Skip to Content

Putting off a task? Time how long it takes.

2 Tips to Help Stop Procrastination

Have you ever procrastinated on a task for days, only to find out that once you get started, the task takes a mere 15 minutes?

We humans are not the most logical creatures sometimes, and I have noticed that I vastly overestimate how long a task takes, especially when it’s not a super fun job.

Also, I have noticed that a timer (and the cold, hard facts it tells me) can really help me avoid procrastinating.

How long does it REALLY take?

I stumbled upon this concept quite by accident while working out at home.

change plates and bumper plates

As I’m sure you know, when you lift weights, you do a set and then you have to wait a few minutes before doing the next set.

I don’t like sitting there doing nothing while I wait for the timer to beep, so I started looking for small household tasks to do in between sets.

rep fitness bumper plate outside

I was pretty amazed at what I could get done in 3-5 minutes. Things like cleaning the toilet, folding a load of laundry, wiping down the sink, or sweeping a room can be done in just a few minutes.

For some reason, I think I need a big block of time to clean the bathroom, but honestly, a passable job of cleaning the sink and toilet takes less than 10 minutes.

(The shower and glass shower doors take a little longer!)

As another example, I was recently waiting on something that needed to bake for ten minutes, and in that time, I folded an overflowing laundry basket (which had looked like much more than a ten minute task.)

folded laundry

What does this have to do with frugality?

Well, if you pay attention to how long tasks actually take, you might be more inclined to do them instead of putting them off or out-sourcing them.

For instance, I know that I can mix together a batch of muffins in the time it takes the oven to heat up (about 8 minutes).

So if I’m having an, “Ugh, baking muffins to use up these bananas will take too longggg!” kind of day, I can say to myself, “Self! It’s only going to take 8 minutes. Just go do it.”

If I have a few mending items sitting on my desk, I can remind myself that mending a towel literally takes three minutes. 

If I am feeling unmotivated to cook dinner, I can remind myself that making _____ (fill the blank in with a quick meal) takes 30 minutes start to finish.

Related tip: pay attention to how much time you waste.

1 Tip to Help Stop Procrastination

Truth #1: I tend to overestimate how long unpleasant tasks take.

Truth #2: I underestimate how long I spend wasting time.

This means that I look at a big basket of laundry and think it will require a half hour (when it actually takes 10 minutes).

And also that I think a quick Instagram check will take 10 minutes (when it actually takes 30 minutes).

In both cases, taking an actual, factual look at the time I spend on things helps me make better choices with my time, which helps me make time for money-saving activities.

So. The two tips that help me:

  • Time how long your dreaded tasks take
  • Time how long you spend wasting time (say, on social media!)

And I bet that information will help you spend your time better.

Have you noticed yourself over and under-estimating like me?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Thursday 10th of December 2020

Thank you so much for this reminder. It has helped me re-evaluate certain tasks at home. I definitely feel more productive.

Laurie Villotta

Thursday 2nd of July 2020

I am the biggest procrastinator ever. Anything that relates to housework, deadlines etc are done last minute. But I adamant always being on time to work, appts etc. I love to relax and just hang most of the time.

Nancy Stewart

Thursday 2nd of July 2020

I love this column--so true. A friend told me about hearing his mother talking to her plants when she was hoping for them to bloom. He would hear her, all alone, saying "You can do it." I took that up for my mantra when I am putting things off, or have something to do that is a challenge, for one reason or another. "You can do it" is my self pep talk! Thanks, Kristen.


Thursday 2nd of July 2020

Two things have helped to be more consistent with cleaning & dreaded tasks. 1. Kristen's post about great being the enemy of good. 2. Learning to set the timer for 15min & just see what you can get done in that time. Teenage me - enormous mess, procrastination, burst of enthusiasm, tidying/sorting/cleaning - ooh look how dirty my windows are, clean windows, ooh look how grotty the wall around the window is, clean wall around window, etc ending in my mum saying 'wow you could eat off the floor in here' & me being exhausted & putting off cleaning my room for 6 mths. Some version of this made its way in to my adult life but so freeing to learn its ok to do 'a quick whip 'round as my mum would say. This is far more practical & way more achievable, & much more effective. I also find it helps me to form habits so some jobs are more automatic & I do some things on a certain weekday - I have Toilet Tuesday, Sweep & vacuum Saturday, & I try to do dishes straight after dinner - doesn't always happen but happens a lot more than before.

Sheila McVicar

Wednesday 1st of July 2020

Hi, Kristen! I found that the more I procrastinated, the bigger the job became in my mind. That is a lot of garbage to remove from the brain. So, doing little jobs to finish quickly, putting things where they belong or just washing down the kitchen counters and table after dinner just made the next day one I could look forward to. Yes, your system really works! Thank you for sharing.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.