The 25 Minute Rule: How I Stop Procrastinating

Sometimes the challenge of keeping up a long term art project like PTP is not coming up with ideas or worrying about how poorly I draw men, but rather simply the act of working on it every few days.25-min-rule

At while I enjoy drawing paper dolls and drawing paper dolls is my hobby, it is not my only hobby nor is it always what I want to do. Times like this, like these last few weeks, I begin to dread working on paper dolls.

Not because I don’t want to do it, but it because it just feels like “too much.”

I open my in-progress folder on my laptop and everything feels like so much work. There’s a dozen paper doll sets sitting there. None of them are finished. Some are months old and the idea of working on any of them is entirely overwhelming.

On some days when I feel this way, I ignore the problem.

I ink or I sketch. I come up with things to post on Twitter or I work on simple coding projects like re-sizing most of the blogs older images to a larger format.

But I can’t keep that up for long. Not when I have a little backlog as I currently do.

So, I would like to introduce my readers to what I call the “25 Minute Rule.”

The 25 Minute Rule: Once 25 minutes are spent on a task, you can stop.

The 25 Minute Rule is simple. It is how I get started when I don’t want to get started on something. I just promise myself that after 25 minutes working on a task, I can stop working on the task. It gives me permission to leave in the middle, but also the knowledge that 25 minutes isn’t that long of a period of time.

Like right now… Right now, I have dozens of mostly, partly, sorta finished stuff that I could work on and nothing I want to work on. I look at my in-process folder and all I see is problems… This one needs tabs. This one needs to be resized. These need to be colored. This needs to be…

work-in-progress-folder
My work in progress folder is actually usually messier than this.

Intellectually, I know that all I really need to do is, as my father is fond of saying, “apply the seat of my pants to the seat of a chair.”

I really don’t want to. Fighting my procrastinating ways can be so hard.

So, here’s what I have been doing in the evening for the last few days. I get home from work. I make dinner. I eat and then I set up my laptop on the dining room table and write down on a piece of paper what I am going to do. My having my task in writing, I hold myself to it.

Last night, my piece of paper read, “Clean up line work on Mini-Maiden Sets”

The Amelia Bloomer inspired steampunk paper doll set I spent last night working on.
The Amelia Bloomer inspired steampunk paper doll set I spent last night working on.

Then I set a timer and I did it for 25 minutes.

When my timer went off, I stopped. Sometimes, I don’t stop. Starting is the hard part, so sometimes I keep going and then I look up and an hour has passed. Last night though, I had a list of other things to do- mostly involving cleaning my house.

Here are the results of my 25 minutes of labors.

25 minutes later, she's actually looking pretty good.
25 minutes later, she’s actually looking pretty good.

So, I hope my 25 Minute Rule works for other people. It has helped me draw, clean and exercise. I find no matter how little I want to do something, I can almost always force myself to do it for 25 minutes or, if it is something I am really dreading, fifteen minutes. I struggle to start projects when they feel overwhelming and this helps me. Maybe it will help you too.

9 comments

  1. This is a good piece of advice. I procrastinate a lot too, it’s so difficult to get to work on things, more if they’re your hobbies, not because you don’t like to do them (I mean, that’s why they’re your hobbies) but since you don’t HAVE TO do them it’s way easier to just postpone getting to work. I’ll apply the 25 min rule, let’s see how it works. Thanks a lot for the suggestion and for your beautiful dolls. Greetings from Mexico.

  2. Getting started is the hard part for me. Once I get going on a project I usually get enthused and keep going. But for those times when I really am procrastinating big time, I’m going to try the 25 minute rule.

    1. Getting started is what I struggle with too which is why a timer works for me. I get so much more done when I can tell myself that it is “just 25 minutes”.

  3. paper dolls have taken a backseat to everything for me. last week i had a moment of downtime and felt inspired to doodle a new set of dolls ~ i figured i would spend an hour.

    best hour ever.

    your post is an excellent reminder that no matter how busy we say or feel that we are, the time is there. we just need to make use of it.

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