To Get Stuff Done, Split It To Five Second Tasks

Difficult part of getting anything done is starting. At least for me. Once I get going with something, I’m usually very productive while it lasts. Then when I stop, it’s going to be the same burden of starting the work all over again.

Some time ago I saw a great piece of advice about getting over this “static friction”. The problem often is that the task feels too large to do, so you don’t ever get started. To overcome this, you need to decide a first step that lasts under two minutes and is therefore much easier to undertake. Once you get that first part done you’ll very likely finish the rest, too. Like if you want to go for a run (30 to 60 minutes), decide to put on your sneakers (under two minutes). Or if you want to write a blog post (10 to 60 to 600 minutes), write the first sentence (under two minutes).

I took this idea a step further. Even two minutes is a bit cumbersome and requires thinking – what is the first sensible two minute step? So I figured that static friction is actually defeated after first five seconds if I’m just moving. And a five second step is usually very easy to figure out, as it is so simple. If I want to go for a run? Stand up from the couch. I’ll be on my way towards the sneakers very soon. If I want to write a blog post? Open the right tab or bookmark from my browser. I’ll catch myself typing some text before I know it.

After a while, when doing something stops for whatever reason, be it a distraction or a toilet break or a discussion with a colleague, you just need to come up with a next five second task to get going again. For example by saying in a meeting: “let’s get back to what we were supposed to be doing”. It takes just five seconds.

This blog post was written using the very same method, so there you go :).

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