A great technique to stop procrastinating

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The 5 second rule. An effective Anglo-Saxon method to stop putting off household chores, administrative files, evening prayers, etc. until the next day.

There is no shortage of opportunities to procrastinate, especially during the month of June, a period when mental workload reaches record levels . Having barely completed the tax declaration – a task postponed to the final date by so many fellow citizens that the website is struggling on D-day -, we have to return the re-registration files to school or to the gym (although nothing has changed in 12 months, except, logically, the age of those involved), respond to the wedding of this distant cousin (to which we are not going), find a confirmation gift for Anselme (ideas here if necessary), make an appointment with the dentist (if you want to have a slot before Christmas ), buy train tickets for Colette’s return from camp (the longer you wait, the higher the prices go! ). In short, the task is immense, and the temptation to procrastinate just as much.

A temptation that has been pompously called “procrastination” since the 20th century, but that humankind has actually been fighting for centuries. “This habit, old for so many years, of perpetual postponement, of what M. de Charlus branded under the name of procrastination,” writes Proust ( La Prisonnière ). And as proof of this secular trend, this charming proverb dating from the 13th century:

“What you can do in the morning, don’t wait until vespers or tomorrow.” 

(What you can do first thing in the morning, don’t wait until vespers or the next day to do it)

Or these verses from Hesiod in Works and Days (8th century):

“Don’t put it off until tomorrow or the next day.The man who neglects his work does not fill his barn.”

Even John Paul II had an opinion on the matter: “Yesterday does not belong to you. Tomorrow is uncertain. Only today is yours,” or: “The future begins today, not tomorrow,” he said.

The five-second rule: “5-4-3-2-1-GO”

Wisdom therefore dictates that “we should never put off until tomorrow what we can do today”. For this, Mel Robbins , American speaker and television host, author of the best-seller The 5 Second Rule sold more than 20 million copies and translated into 36 languages, offers a simple but effective technique: the five-second technique. If its author assures that these five seconds can change a life, we will limit ourselves to highlighting their impact on postponing daily life actions such as household chores, administrative files, evening prayer, etc. until the next day.

Based on pseudo-scientific data according to which it takes our brain around five seconds to put itself into “procrastination mode”, the technique consists of counting down in our head “5-4-3-2-1-GO” like NASA (an article on the launch of a rocket inspired this idea) and take action.

Indeed, according to her, everything happens in five seconds. “If you want to achieve a goal, you have to get moving, physically, within five seconds. Otherwise, your brain will destroy this project,” she explains. If you wait too long, the brain gets caught up in some distraction and it becomes very difficult to reverse course. Focusing on the countdown would avoid letting false excuses or negative emotions take over and slow down the decision. A system of control over one’s own thoughts that scientists call metacognition. Beyond the effective aspect of this method, Mel Robbins also describes psychological benefits. It would not only lead to a surge of self-confidence, coming from the feeling of having accomplished a duty, but also the impression of taking back control of one’s life, of being the actor in it.

Of course, this rule only concerns everyday actions where the stakes are limited. Major decisions require a time of discernment which, it goes without saying, is far from being made in five seconds flat.

And applied to your life of faith, does it work?

It seems that this five-second rule can nevertheless be applied to the spiritual life. Who has not been tempted to postpone a prayer until the next day? Now if there is one thing that it is good not to put off until tomorrow, it is this heart to heart with the Lord. This countdown worthy of NASA can perhaps help us not to cowardly abandon spiritual combat. “5-4-3-2-1-PRAY” you could say. Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity would surely agree with this opinion. “If I had to start my life again, how I would like not to waste even the slightest moment of my time. Every minute is given to us to root ourselves more in God,” she said. And Saint John of the Cross asks: “At the hour of truth, you will regret not having sacrificed more time to serve God. So why not start spending your time now as you would like to have done it when you died? » So “5-4-3-2-1-GO”!

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