Procrastination has always been a problem for me. In high school, homework was invariably completed the night before it was due. And as an IB student, I had a lot of homework. Suffice it to say, I pulled a lot of all-nighters as a teenager. I got a bit better in college, but not by much. I might start a term paper assigned at the beginning of the semester a week before it was due. And usually only if I was procrastinating on something else.
Now, as a writer, procrastination is something I struggle with on a daily basis. My chapters and stories and novels don’t have due dates, and there’s no professor or boss leaning over my shoulder and telling me to get a move on my work. There’s only me. Poor, distractible me.
Lots of writers–and other self-employed folks out there–have this problem. Hell, I’m sure even Shakespeare struggled with a bout or two of the procrasti-blues, and he didn’t even have Ye Olde Facebooke or Milord’s Bejeweled Plus to distract him. Laptops make it even harder, what with the constant barrage of readily available media and social networking working against us. So, I thought I’d share some of my tips and tricks to outwit procrastination.
Humans are creatures of habit. We need order; a routine. One of the best ways for me to get myself to sit down and write is to make a routine out of it. I make a pot of coffee (or tea, depending on how much caffeine I’ve already consumed). I sit down at the table (not the sofa, or the bed, or the floor). I open my word processor (not a browser) and reread the last chapter I wrote. Then, I start writing. Forcing myself to abide by the steps of the routine create a specific ritual that I’m more likely to follow by force of habit.
2. Set a Timer
Chuck Palahnuik recommends this method on his blog, and calls it “egg timer writing.” It’s simple. I set a timer for an hour, or a half an hour, or ten freakin’ minutes, and I tell myself that I only have to write until the timer buzzes. If the timer buzzes and I still don’t feel like working, at least I can say I tried. Then I go eat pie or roll around in the mud or something. But chances are, once I’ve worked for that half an hour I’m already so involved in my work and enjoying the flow so much that I have no desire to stop. Bullying myself into starting is usually the most important thing to overcome procrastination.
3. Make Yourself Accountable
Like I said, I’m self-employed. I don’t have to answer to anyone! It’s great! It also has a drawback…I don’t have to answer to anyone. No one to tell me I’m being lazy or that my work is taking too long. A great way I’ve found to circumvent this is to tell other people what I’m doing and when I hope to have it finished. I encourage them to ask frequently about my progress. Even a gentle nudge now and then makes me feel accountable to someone other than myself. (Although, in the interest of marital felicity I avoid having my husband be this other person…)
There are days where none of these strategies work. I try not to let those days get me down, and start off every new day with a positive outlook and the ambition of becoming a more productive individual!
Do you struggle with procrastination? Do you have any particular strategies to avoid falling into procrastination traps? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!