Do you make lists of things to do? If so, do you carry over to the next day(s) the things you didn’t accomplish the day(s) before? Most of us have things on our list that carry over… on and on and on it goes.

Ever heard of The 72-Hour Rule? I had heard of it a couple years ago from the German Money Coach Bodo Schäfer.

It implies that the longer you postpone something the less likely it is that you’ll actually do it. In other words, when you postpone something for longer than 72 hours, you usually found enough excuses to not do it. Really, it works that way. Sort of a rule of the universe or something… at least you will probably find that it has held true for you in the past.

Think about it. You’ve decided to do something… maybe replace that broken gate in the yard. You write it on a piece of paper and stick it with a magnet on the refrigerator where you can see it every day.  And you do see it every day.

But do you get out there and replace the gate? No. In fact that little piece of paper stays there on the door to the fridge for 4 days. It becomes second nature to see the paper there… so second nature that you don’t even “see” it anymore, if you know what I mean.

It’s a bit funny, but I’ve found that the longer you wait to do the action, the longer it takes to actually get around to it. You’ll find you will create more and more excuses for not getting it done.

You might even eventually just take it off the list altogether, figuring the gate actually doesn’t look that bad at all really. ;-)

A friend of mine tells me that she would take all the things that she had been moving forward on her “to-do” list for days and days to a new list of “Things I May Get to Someday if I Think of It” list. Hey, no pressure!

A way to handle this trait of procrastination is to realize the motivation to act upon the idea or stimulation decreases after each hour that passes by. You then ask yourself, “I have to do it anyway, so let’s do it NOW and it’s done.”

I think Internet business matters should be at the top of this list, and you should get in the mindset that you really ARE going to get this thing done (or at least to get started), and no later than within the next 72 hours, no matter what. If you can’t get started right away, put the deadline on your calendar in three days time.

Remember that you may have to do some preparation to actually start on your activity by that date, but determine you are going to do it—for sure—in this 72-hour time frame. Again, the likelihood that you actually do it decreases after each hour as your brain finds more and more excuses and “good reasons” for postponement.

Longer projects can be divided up into steps and you can schedule that first step in 72 hours. Then once the first step is done, ensure you get the second step started in 72 hours, and so on.

You really can break the procrastination habit. It just takes a little planning, fortitude, discipline, and the courage to form the opposite habit. ;-)

—Marcus Hochstadt

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24 Responses to The 72-Hour Rule

  1. shearyadi says:

    Thanks Marcus for this article, no wonder I realize that I have forget to do something at the very last minute :)

  2. Great article, Marcus. The ironic thing is that GTD encourages the “Someday / Maybe” list. I use one and find it quite valuable.

    The problem occurs when my wife and I differ over what household tasks should go on the “now” list vs. the “someday” list. :)

  3. Ederic says:

    Maybe I should start applying this 72-hour rule. I have a lot of things that needs to be done. Most of them are past the three-day timeframe.

  4. That is so true. Everything in life is like that the longer you wait the less likely it will happen. If you want to do something you should probably start now! Don’t wait.

    Good article

  5. ghing says:

    my boyfriend told me about this.
    he said that while his in a mission they are following a rule that they should follow the 72 hour rule.

    all I know about this one is on a week when you buy some goods or groceries you need to buy an extra food for 3 days. In case of emergency ..

  6. Rose says:

    That’s me, the queen procrastinator. Thanks for giving me the kick in the behind to get me motivated. I’m printing this out…
    THX! Rose

  7. “A way to handle this trait of procrastination is to realize the motivation to act upon the idea or stimulation decreases after each hour that passes by. You then ask yourself, “I have to do it anyway, so let’s do it NOW and it’s done.””

    Thats me… Mr. Procrastination.

    Honestly this statement in you blog really touched a part of me. The part of me that needs to change… The parts of me that are lazy.

    At least, I can admit it to myself.

    -Nick deVere

  8. Redfruitoils says:

    True… just so true.
    I’ve got about a gazillion things that I’ve postponed for weeks now. About time I catch up on them and stop delaying everything :)

  9. Logen says:

    That’s true. I’d like to add that some people procrastinate because they want to do too many things at a given time. It sort of paralyses you when you bite off more than you can chew, doesn’t it?

    And indeed, taking baby steps towards your aims does help.

  10. Great article, like everyone in your blog, Marcus. :)

    keep it up ;)

  11. gdi says:

    Very informative article Marcus i’v bookmarked it now. Thanks for sharing it.

  12. Sarah Bell says:

    Dear Marcus

    Thank you for a great article, it is the first article of yours I have ever read, lovely and clear and so easy to read.

    I run a tight “To Do List” but having read your article it makes me want to tighten it up even more.

    Everything goes on my list and never gets deleted until it is done, but even so some things can stay on it longer than is necessary and although I prioritize it could still be better…..!

  13. Thank you all.

    And Sarah, I’m also someone who keeps things on the list until they’re done, usually. And when I realized the presence of the 72-hour rule I was even more motivated to get things done faster than usual.

  14. faye says:

    This one make sense after all, though i think there’s someone who said that you shouldn’t let the sun set before you take action. 3-days at least gives you the time to not just react on the immediate, but to way what is more important.

  15. Major procrastinator here. One thing I’ve learned is that once I do whatever I’ve been putting off, I am always amazed at how I can’t remember why I put it off to begin with.

    The 72 hour rule puts procrastination in a whole different light.

  16. wilhb81 says:

    A very wise thought here, Marcus. This means that the 72-hours is the “golden time”, if we want something to be done or happened, isn’t it?

  17. dan says:

    Im a bit of a procrastinator. I need to get out of that habit. Thanks for the heads up.

  18. Jeff Gold says:

    Great post. Super motivational. I often get stuck in the same rut and I think applying the 72 hour rule will really help get the ball rolling on a lot of my projects.

  19. Janice says:

    I really don’t use or have to-do list. As long as I think that it should be done, I will be immediately doing it, and make sure that its completely done. The things that I save on my organizer as well as the notes on the refrigerator are the bills, schedules when you pay them and the meetings that I have with my partners and my friends.

  20. Herber says:

    What do you mean, of course I’m going to get to that thing I wrote down 2 years ago? ;)

    I never really thought about this though. I know that I need to do some things right away or they will never get done but I never thought about the things I put into “waiting”.

  21. says:


  22. […] pattern has a name: the 72-hour rule. Here are some articles on it: 72-hour rule Getting the most out of goals […]

  23. karen says:

    There is a similar 72 hour rule which basically states that if you feel you MUST say something or make some comment or give unsolicited advice, you should purposely wait 72 hours and nearly all those comments you waited on will end up being ones you are glad you kept to yourself. This is the same principle in reverse I suppose.

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