So you are finally ready to start that new fitness regimen … TOMORROW. You’ll start tracking your calories, catching up on any deadlines, doing those minor fix up tasks at home or work and meal prepping for the week. For many people, “tomorrow” gets loaded with good intentions, but sadly, mostly it never gets here.
Procrastination is very common, especially in our fast-paced lives. Chronic procrastinators tend to miss deadlines more often, have difficulty scheduling adequate time to complete tasks and organize their schedules and consistently have problems prioritizing…their intention is there, but unfortunately there is just not enough time. “I’ll just get back on track tomorrow.”
Everyone procrastinates occasionally. We might put off sorting through our receipts when tax time is months away or buying a birthday card until the day of a friend’s party. But it’s when procrastination becomes chronic it can have a negative (snowballing) effect, especially when it comes to your health. That’s when you’re paying for a gym you never visit and buying vegetables you’ll never eat.
If this is the year you’ll be turning tomorrow into today, it’s helpful to play around with different strategies to see what works for you as a procrastination buster. Here are some ideas to kick off your new habits today:
1. PRIORITIZE YOUR ACTION
One of the most common reasons people procrastinate, whether unconsciously or not, is an overwhelming list of tasks on their to-do lists and not knowing where to start..
Control the noise and focus on the most important task will shift your mindset and create the best results, once you are clear on what you need to accomplish first, the rest falls into place.
Start to identify just one priority for the day and ticking it off the list from the start. If fitness is a big goal, consider working out in the morning before the distractions of the day. Or if your focus is to skip junk food today, make meal prep for the day part of your breakfast routine.
2. SET MICRO-GOALS
If you’re trying to reach a lofty goal, you need to work backward.
Identify separate, time-bound milestones that will lead you toward fulfilling the ultimate goal. Then, tackle those milestones one at a time. That allows you to celebrate quick wins and show yourself tangible progress toward the main goal.
3. STICK TO THE 15-MINUTE RULE
For fitness guru Jillian Michaels, the key to avoiding exercise procrastination, is to make a promise she’ll only work out for at least 15 minutes. After that time, if she’s still not feeling it, she’ll call it a day. The point of this exercise is to help form a habit of ‘making it happen’ rather than putting it off.
The plan with this smaller time, is that it makes it far more palatable to get up and moving and less daunting. That said, nine times out of 10, once you get started, you often feel much better and end up completing another 15 minutes, or more.
Another plan that can help, is to alter your workout if you feel you aren’t quite up to the hard session you have planned. If you are having an off day, simply choose exercise that is a little less demanding. This is a much better option than ‘again’, waiting until tomorrow.
4. VISUALIZE SUCCESS
Sometimes, procrastination can be easy when we can’t imagine the benefits, which is what makes visualisation an important tool. Visualise how great it will feel to remove that one task that is stressing you out, from your to-do list.
It’s also helpful to visualize an immediate reward. It might be as simple as taking a walk once your task is done or getting a stretch break. Making your reward into something healthy keeps you moving forward toward completing other important tasks.
5. BE KIND TO YOURSELF
When you say, “I’m a procrastinator,” you strengthen that idea in your brain. You actually train yourself to get better at relating to yourself as a procrastinator…you subtly condemn yourself. There’s nothing good about having that label, you will find that it will compound and consistently hold back any progress you are capable of.
Instead, use a judgment-free narrative, like saying, “I haven’t yet gotten my workout in today,” or “I haven’t answered those emails yet.” Telling yourself that you will accomplish your set goals and tasks — even if that’s not quite the truth yet — changes how you think about yourself to re-train your brain.
Much like anything else — fitness, meal plans, de-stress techniques — what works for someone else may not work for you. So, it’s best to keep that in mind…try different techniques until you find one that seems like a good fit for your goals.
Most of all, start it today, and give it plenty of time to work.
A pattern of chronic procrastination is difficult to break, learning scheduling and prioritization skills on their own is not enough…the key is practicing these new behaviors consistently.
The brain actually needs to be rewired, and this requires daily action for at least 6–8 weeks. Only with this effort, will it start to become a more natural behaviour.