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3 Steps to Stop Procrastinating

Author: Tammy Taylor, CPT

Can you believe it’s that time of year again already?! 

If your tendency is to lean towards procrastination, the New Year can either be your best friend or worst enemy. Like any good friend, the New Year fills us with hope and encouragement. It reminds us that time is on our side and that we’ve got 365 blank pages ahead of us. But as time goes on, the New Year can begin to shift from being one of our closest friends to one of our biggest enemies, putting off joining the gym, cooking more at home, quitting smoke, or taking a new course until January 1st.

According to a survey of 2000 people, 71% of us would like to eat healthier or diet for our New Year’s resolution and another 65% of us would like to exercise more. Now, if you really stop to think about these numbers, it means that the majority of us are expecting New Year’s to be some sort of magical day where something will finally “click” and we’ll do what we’ve been wanting to do for months. As awesome as that would be, the reality is, New Year’s or not, we’re going to have to put in the effort to prioritize our goals and then take action. 

How about we mix up our own magical formula for curing our procrastination? It’s as easy as 1-2-3!

Step 1: Bundle your temptations

The first step is to mix up what you what you love with the what you procrastinate about! Katy Milkman at the University of Pennsylvania came up with the concept called temptation bundling — a strategy that pairs something you enjoy doing (in the short-term), with the thing you should do (and will likely benefit you long-term).  For instance, only watch your favorite tv show while walking on the treadmill, or only have a coffee and with a healthy breakfast, or only get a pedicure while reading your Noom articles! 

Step 2: Use rewards

The second step is to add in some immediate positive reinforcement for doing the thing you’ve been procrastinating. For example, if you prepare your lunches and snacks for the work week ahead, allow yourself to watch your favorite Netflix show afterwards. While you shouldn’t reward yourself doing every small thing you do, intermittent rewards reinforce behaviors and are ultimately helpful in building habits long-term — it’s psychology.

Step 3: Set SMARTer goals

The third step is to make sure your goals are achievable. What can often be the trigger for procrastination is feeling overwhelmed from the start of your goal! And as most of us know, getting started with any goal is usually the toughest part. A great way to make goals feel less overwhelming is to make them SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Realistic and Time-Bound). Another great way to build confidence in your goals is to follow the 2 minute rule  — when starting to build a new habit, it should take less than 2 minutes to do. This can be great for anyone who has a busy schedule and has been procrastinating about exercising. Start by simply doing 2 min of any activity you choose and then go from there!