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We can all be guilty of it – doing anything and everything to put off a task we know needs doing.

If you’ve become a pro at procrastinating, help may be at hand, thanks to a little trick from psychologists.

It’s as simple as telling yourself: Do the dreaded job on your to-do list, but only for three minutes. After that, if you still can’t face it, you can just stop.

The ‘three-minute rule’ makes chores seem manageable and not too overwhelming, researchers found – and in fact, led most people to persevere with an activity for much longer.

Psychologist Dr Jennifer Wild, an associate professor at Oxford University, said: ‘It is all too easy, when it is cold and you are watching television not to want to go out for a run, even when you know it is good for you. But when people are told they can go for a three-minute jog and stop if they don’t feel the benefit, that can get them out.

Dealing with procrastination is as simple as telling yourself: Do the dreaded job on your to-do list, but only for three minutes. After that, if you still can’t face it, you can just stop (File image)

Dealing with procrastination is as simple as telling yourself: Do the dreaded job on your to-do list, but only for three minutes. After that, if you still can’t face it, you can just stop (File image)

Dealing with procrastination is as simple as telling yourself: Do the dreaded job on your to-do list, but only for three minutes. After that, if you still can’t face it, you can just stop (File image)

‘Putting off a task, like vacuuming or cleaning, feels like a relief in the short term, but stress and anxiety build up the longer you leave something you know you will have to do.’

In a trial, psychologists found a 20-minute rule was still too daunting. But when participants tried three minutes, 98 per cent kept going longer.

Dr Wild, author of Be Extraordinary: 7 Key Skills To Transform Your Life From Ordinary To Extraordinary, said: ‘Three minutes quickly becomes six minutes, or nine, and mostly before you know it the task is done.’

Presenting the concept at the New Scientist Live science festival in Manchester, she added: ‘Trying to clean for three minutes gets you out of the avoidance mindset, then it’s easier to focus on the task in hand.’

The three-minute rule was inspired by the success of asking people to exercise for short daily periods, instead of doing long gym sessions, to improve their fitness.

The technique has been found to help with phobias, for example asking someone with arachnophobia to hold a spider for three minutes.

It also works for people who are shy or have social anxiety, if they are advised to go to a party for just three minutes.

The technique has been found to help with phobias, for example asking someone with arachnophobia to hold a spider for three minutes (File image)

The technique has been found to help with phobias, for example asking someone with arachnophobia to hold a spider for three minutes (File image)

The technique has been found to help with phobias, for example asking someone with arachnophobia to hold a spider for three minutes (File image)

Psychologists say procrastination has become a major source of modern-day stress.

They say that when someone tackles a regular task they dread, they quickly realise it is not as bad as they feared.

But when they keep putting it off over days and weeks, they miss out on the ‘success experience’ of having competed this task, so it seems even more unachievable.

Dr Wild said: ‘I use it for everything from washing the dishes to going to the gym.’

Source: dailymail

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