02/03/2015 07:31 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

This 5-Minute Trick Can Motivate You To Do Anything

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science of us
By Melissa Dahl
Follow @melissadahl

Sometimes, motivation doesn't come easy -- say, in the dead of winter, when it gets dark at 5 p.m. and all you really feel like doing is settling into the couch for a "MasterChef Junior" marathon. But there are still things you need to get done; there will always, always be things you need to get done, and this week 99U has a nice piece by writer Benjamin Spall that offers a simple way into trick yourself into getting started when you have zero motivation. Just tell yourself you're going to do whatever it is you need to do for five minutes. Just five minutes, promise!

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Spall explains:

The logic here is if you tell yourself you're only going to exercise, write, wash the dishes, or clean your apartment for "only five minutes," your brain doesn't have much of a leg to stand on. Nobody can argue with five minutes, including your brain, so it lets you have it.

Of course, what then usually happens is at about the five-minute mark of your task, you start to get into it. You realise it isn't as hard as you had pegged it to be, and you start to get a taste for it, a taste which will then lead you to wanting to continue with the task.

It's not a bad idea -- it is, after all, pretty tough to argue with five minutes.

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