Turning pro is a mindset. If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we’re thinking like amateurs. Amateurs don’t show up. Amateurs crap out and let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.
Could it BE any more detrimental to our writing?
Cleaning out the crockery cupboard, sorting through the Tupperware to find all the lids or reorganizing the clothes in my wardrobe, I’ve done them all to avoid sitting down to write.
To avoid putting words on the page.
To avoid the inner-critic, the self-doubt and, let’s face it, the fear that we experience as writers.
I’m a bit less Benjamin Franklin,
“Don’t leave that until tomorrow what you can do today.”
And a bit more Chandler Bing,
“You know what’s weird? Donald Duck never wore pants but whenever he’s getting out of the shower he always puts a towel around his waist. I mean, what is that about?”
Procrastination-The Ultimate Avoidance Strategy?
So why do we procrastinate? Why do we do everything in our power to avoid hard work?
Well, it’s not as simple as you may think.
According to scientists, it’s down to the way we’re wired. Our brain is trying to protect us from negative feelings.
Source: The Next Web
So the next time I begin book-keeping rather than writing, I can simply blame my brain, right?
Wrong! While they may be a scientific reason for why we procrastinate, we shouldn’t just let our brains ‘win’ on this one.
But you knew that, right?
6 Lessons Chandler Bing Can Teach Us About Procrastination
Sound familiar? My favourite is telling myself that I’ll definitely start properly ‘on Monday’ as it’s good to something new ‘on a Monday’.
Wow! Writing that down makes me realize how crazy it sounds because, if I were really serious, I would start there and then.
And I know that! So it got me thinking, what strategies could both Chandler and writers like us put in place to say goodbye to procrastination once and for all?
More importantly, could I BE doing any more writing?
1. The One with All the Planning
Plan the next writing session the day before. If we sit down with a clear idea of what we need to accomplish during the session, things feel less daunting. It might be a scene, a chapter or a non-fiction piece.
Whatever it is, write a few notes or bullet points that will help to get you started STRAIGHT AWAY the following day.
If you know exactly what you need to do when you sit down the next day, it’s less likely that you’ll find a way to procrastinate.
2. The One with All the Chunks
Big tasks can be daunting. Break them down into bite-sized chunks so that they are more manageable.
When you think about writing a book, it seems impossible. But what about writing one scene? Or 1000 words? That’s more manageable in an instant.
Remember the brain wants to protect us from possible negative consequences. A big piece of writing can make us feel worried or afraid. We might not finish it.
So let’s flood our brains with positivity when we achieve small writing achievements that, when you add them together, make a finished book or article.
3. The One with All the Friends
A friend who holds you accountable is worth their weight in gold. Find someone you trust and ask them to hold you accountable for your writing. Arrange to send them a daily word count or a weekly progress report.
But don’t choose a soft touch! Your friend will need to have high expectations of you and challenge you if you don’t deliver.
If you know someone is going to ask you every single day about whether you’ve reached your word count, you’ll be surprised how it puts a firecracker up your ass.
Someone just like Monica Geller would be perfect…
4. The One with The Five Second Rule
Mel Robbins is a legend and is fascinated with habits. She has devised The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage and it is excellent for procrastination.
In summary, she suggests that when we encounter a difficult decision, e.g. how to start the day’s writing, you count back from five to zero and begin.
The action of counting back snaps the conscious brain into action, therefore the work gets done.
She has seen it used successfully with writers, dieters and even those contemplating ending their lives. One man was ready to pull the trigger and end it all, but using The Five Second Rule stopped him and he walked away to call for help.
I have used it to get out of bed in the morning, to start a chapter each day and to avoid the cookie jar! It is highly effective.
To hear an interview with Mel about The Five Second Rule, click here…
5. The One with the Timer
Recently I’ve started to use the Pomodoro Technique in each writing session.
I write for 25 minutes and rest for 5 minutes. I then repeat this four times before taking a longer 15-minute break.
This technique has enabled me to be far more productive in short bursts, as well as looking after my wellbeing. I’m not staring at a screen for hours on end, my wrist ache has no chance to develop and it keeps my step count up.
It keeps procrastination at bay too. I’m no longer faced with an hour of writing ahead of me. I know that, if the writing seems daunting today, I only need to write for 25 minutes before I can take a break.
Inevitably, once I get into the swing of things, I can write for ages. But sometimes the prospect of writing for a long period encourages me to find other things to do!
6. The One with Getting My Ass into Gear
Procrastination has a scientific explanation (yippee!), but more importantly we can alter our thinking quite dramatically by simply sitting down and starting.
Just starting can make all the difference.
Turn your phone onto airplane mode and just write. You’re not distracted by notifications or phone calls. During the 5 minute breaks, check to make sure you’ve not missed anything crucial, but once the 5 minutes is up, it goes straight back on to airplane mode.
Put down the wall filler or the leaf blower. Step out of the garage that just ‘has to be tidied’.
Recognise the jobs that you’re doing to avoid writing. I know I do! If I start sorting through my sock drawer, I recognise what I’m doing and smile to myself. I put the socks away and move towards my desk.
Once you begin to notice your procrastination and take ownership of it, the more you can show it the door.
Don’t be ashamed of it. Feel happy that you’ve noticed yourself doing it and that you can take action to stop it.
And then do just that. Stop it.
There is an argument that procrastination can help the creative process – some of my greatest ideas have come when doing mundane tasks.
However, it shouldn’t be used as an excuse as to why you didn’t write today.
If you implement the strategies listed, you should start to see a difference over time. You’ll realise that you’re not procrastinating as much as you once were.
And you’re certainly not going to board a plane to Yemen just to avoid writing the next chapter.
What helps you avoid procrastination? What tips and strategies could you share with other readers?
Don’t forget! I offer coaching to writers to help projects get finished. Check out the coaching page here.