We live in strange times as the novel Coronavirus or Covid-19 is spreading through the world. The Covid-19 crisis forces us into isolation and gives us so much time to do all the stuff we don’t have time for. But how much have you really done? I live in London now and it’s Easter weekend. It’s sunny, quiet and the air is fresher than ever. This is an incredible contrast to what is happening in other places not far from here. Doctors across London and beyond are in hospitals busy fighting the virus.
Meanwhile, most of us can’t do much about it except follow the government guidelines such as staying indoors, washing our hands and socially distancing. With that extra time on our hands, I had so many plans, I am sure you did too.
Who else did think that they’ll do all the stuff they normally don’t have time for?
I could use it to pursue some of my passions that I never have enough time for pre-covid. Or just get some stuff done that’s been on my to-do list for ages.
I’m sure many readers will agree and share the sentiment and probably had similar ambitions.
I had so many things in my mind that I would finally do while in doing self-isolation in quarantine. But this entire situation taught me one thing. It’s not that easy.
You Will Always Find Excuses
With all that extra time at home now, I could do everything but ended up doing half as much as I wanted. It’s true, there’s more time as there is no more socialising, no more parties, no more brunches. Not even travel or anything.
You would think you can pursue your hobby at home such as learning the piano, cooking or refurbishing a piece of furniture. You could finally finish reading Sapiens. You could finally do that course on Coursera. Hmm…
- And how many books have you read?
- How many hours have you practised that piano?
- Have you finally started that side hustle you wanted?
- Is that personal finance spreadsheet you wanted to start at the beginning of the year done?
If you’re anything like me, you probably did not get far.
It’s really funny that humans bring the most perseverance to the table when it comes to procrastinating. I’ve not read as many books as I wanted, haven’t played the piano as much as I needed to get better and only started revamping my finance spreadsheet.
The only apology I need to make is to my ambitious self. I’m too weak.
How to Overcome Procrastination even during Quarantine?
Determined to win, I started finding ways to overcome procrastination. I keep it simple and follow three tricks to up my productivity even while in quarantine. Here are the three strategies that help me.
1. Use the Power of Lists
The first one is the Power of lists. It’s extremely gratifying to write lists and even more to tick things off a list.
If you’re an achievement-oriented person then making lists will help you massively. Rewarding yourself with small treats for small wins is the key to overcoming excuses and procrastination.
How to go about it?
Every morning day, make a list of 3 things you want to definitely achieve on that day. Alternatively, you can do it the evening before which is even better I find. Pick a reward for each of the 3 completed tasks.
My example, coffee (2x mid-morning and after lunch) and a snack in the afternoon. Making sure that I get my 3 to-dos off the list now has structure and incentives.
For instance, one to-do is to finish the presentation and another to respond to open emails. On the weekend it’s more like go for a run, a practice piano for 1h or complete a blog post.
Lists are extremely powerful. Don’t know how to create a good list? Here’s how: How to Make a To Do List That’s tip #1.
2. Make it Easy to Fight Your Inner Procrastinator
As a human, I prefer the path of least resistance oftentimes. If something is hard to do, I like to simplify it. If it takes too much time, I look for alternatives. The same goes for your goals. If they’re too hard to achieve – or even just get going – you’re setting yourself up for failure.
If your goal is to run every day or read a few pages every day in a book. Then make it easy to do.
If it takes you more than 5 min to get ready for a run you’re doing something wrong. It means your running gear is hiding out of sight. There is a big threshold to execute on your goal. The resistance builds up and you’re likely to skip the run.
The same goes for other things. Make it easy to complete your task by putting the running gear in place the night before, so you can hit the ground running (pun intended). The same goes for all other things.
Pro Tip 1: It also works in the opposite way, if there’s something you really don’t want to do, make it hard. Hide snacks if you can’t resist junk food during the day, don’t take your phone to your bedroom to avoid checking it first thing and so on. That friction will make it easier to follow your goal. This is not just me saying it, it’s science-backed.
Pro Tip 2: The absolute best book on this topic is Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit”.
3. Start Small and Super-Achievable
Final tip. If you want to change everything, you’re not going to change anything. It’s as simple as that. So, keep it simple. Start small.
How about running for 20 min every day? That means you’ll be all done in less than 40 min if you take a shower considering putting your clothes on and showering afterwards. That’s simple. You can do that during lunch and eat a bit after your run.
How about reading? Reading 5 pages a day is better than reading no book in a month, right?
You see, there are two ways to “box” your small to-do, either in a time box, reading for 10 min every night before bed or running for 20 min every day. The other way to go about it is to count box (I’m sure there’s a better naming, suggestions welcome). This can be choosing to read 10 pages every night or running a 5k every week.
Make it simple, start small and pick one. Once that habit has established, go on to the next one.
These are my three super simple tips you can take on board to overcome quarantine procrastination.