A man in a red shirt has an epiphany and Mel Robbins delivers a TED Talk.

It’s a wonder that humans can get anything done because we are hard-wired to procrastinate. Whenever we consider performing a task that may be boring, unpleasant, or stressful, the brain automatically sends a signal that says why not do it “later” or “tomorrow”?

Humans are natural-born procrastinators because our old brain wants to protect us from potential danger or discomfort. So, when faced with an uncomfortable situation, our brain springs into action and suggests we do it later.

While some people are able to override this reaction, many cannot and researchers believe that around 20% are chronic procrastinators.

As we all know, this knee-jerk reaction can cause all sorts of troubles. It can make it a lot harder to be a good employee, take care of domestic responsibilities, or ensure our school work is done on time. According to Psychological Science, chronic procrastinators have higher levels of anxiety and often have inadequate retirement savings.

It makes sense. When we put off taking care of the things we need to handle, they have a way of creeping up on us and creating a lot of anxiety.

The good news is that podcast host, author, motivational speaker and former lawyer Mel Robbins has a solution that can help many people bypass the procrastination impulse and get things done. She calls it the 5-Second Rule.

The technique just takes 3 easy steps:

  1. Recognize the moment that your mind begins to make excuses and tell you that whatever you need to do—whether it’s the dishes, your homework, or having a meaningful conversation—can be put off ‘til later.
  2. Start counting down in your head or out loud, “5-4-3-2-1.”
  3. Begin the task once you hit the number 1.

Why does it work? Counting down transitions your brain's function from the primitive, procrastinating midbrain to the prefrontal cortex, which is associated with decision-making. Also, by counting, your brain focuses on the numbers instead of making excuses, so nothing prevents you from starting the task.

According to Robbins, overcoming procrastination and taking care of business isn’t just about about being motivated.

“You think what you're missing is motivation, but that's not true,” says Robbins. "To change, to start a business, to be a better parent, a better companion, and to do all the things you want to achieve in life—you will necessarily have to go through complicated, scary and uncertain things. You’re never going to ‘feel it,’ but you can do it.”

She believes that techniques such as the 5-Second Rule allow us to regain control over our minds and bodies so we can live the lives we are truly meant to enjoy. According to Robbins, asserting control over our thoughts means “regaining confidence in yourself; fighting your fears; stopping stressing; living happier, and finally having the courage to share and defend your ideas.”

So next time you are about to start a new project but your brain tells you to first pick up your phone and scroll through Instagram, simply start counting down from 5. The desire will pass and you’ll have taken the first step toward achieving your goals and getting free from your old brain.


Are you a planning junkie? How to determine which planner will actually work for you

It helps to get real about your "planning personality" before being tempted by every pretty planner out there.

Picking a planner can feel like Sophie's choice for some of us.

Confession: I love planners. All planners. Can't get enough of them. Sometimes I'll go through the planner section of the store just to put my hands on all the potential held in those perfectly organized pages. Part of me believes, deep down, that if I just find the perfect planner that includes everything I need and nothing I don't and I utilize it to perfection, I will get to live the orderly and organized life of my dreams. It's a problem.

Fellow planner junkies, I know you feel me. One of the things we love about planners is that they hold a promise few other tools do, giving us an ideal structure to daydream about a beautifully organized life we aren't yet living. For those of us who are more Type A, using a planner is a satisfying way to keep all of those life ducks in a row. For the Type B folks, using a planner helps rein in the inevitable ball-dropping that comes with having a laid back personality.

(At least that's what we Type B folks tell ourselves, right?)

It doesn't help that there are more kinds of planners than there have ever been before. We're no longer talking about a simple calendar system or appointment book anymore—now we've got goal setting, task prioritizing, routine recording, habit tracking, bullet journaling, menu planning, self-care managing, home decluttering, vision creating, dream manifesting, and a hundred other ways to organize our inner and outer lives on paper. Not only that, but we also have stickers and washi tape and stencils hand lettering and other embellishments that may or may not add to the planning fun.

It can be overwhelming to have so many choices, so if you're like me and get tempted by every planner you see, it's important to narrow down the field a bit. For that, we gotta get real about what our "planning personality" really is.

Here are five questions to ask and answer for yourself before clicking "purchase" on any planner.

Am I looking to organize time and tasks, or do I want a planner that tracks everything in my life?

Both of these options are available in spades, but knowing which thing you're looking for will automatically cut the options in half for you.

If you're just looking to organize time and tasks, find a planner that has daily, weekly and monthly calendar pages and little else. Maybe a place to make to-do lists. But keep it simple.

If you want it all, think through what would be most helpful to you to help you reach your goals. What are you prioritizing in your life right now, or what do you want to prioritize? Productivity? Family organization? Self-care? Focus on planners that center those things.

Do I want a digital planner, a paper planner or something in between?

With extra large phone screens and ever-better tablet devices, some people have switched to full digital organizing. High tech planning certainly has its advantages, but some people truly prefer pen and paper planning, so you do you.

The good news about digital planners is that a lot of them now function basically like paper planners, so if don't want to give up the doodle drawing and handwriting part of planning, you don't have to.

There are also more paper planners than ever, so the fears that computers were going to eliminate the need for paper certainly hasn't panned out

And yes, there is such thing as an in-between here. The Rocketbook planner lets you write on paper but then digitally upload to your devices so you can kind of have the best (and worst) of both worlds. Perhaps a good option if you want to ease the transition from paper to digital.

How does my gut feel when I'm looking at the specific elements of a planner? Am I inspired or anxious?

If you're a time/tasks person, does having time slots labeled feel comforting or too confining? Does having a space to prioritize tasks make you feel like you have more control or does it stress you out? Do you want a dated or undated planner? We all react differently to different levels of structure, and you want to strike the right balance for you.

We also all respond to visuals differently. You might like things crisp and streamlined, while someone else might thrive with ornate design flourishes. You might find lots of color appealing while someone else might find it overwhelming. If a planner doesn't inspire you to use it, you probably won't, but what inspires one person will turn another person away, so don't compare your reactions to anyone else's.

How much time do I realistically want to spend on this each day/week/month?

Some people love utitlizing their planner to the fullest and incorporating it into their entire life aesthetic, some people aspire to that level of commitment but don't have the personality for it, and some people just want to keep things as simple as possible for themselves. It's vital that you know which category you fall into.

I am totally drawn to the colorful, beautifully designed and hand-lettered-on-every-page bullet journal idea, but I have also learned that my brain isn't about that life. It's simply not going to happen, no matter how lovely I think the idea is, so I have to resist the temptation.

How long do I want this single planner to last?

Planners really do come in all kinds of formats these days, including different lengths of time. Some planners run for well over a year, while some are designed to be used for six months or 90 days. And then there are undated planners and bullet journaling systems that don't have any specific starting or ending dates.

How far out do you like to plan, realistically? How often do you feel the need to restart/reboot your planning system? Some of us like the reliability of using a long-term planner, and some of us need to change things up frequently. There's no right or wrong or best or worst, but it's good to know which you prefer. If you tend to be planner commitment-phobic or someone who likes to try new planners frequently, maybe go for one of the shorter time frames and see how it goes.

Planner junkie, know thyself

The main key to choosing a planner is getting real about how you really function. Sometimes that takes some experimentation, especially if you don't have years of failed planner usage under your belt already. But the more you can narrow down your choices and avoid being tempted by the million new and shiny options, the better chance you have of finding the planner that really will work for you.

(Final tip: You can go to this page on Amazon and click on your preferred options on the left side of the page, and that will narrow down the choices significantly.)

Happy planning, everyone!

Pop Culture

Woman flips the script on habits, touting the benefits of a 'chaotically organized life'

Being unable to stick to routines and habits doesn't mean you're lazy, says Elizabeth Filips.

Elizabeth Filips shares some refreshing insights for people who can't stick to habits.

One of the beautiful things about humans is how diverse we are. Not just in the way we look, dress and eat, but in the way we feel, think and process. What works for one person won't necessarily work for another, and trying to force a square peg into a round hole is just an exercise in frustration.

This truth is particularly apparent in the realm of productivity.

Productivity "hacks" are everywhere these days. As of July 2023, James Clear's book "Atomic Habits" has sold 15 million copies worldwide. Clear's approach to habit formation has made waves because it feels far more accessible and achievable than many others—and indeed, many have found it life-changing—but what if consistent habits and routines aren't a part of your makeup?

That's the question Elizabeth Filips addresses in a script-flipping video describing how her brain simply works differently.

Filips is an artist, medical student, author, podcaster and YouTube creator who has accomplished an astonishing amount in what she refers to as her "chaotically organized" life. For her, productivity doesn't look like consistency, habit and routine—the things that are so often drilled into us as the keys to getting things done. Rather, she's learned to harness her passion-led motivation and work in huge, productive spurts of focus.

Essentially, it's the inverse of the "Atomic Habits" method of small, consistent improvements. Rather than get 1% better at something each day, Filips "primes" her passion for a task, waits until she gets to a point of "I have to learn this now!" and then makes 100%, 500%, 5000% improvements, all in one fell swoop.

It's a familiar way of working for people with ADHD, only Filips actually explains the methodology of it in a way that turns it into a legitimate productivity approach. It's not necessarily laziness if you can't keep up with routines and habits—it may be that you are wired for more of a passion-primed sprint way of getting things done rather than a purposefully paced marathon.

Watch Filips explain:

Filips also created a follow-up video explaining how one potential downfall of this method is that you might quit things too often when the passion for them wanes. She explains how to not quit everything you start in this video:

Here's to the various ways we all think and work and make the best use of our time. Productivity doesn't look the same for everyone, so if you feel like you're a square peg trying to squeeze yourself into a round hole when you read about habits and routine, maybe you just need to embrace chaotic organization. There's no "wrong" way, as long as what you're doing works for you.

Follow Elizabeth Filips on YouTube and check out her website here for more.


The simple, yet powerful shift that can actually keep you motivated

Andrew Huberman breaks down what people can do to stick to their goals—and it's surprisingly easy.


Maybe we're focusing on the wrong thing.

There are a bajillion and one approaches out there when it comes to goal-setting, usually in the form of clever acronyms to remind us all of just how easy achieving our dreams can be. (Did you know there are more than just SMART goals? There are also HARD goals, WOOP goals, and OKR goals, according to Indeed.)

Still, despite the countless productivity tips, consistent motivation is something many of us struggle with. And while there can be serious factors causing this, like external stress or underlying mental health issues, it’s generally just a common thing people deal with. It’s really hard to keep your “eye on the prize” day in and day out, isn’t it?

But what if we shifted our perspective on what exactly the “prize” is in this scenario? According to neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman, it could mean a lot.

If you somehow have never heard of Andrew Huberman, he does deep dives on a wide range of complex scientific topics on his popular Huberman Lab podcast, explaining them in ways that are both easy to understand and applicable to everyday life.

Huberman regularly discusses the benefits of working with your body’s dopamine, i.e., pleasure hormone, in order to be more productive. In the case of staying motivated, he encourages people to make a mindset shift where they access pleasure from hard work rather than achievement.

Huberman notes that when we focus only on the “win” and work only for the sake of reward, it actually makes the required hard labor that much harder and less desirable, and generally makes us less likely to pursue more hard work in the future.

The concept of intrinsic motivation vs. extrinsic motivation became quite mainstream thanks to a well-known study conducted in 1973 in which researchers at Stanford gathered young children ages 3 to 5 who liked to draw and started rewarding them for drawing. After a while, the researchers stopped giving out the rewards, which caused a drop in interest among the children.

Bottom line: We garner less pleasure from activities when we begin to associate that pleasure with rewards, rather than the activity itself. That even goes for activities we naturally enjoy.

From a dopamine perspective, Huberman explains that if the “peak” in dopamine levels you get comes from a reward, it’s going to lower your baseline dopamine levels, which then signals to your brain that pleasure = reward, not pleasure = challenging activity, which is not always sustainable.

Luckily, there’s a way to rewire this perspective by incorporating a growth mindset.
mindset, growth mindset, motivation

Anyone can cultivate a growth mindset.


Having a growth mindset, a term coined by Carol Dweck, means viewing one’s mind as always being at the starting point, and focusing on deepening a love of learning through engaging in challenges, rather than trying to accomplish an end goal. Those who have this view have time and time again achieved great things, but only as a byproduct of willingly engaging in the effort for its own sake.

And the best part is anyone can cultivate this mindset.

“You can tell yourself the effort part is the good part. I know it’s painful. I know this doesn’t feel good. But I’m focused on this. I’m going to start to access the reward,” Huberman says.

Repeating this over and over again—especially during the most difficult parts—will eventually make that growth mindset sink in, and it will extend to all types of effort.

In other words, sometimes it is good to lie to ourselves.

Watch Huberman's full podcast episode on motivation and dopamine below. It’s full of other science-based gems.