see even five minutes of progress, you’ll feel motivated to keep going.  By making the goal smaller (you only have to clean for five minutes), you overcome your inertia and do the single most important thing—start.

The next time you’re facing an important but unpleasant task, from a college essay to a project for your physics class, try the five minute timer trick and just start.