5... 4... 3... 2... 1... (#SoGv3 is here!)

5... 4... 3... (SoGv3 - 1)

And I am back!

With the daily-ish letter that hopes to help you get better.
And that hopes to help me write more!
Ek teer, do nishaan.

So, this is my third attempt at writing these letters (and hence SoGv3). I started this series with less than 5 subscribers on 27th Oct last year. The first letter is here. An index of all the letters is here.

One year on, I have written some 150 of these and have reached a subscriber base of 200+ people that receive these. About 30% of you open these emails. And I sincerely hope these are useful to you. Please do tell me what you think of these. I have this form where you can leave anonymous feedback. And in case you don't like these, you may please unsubscribe here. And if you do choose to unsubscribe, I'd continue to love you!

So, without further ado, here is the thing for the day.

The 5 Second Rule.
You know how those rockets lift off?
Or how those bombs explode?

There is this reverse countdown.
Often from 10. But sometimes, from 5.

You know...







Thing is, when there's a countdown like that, you know that it will come to a zero.
You know that the time will expire.
The bomb will go off.
The rocket will launch.

Now, imagine using a similar countdown for taking decisions that you typically procrastinate on.

Say, getting out of the bed to go to that gym. Or giving in to the temptation of ordering that sugary, syrupy coffee at Starbucks. Or getting that presentation done that you have been sitting on for weeks.

You tell yourself that you are a ticking timebomb, that you are a rocket ready to be launched and the moment count-down hits a zero, you would explode. Take off. Get that thing done. As if you are a dumb object that has to follow the laws of physics.

Why does it work?
Of course, this is "pop-science" but apparently there are three things at play here.

1. Us humans are not rational. We are rationalizing. Rational is when you use logic to make a decision. Rationalizing is when you make a decision (often using emotion) and then use logic to explain why you took that decision.

So, when you are faced with a task that you don't like inherently (gymming / saying no to sugar / working on that presentation), you first decide that you don't like it and then you give yourself a rational reason on why you should not (I slept late last night and I deserve to hit snooze / I am feeling low and I need sugar rush / the presentation is not important enough and I can do it when the time is right).

By using this 5-second countdown, you don't allow your brain time to rationalize the inaction. Before your brain can give you a reason, you've actioned it!

2. Continuing on the brain, apparently, it takes about 5 seconds for your brain to get affected by negative emotions like fear, doubt, uncertainty, sloth et al and affect your decisions.

Once you start counting backward, the circuitry in the brain starts to focus on the countdown and there is no place left for rationalizing thoughts brought about by negative emotions.

3. Habit / autopilot. Once you get used to this countdown method, you can put your decision-making on autopilot. You know right that you can only take so many decisions in a day? By putting your brain on this habit of "outsourcing" decisions to this countdown, you free up "space" to mull over other important decisions.

Side note - do read about minimalism (link 1, link 2, link 3). And James Clear's Atomic Habits.

How am I using this?
This letter for starters. I haven't sent a letter in more than a month now (last I sent was on Sep 1). I knew that I had to restart but since there is very little validation and almost no reward, I was delaying this. But today, in the morning, I decided that I will write and send. Yes, it is pseudo-related that this day last year is when I started the series. This is just a date but us humans like to see patterns and coincidences.

So, I counted down from 10 (not 5) and the moment I hit zero, I started writing this. You know, most creative people say that they don't wait for creativity to strike them - they follow a routine and create. That. I was not in the mood to write. But as the countdown got to zero, I just started typing. And the words began to flow.

Going forward, I will also use this to start going for long walks. I always avoid those - I have plenty of rational reasons - traffic, pollution, time, other things to be done, etc. But not anymore. Each day, I will countdown and go for a walk. I will countdown and sit to meditate. Let's see where it goes.

What about you?
Do you see merit in this? Do you think it will help? How do you make decisions so as to minimize open tasks?

Do write in. And thank you for your permission to email you.

Hope you have a great Diwali. May the new year is full of luck, prosperity, wisdom, and health.

Thank you for reading! It is great to be back to writing!
Give me anonymous feedback by using this form.
Should you want to, unsubscribe here.

Got the idea for this countdown method from this piece.

This is the third avatar of my newsletters. I don't know if I would write every day. Or if I would send this infrequently. Or if I would create an order. All I know is that I am back to writing. And over the next few days, I will decide what shape do I like. Of course, whatever I decide, I will ensure that each letter adds value to whoever is reading! Yes, I believe in quantity more than in quality. And in action more than in perfection.

TAGS: Decision Making

STREAK: 1 (Read this on streaks).

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Index of previous letters is here.