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EPISODE 8 | Using the 5 Second Rule

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

On this week’s show, I will be talking about MEL ROBBINS 5 SECOND RULE and how you can use it to cut through indecision, Beat fear and uncertainty, hack procrastination, Become confident, Share your ideas with courage, Stop worrying and feel happier.

Before that though, in the last episode, I detailed how the Pereto Principle can be applied to our lives and work, to save time and effort on the wrong things.

  • Have you been able to identify something in your own life or work in which the 80/20 rule can be applied?

  • If you have then have been able to make it work for you?

I’d really love to hear from you so please remember that you can call into the show using the speakpipe recorder on’s contact page or get in touch via twitter @filmproprodpod if you want to report in.

You can support this podcast by buying Mel Robbins The 5 Second Rule via one of my Amazon Affiliate Links. I get a small cut of whatever you buy from amazon via this link and it doesnt have to be The book that I recommend. Although it is good...




I’ve got so many anecdotes about missed opportunities and risks not taken in my life that I could fill out a full episode just on that, but amongst them all, it’s very probably opportunities missed when working with people that I admire that I regret the most. It took me three times working with John Gordon Sinclair for me to actually pluck up the courage to discuss Gregory's Girl with him, a film that I absolutely love. TBH it was my friend Fin that told him I was a fan in the end. I directed fights on a movie with Idris Elba and Clarke Peters in it too, it was called Legacy and was shot by Black Camel Pictures in Glasgow. I regret not asking for my photo with these two amazing actors. I talked myself out of it. I talked myself into just sailing along and not engaging too much as I was in awe. When all is said and done I should have asked one of those amazing actors if they’d consider being in one of my films. I didn’t ask, and I have regrets…

This week I decided to try a new productivity hack. It was to listen to the audio version of a book rather than reading it. I chose Mel Robbins 5 Second Rule, which I listened to on Audible whilst I was driving to and from work and at the gym. It was an excellent exercise and the content was strong - I figure that while it’s fresh on my mind I should bring it to you – I’ll also post a link to it in the show notes as it’s got far more to it than I can possibly go into here. I’d also like to say that Mel reads the book herself on Audible and it’s a great listen.  She is passionate and enthused about the technique which she first raised on a Ted talk that you can view on Youtube. That was in 2011 and I’ll put a link to it in the shownotes.

Right up front, I’ll clarify, just as Mel does, that we are not talking about a rule for picking up dropped food.

But Mel’s 5 Second Rule is simple.

If you have an instinct
to act on a goal,
you must physically move
within 5 seconds
or your brain will kill it.

I’ll say that again

If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it.

This Rule is a simple, one-size-fits-all solution for the one problem we all face—we hold ourselves back.

The secret isn’t knowing what to do—it’s knowing how to make yourself do it.  Mel’s Ted Talk is called How to stop screwing yourself over and I love that title, as I do think that we sabotage our own efforts time and time again through politeness or upbringing or fear of letting others down.

The thing is, if you watch the TED Talk, The 5 Second Rule is something she says literally in the last two minutes, but it’s so essentially simple, and actionable that it’s spawned a book and a whole ethos.

Mel explains that The 5-second rule is a way of harnessing “activation energy”.  That’s a chemical term, but it’s one that serves Mel’s productivity rule well.

She says that the moment you feel an instinct or a desire to act on a goal or a commitment, use the Rule. When you feel yourself hesitate before doing something that you know you should do, count 5-4-3-2-1-GO and physically move towards action.

  • Through little acts of courage, the 5 Second Rule makes you less afraid over time.

  • But the “right time” might never come, so you just have to start.

  • The 5 Second Rule helps to override your feelings, a tactic which is called psychological intervention.

There is a window that exists between the moment you have an instinct to change and your mind killing it. It’s a 5-second window. And it exists for everyone.

So - How does this work?

Just start counting backwards to yourself: 5-4-3-2-1 – Mel tricked herself into getting out of bed when she really didn’t want to, the morning after watching a rocket launch – and how did she do it? How did she stop herself from hitting snooze again and again on her alarm clock. Well she counted down 54321 and took action.

It’s as simple as that. In whatever you are doing, as soon as you reach “1” – push yourself to move.

The counting down focuses you on the goal or commitment at the same time that it distracts you from the worries, thoughts, and excuses in your mind.

5 seconds is all it takes. But if you don’t act on an instinct within that 5-second window, that’s it. You’re not doing it.

She breaks this down further and explains that there are 5 elements to the rule.

  1. “The moment you have an instinct…” which Mel defines as any urge, impulse, pull, or knowing that you should or should not do something because you can feel it in your heart and gut. These instincts are the urges. They are the “knowing” that you should do something even if you don’t “feel” like doing it.

  2. “To act on a goal…” and her point here is that it’s an instinct that’s tied to a goal. The “gut feelings” when our hearts and minds are trying to tell us something. And usually, these gut impulses are tied to greater goals.

  3. “You must push yourself…” The Rule is about pushing yourself even when you don’t want to. It’s about taking control of your own life, one push at a time. The moment comes. You feel the instinct. You know it’s tied to a goal. Right now. It’s a window of opportunity. Your brain wants to shut this instinct down. It’s going to do it. But, in that moment, you take control.

  4. “To move within 5 seconds…” Physical movement is the key. All you need to do is move in the direction of your instinct. If you do not take physical action WITHIN 5 SECONDS, your brain will kill the instinct. You do your countdown. 54321 And then you GO. You take action. This could mean a number of things. It means saying something you’ve been holding back. Speaking up at a meeting. Putting on your running shoes. Grabbing that healthy snack. Holding your tongue instead of saying something mean to your partner. Sending that email to a potential client or mentor. Anything that’s related to your goal. These 5-second windows, as she calls them, are the critical moments between you changing your life and your brain stopping you.

  5. “Or your brain will kill it.” If you don’t physically move within 5 seconds, your mind WILL kill your dreams. Your brain is like an overprotective, irrational, “helicopter” parent.

It has 3 basic jobs.

  • It narrates your life as you live it and catalogues your memories.

  • It operates your body’s functions.

  • And it protects you from danger.

How does it protect you?

  • By keeping you from doing anything that feels scary, hard, or uncertain.

So the 5 Second Rule is a way to outsmart your brain by changing hesitation into ACTION.

The book is full of real-life stories of the 5-second rule in action, with examples such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King to those that follow Mel’s lead these days and use the rule in their day to day lives.

It’s a tool that creates massive change. Those 5-second windows add up.

In almost any situation, there’s an application for the Rule.


Mel Robbins also points out that“from each small act of courage, more courage follows. It compounds and says that hopefully when you’re old, you will be able to look back on a courageous life.”

Much of this episode uses the words of Mel, but I felt that was a good quote to end on.


Before you doubt all this, try it out.

Try it yourself.

Mel Robbins rule first touted in that Ted Talk just 7 years ago, allows you to create great drive in yourself, find courage where there was none and to seize the opportunity when it arises.

In this week’s call to action, I urge you to get to grips with the 5-second rule. When that alarm goes off, don’t hit snooze. Count 54321 and get up. When you see an opportunity to talk to someone you admire, count 54321 and talk to them, don’t let your brain take over. When you are stuck and need to make any decision hit 54321 and you will find the decision has been made, subconsciously for you and you will be able to move on.

Thanks again for listening - Next episode I’ll be talking about The One Touch rule and other systems which will allow you to deal with the day to day slog of getting stuff done!

Until then - take control of your own destiny, keep on shootin’ and join me next time on Film Pro Productivity.

  • The music that you are listening to right now is Adventures by A Himitsu.

  • You can view the show notes for this episode at

  • If you’re struggling with something you think I can help with or would like to tell me how you are getting on then please get in touch via the contact page on the website. Alternately you can get me on Twitter @fight_director or follow the show @filmproprodpod

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Thanks: A Himitsu, Stephen Rowan, Dave Bullis Podcast, Podcraft.

Main Photographs taken on the Giordano UK shoot by Bryan Larkin.

Music: Adventures by A Himitsu Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported— CC BY 3.0 Music released by Argofox Music provided by Audio Library ––– • Contact the artist:


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