If there’s one true nemesis of progress, it’s procrastination. Or further, our partiality to it. No matter how much we know we need to complete a task, we choose not to. It makes no sense. So why do we do it?
Unfortunately, the only antidote to procrastination is, funnily enough, to actually do the work.
Let’s take Instagram CEO and co-founder Kevin Systrom’s personal tactic as a good starting point: “If you don’t want to do something, make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of it,” Kevin told Axios. “After five minutes, you’ll end up doing the whole thing.”
The hardest part of taking control of procrastination is to actually get started, so by committing yourself to a measly five minutes of a task, you’re tricking yourself past the first threshold of stalling.
We’re actually psychologically driven to try and push on with tasks: once you start something, you activate what’s known as the Zeigarnik effect, discovered in the 1920s by Bluma Zeigarnik, a Soviet psychologist and psychiatrist. She found that in studies where people were interrupted during tasks – in the study’s case, puzzles – these participants were twice as good at remembering the tasks as opposed to those who were allowed to follow them to the end. We’re hardwired to want to continue – if you don’t believe us, just watch a show with a cliffhanger. How much more likely are you to want to push on?