Beating procrastination

So, this one goes along with the post I wrote last week on fear.

It’s been my experience that procrastination is caused by one of two things: 1. you really don’t want to do it, 2. you’re afraid. Either way, procrastinating will kill your writing goals & steal your dreams. You’ll never get that book done if you keep putting it off until tomorrow, Monday, next week, when you have a day off. Yes, you may say I don’t have time, I have kids/spouse/parents/pets to take care of, you just don’t understand how busy I am. Okay. But if you really want to write a book, then you have to start (& yes, finish it, too). These suggestions come from that Dave Ramsey EntreLeadership class, too:

  1. Make a deadline for yourself.
  2. Write it on a calendar that’s out in the open (i.e. don’t write it down & stick it in a drawer where you won’t see it).
  3. Circle it.
  4. Both tell yourself and write it down: I will FILL IN THE BLANK (write the first chapter, have the first draft done, hire an editor, write a query letter, whatever it is) by this date.

Yes, it’s a self-imposed deadline, but make it a hard one (i.e. that you can’t back out of or change later when it’s coming up fast & you’re not done). There’s also something very liberating about having an end-date; you don’t have the stress or the burden of always putting it off.

I know this seems simplistic. But you’d be surprised how many people don’t do it. You’d also be surprised about how effective it is (truly, I’ve done it) in getting you to reach your goals.

 

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Shelli Johnson

Writer
Shelli Johnson is an award-winning author and journalist. Her debut book, Small as a Mustard Seed, has been heralded as “a superbly-crafted and reader-engaging novel” that will “run you through an emotional marathon at a sprinter’s pace.” Learn more about Shelli here. Keep in touch through her newsletter or subscribe to her blog.

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10 Responses to Writing Advice ~ Beating Procrastination

  1. Bojan says:

    Imposing the strict discipline isn’t something that’s gonna stick with majority of people, especially with creative procrastinators.

    Idea behind getting the work done is the reward after you finish it. People forget it’s not about discipline, it’s about motivation.

    • Shelli says:

      Hi Bojan. Sorry for the delay getting back to you; I was out of town (not procrastinating~lol). I agree that strict discipline doesn’t work for a lot of people, but at some point you have to make a choice. Either you want to do something or you don’t. Problem with the reward is that, especially with writing a novel, sometimes the reward takes a few years to get to. All I can say is that since I’ve started writing out goals and circling them on the calendar, I’ve met every goal I’ve made thus far.

  2. Aaron Couch says:

    This is a great post Shelli! Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Andy Szpuk says:

    I don’t see setting deadlines as all that constructive, because say you hit a serious snag and fail to meet a deadline, then that’s a failure. I know you could reset the deadline, but, again, it’s an admission of failure to do that.
    Stephen King suggests writing a minimum of 1000 words a day, and I personally feel that because writers produce words, this is more meaningful. And it gives the writer an opportunity to blast out a good section of narrative, and then reflect on it, shape it, mould it, refine it. And the word quantity can be shifted to suit daily activities. Say, you go to harp lessons on a Monday night, then you have less time, so the word amount can be shifted accordingly. And you could increase the words too, when in a rich vein of motivation and output, the amount of words can be exceeded.

    • Hi Andy! *waves* Sorry for the delay, was on vacation, not procrastinating ~ lol. :D Thanks for sharing your perspective. I, too, find daily word counts to be helpful. I just know that since I’ve made a point of setting deadlines for myself, writing them down and committing to them, I’ve seen a lot more productivity personally. Cheers!

  4. kylie frost says:

    Love the article. Had to procrastinate a little more and click on your link. ha,ha. Well….I am going to dig that calendar out and WRITE down my goal and tell myself.. Simple – but great.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Great reminder. There’s something about writing down a goal with a deadline that works (for most people) to trigger the behavior to try to make the goal happen in the allotted time. Of course, there’s a fine line between being ambitious and being unrealistic, but as long as you stay on the ambitious side, I think this is a healthy practice.

    Bojan has a point; sometimes an extrinsic reward is a necessary crutch, but as every teacher knows, the student needs to make the transition to intrinsic motivation. The carrot and the stick are not long-term solutions. For the procrastinators (like me), setting a 15-minute timer helps. I know I can do virtually anything for 15 minutes. Then I’m off the hook. At least I’ve made a start.

    Good post!

    • Hi Kathrese!

      I once went to a seminar on the brain taught by a neurologist & she said that writing down your goals actually does trigger a chemical reaction in your brain that makes it more likely for you to work at achieving your goals. :)

      I love this: “I know I can do virtually anything for 15 minutes. Then I’m off the hook.” I’m a big believer in setting micro goals (like your timer) to reach a bigger goal, one that might even seem out of reach. Thanks for the reminder!