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This simple rule can help you make life-changing decisions in just 5 seconds

A life hack that helps you avoid overthinking things by forcing you to make a decision quickly.

by Julie Compton /
The "five second rule" has helped people make better decisions about business, money — even their eating habits. Getty Images
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Need to make a decision? Don’t overthink it — just count to five and decide.

The simple life hack coined by best-selling author Mel Robbins in her book “The 5 Second Rule” requires you to make a decision in five seconds.

The rule is easy: When an opportunity arises, don’t think about it — just count 5-4-3-2-1 and decide.

The technique helps you avoid procrastination and get over your fear of making a bad choice, according to Tim Denning, a 31-year-old entrepreneur in Australia.

“You’re going with your gut and your heart at the same time as opposed to using too much logic, which leads to overthinking,” Denning tells NBC News BETTER.

The 5-second rule will help you get over procrastination

Denning, who works for a large business bank, says using this simple rule has helped him improve his career.

“If someone says, ‘Tim, I want you to come in and interview for this particular job or role,’ rather than think about it and procrastinate and stay comfortable, I say, ‘Yep, next week, let’s lock it in and explore the opportunity,’” he says.

What’s more, Denning says he used the rule to improve his eating habits.


“Whenever I was tempted to eat one of those things that I know I shouldn’t eat, I sort of go 5-4-3-2-1 — ‘No, I’m not going to eat that,’ and I’ll close the cupboard and walk away from that decision,” says Denning.

The 5-second rule also helped Denning make a last-minute decision to overcome his fear of flying and book a flight to Japan.

“I booked that trip on the same day on that Friday and I left on Monday morning,” he recalled.

‘Burn all your boats’

To make sure he follows through on his decisions, Denning combines the 5-second rule with another life hack called “Burn the Boats.”

The philosophy, coined by Tony Robbins, ensures there is no turning back on your decision.

“Imagine you’re going to overtake an island and you’re sailing all the boats of your army towards that island, and once you arrive on the island, you burn the boats — light them on fire,” Denning says.

“What that means is there is no plan B,” he explains. “If you don’t take that island and kill everybody on that island, then there is no way to get home because you no longer have the boats to go back to where you came from.”

Let’s say, for example, you are terrified of public speaking. A colleague invites you to give a talk in front of a large audience. You don’t want to let fear stand in your way, so you count to five and quickly accept.

Your next step, explains Denning, is to “burn all your boats.”


“I would obviously commit to it, I would write the speech,” says Denning. “I would then go and tell everybody, including my mentors, to make sure I was accountable.”

In other words, you create a situation where you have to follow through on your decision.

“So for me to back out of that commitment to do that public speaking is very difficult because I’ve just done all these different things and I’d be letting down so many people,” he explains.

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Anybody can do it

From becoming a successful blogger to writing his own eBook “How to Become a Game Changing Influencer Online and Inspire Millions,” Denning says the 5-second rule helped him overcome procrastination and achieve goals he never thought possible.

“If someone [like] a small guy in Australia who’s just working a day-to-day job working at a bank, which is not that glamorous, can go out and achieve these massive goals, anybody can,” says Denning.


How to use the 5-second rule to achieve big goals

  • Keep it in your back pocket. When an opportunity arises, don’t think about it - just count 5-4-3-2-1 and decide.
  • Use it to make everyday decisions. The rule can help you make major career decisions and overcome your fears. It can even help you make better everyday choices like what to eat.
  • Use it in conjunction with the ‘‘Burn all the Boats’ philosophy. Don’t let fear prevent you from following through on your decisions. Once you’ve made a decision, hold yourself responsible by burning any possibility of a plan B.

Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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