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Want to Stop Procrastinating? Try the 10-Minute Rule and Get More Done

Get into the habit of tackling those tasks you’re tempted to put off.

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BY Amy Morin - 07 Mar 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

"I know what I need to do. I just can't make myself do it." That's a statement I've heard more times than I could count in my therapy office.

Procrastination is a bad mental habit and that can get worse over time. But the 10-minute rule can help you develop the self-discipline you need to tackle those tasks and get more done.

 

The Reason We Procrastinate

We put off the tasks that cause discomfort--physical or emotional. Whether it's a difficult phone call you don't want to make or a budgeting sheet that will make you come to terms with your spending habits, you might find 101 things you'd rather do. So, you tell yourself you'll do it "later" or you'll tackle those jobs "someday."

But the clock never actually strikes "later" and the calendar never turns to "someday." So those tasks continue to get put off longer and longer.

 

How to Use the 10-Minute Rule

Getting started is usually the toughest part of any task. And the 10-minute rule is the key to getting started.

Simply tell yourself, "I'm going to do this for 10 minutes. Once I get to the 10-minute mark, I'll decide whether to keep going." Nine times out of ten, you'll decide to keep going long past the 10 minutes.

 

Why the 10-Minute Rule Works

Have you ever spent five hours dreading a task that only took 20 minutes to do? The 10-minute rule takes away the feelings of dread.

Since science says dread is the most difficult emotion to tolerate, eliminating dread could be the key to performing at your best. So rather than waste time immersed in dread, the 10-minute rule will help you dive into a task right away.

The other reason the 10-minute rule works is because it helps drown out those exaggeratedly negative thoughts.

When you don't want to do something, you likely build it up in your mind to be worse than it really is. Perhaps you imagine yourself being too tired to work out. Or maybe you make catastrophic predictions about how frustrated you'll feel when you try to do your taxes. Those thoughts influence your behavior and cause you to keep procrastinating.

The 10-minute rule challenges those thoughts head-on. And there's a good chance once you get started, you'll be able to keep going.

 

Talk Yourself Into Getting Started

The next time you find yourself looking for an excuse to put something off, tell yourself, "I'll try it for 10 minutes." You can do anything for 10 minutes.

Eventually, you'll train your brain to think differently. It'll become a habit to dive in and get to work.