Just do it. That is what Nike has been telling us for years. It may seem like sage advice, but learning how to prevent procrastination + tap into your creativity is much harder than it seems. There are a lot of books (like Atomic Habits+ Just Do The Damn Thing), podcasts, and seminars out there to help you start making real changes in your every day so that you can achieve your dreams. I have been really leaning into a lot of those during quarantine as I try to make the most of my time at home.
At first, the extra 1.5 hours I saved from my commute has been funneled into working out, cooking healthy meals, and trying new hobbies. Unfortunately, I have been slipping into old habits lately + really procrastinating on some of the things I really want to get done. So, I have done the research + found some solutions that I have helped me + hopefully will help you if you’re also struggling with this issue.
How to Prevent Procrastination
For me, the first + most important step of learning how to prevent procrastination was figuring out where I was spending my time. There are 1,440 minutes in the day + there was no way I was using them to their full potential. I spent a week tracking how I wanted to spend my time + then how I actually spent my time, including looking at my screen time habits. I was then able to look at where the discrepancies were + make decision on how to better map out my time and how to prevent procrastination.
- Set limits – After looking + my screen time, I decided to put a limit on how much time I spent on certain apps per day. In particular, I put an hour limit on Twitter because it is so easy to get sucked in + I always left feeling anxious. I sometimes get annoyed when I hit my limit, but then I think “Wow, you literally spent an hour on Twitter today.”
- Be realistic – One of the biggest things I struggle with is wanting to get too much done in a day. Cramming too much in doesn’t leave any room to breathe or for unexpected circumstances. It usually makes me feel more stressed + overwhelmed which makes it even harder to get started because there are so many things I don’t know where to start.
- Prioritize – I use a Start Today brand priority planner. It has been hugely helpful in helping me be realistic with my goals + helping me prioritize tasks. It helps you look at both a weekly + daily view. On that daily view, you list the three biggest things you want to get done in a day + what would make you proud of yourself. This helps you really focus on what you need/want to get done + helps you avoid the shame spiral by knowing what you need to do to feel accomplished.
- Start early – I am so, so bad at getting up early to do things, but when I do my day runs so much smoother. I hate having to jump on the elliptical at 11 PM to make sure I get my 30 minutes of activity in + close my rings, but it happens all. the. time. By waking up early + checking off a few “me” things before work, I feel much lighter during the day knowing I don’t have to cram a bunch of activities after I am already drained from working.
- Time yourself – One of the tips I really loved from Just Do The Damn Thing was to time yourself doing an activity you didn’t want to do. The hardest part of procrastination is getting started, but it is much easier to clean out your closet, workout, or write, knowing you only have to do it for 20 minutes. more often than not, you will keep on after the allotted time anyway.
- Don’t forget rewards – If we are procrastinating something, it is because the reward isn’t high enough. Change that by giving yourself something to enjoy either during or after the activity. I first started getting into the elliptical by making it the only place I would watch Brooklyn 99. That way, if I wanted to get caught up for the current season, I would have to do so while working out. I now only listen to Heather McMahan’s the Absolutely Not Podcast when going on walks through my neighborhood, forcing me to go out for 45 minutes (roughly 2 miles for me) once per week. It much harder to procrastinate when I want the carrot on the stick.
The last thing I want you to know about how to prevent procrastination is that sometimes it is okay not to. We all need to give ourselves a little bit of grace. It may not feel like it because we are in the thick of it, but we are truly living in an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime event. Our parents didn’t have to deal with quarantine + rampant contagious disease. There are going to be days where you need to out your to-do list down + plop on the couch for a few hours. Taking care of your mental health + taking breaks when you need them will keep you from procrastinating later + entering a shame spiral.