While researching an article on ways to trick yourself out of laziness, I kept coming across different iterations of one particular tip.
Here’s how one Redditor, backformore, described it: “I set an alarm for 10 minutes and then see how much I can get done in that time. Usually, it gets me motivated to keep going after the timer goes off, but if it doesn’t at least I did something.”
Other people said they set the alarm for five minutes, or 20, but the basic principle is the same.
Here’s Redditor warrenmess describing how he tricked himself into completing a renovation project:
The toughest part about doing anything is simply getting up and doing it. Five minutes into any project and you will find your motivation.
I was dreading painting my entire house exterior but I would give it 5 minutes a day and if I felt like stopping after 5 minutes then that was acceptable. I only stopped working once over a month period.
Experts recommend this strategy, too, as a way to overcome that initial hump of starting a task. As psychologist Andrea Bonior writes in The Huffington Post: “We’re scared of the big, amorphous blob of a task precisely because it IS so big and ill-defined, and because we worry that it will take two hours or two days to get to the bottom of it. And so we wallow.”
Meanwhile, psychologist and procrastination expert Timothy A. Pychl told Psychology Today: “Make a deal with yourself” that even though you don’t like doing the task, you’ll do it anyway for 10 minutes. Once you’ve already made some progress, it will be less tempting to quit.
Presumably, this strategy can apply to any activity you’ve been putting off — whether that’s running, answering emails, or cleaning your bedroom. Will you really stop after you’ve run a single mile? Or put one dirty shirt in the hamper? Maybe, but maybe not.
At the very least, as Bonior writes, you’ll accomplish “five minutes more work than you would have done otherwise.”
NOW WATCH: Here’s when it’s smart to procrastinate
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