I am a procrastinator! There’s no point trying to hide it. It’s a fact of life and something I have struggled with always. And I know I’m not alone in this… just google writer procrastination and you’ll drown in hilarious memes, far to apt illustrations like the one below and top tips on how to kick procrastination’s butt!
But why do we do it?
There could likely be as many reasons as there are procrastinators, but for many writers it often boils down to self doubt – a belief that we just aren’t good enough. Ever heard of Imposter Syndrome? Not only is it a very real condition, but it pushes us to become our own worst critics and for some – like myself – it can cripple the ability to write. Why bother sitting down every day for months to write something no one is ever going to read, right? And when you’ve lost your momentum because things aren’t falling into place and you’re unsure what the problem is or how to solve it, those distractions start to look mighty appealing and you find excuses to avoid doing what you know you should be prioritising.
Breaking that cycle once it’s begun requires a huge amount of will power, but even then it can be a real challenge. That’s when you start searching for those helpful articles that promise to solve all your problems with “5 simple habits” and “3 steps to get you back on track”. This is not one of those articles because, quite frankly, all I have are a lot of failed attempts to follow some of those top tips and so far I have yet to find anything that works consistently.
- I’ve tried making goals – even SMART ones – and they quite often remain unachieved until the very last possible moment of completion.
- I am the queen of making lists and schedules – sticking to them though is another matter entirely.
- I’ve turned off all notifications on my phone and put it on focus mode when I want to write – and I still end up checking to see if I’ve missed something important.
- I’ve attempted the “Work and Reward” method of writing for 30-45 mins and then rewarding myself with a 15 min break doing whatever I want to do. That ultimately led to the break lasting longer than the writing session.
- I’ve tried using accountability to keep me on track and despite my best efforts, clearly my excuses are incredibly good and know no bounds.
So you see, I’m not completely clueless when it comes to kicking procrastination to the curb, but the problem is – the things that distract me are just too damn appealing!
My current top 5 distractions
- Knitting! It’s addictive and so so satisfying to do just one more row… and one more and… you get the picture.
- Reading! If you’re a reader like me, you’ll understand how tempting picking up and diving into someone else’s book can be sometimes.
- Binge watching tv-series! This one actually comes and goes, but when it hits, a team of horses couldn’t pull me away from clicking “next episode”…
- Making lists and updating my planner! Seriously, you’d think this would work in my favour, but you’d be wrong. When finishing the most adorable and breathtaking planner page becomes more important than eating, you’ve hit the mother of all distractions!
- Spending time with my kids! I have to give this one a pass, I’m afraid. It sure is a distraction, but reading to my kids, helping them build Lego and spending some quality time drawing and colouring with them will never be something I feel particularly guilty for.
And so I guess I should let you in on what has worked for me – at least some of the time…
I deleted the Facebook and Twitter apps off my phone a year ago and went through what they call a digital detox. Now I have to deliberately enter Facebook via google and type in my password and to be honest, most days the hassle of it actually makes it just a little too much effort to bother – at least now that I’m used to not going in there every 5 minutes and getting sucked into hours worth of cat memes and funny videos!
I’ve had some success with creating a pre-writing routine – especially if my writing time is in the morning. With kids they talk about a bedtime routine specifically tailored towards getting them ready to sleep. I decided I should create something similar to get me ready for writing. Usually this means:
- Taking a shower and getting ready for the day. Yes, I could sit in my pyjamas and feel nice and comfortable, but by making the effort to get ready – as if I were going to leave the house – I’m telling myself that my writing deserves an awake, clean and prepared writer!
- Finishing off any household chores that need doing. These tasks aren’t massively time consuming, but they need to be done and I’d rather do them so I can feel good about them being done and not use them as an excuse to take a break later and get sidetracked.
- Making a cup of tea to take to my office. I know I’m going to want one. I know I’ll decide to take a break to make one and then get distracted. I might as well get it done and put it in a thermos cup to keep it warm while I write and sip away.
Beyond this, I try to plan my goals for the week and make any task-lists the weekend before; turn off any notifications and put my phone away so it’s not easily reachable while I write; and close my office door when my kids are home to prevent their constant chatter from breaking my focus.
It’s not a fool proof system and some days the siren song of my books and knitting needles is just too hard to ignore, but I shall persevere. And I hope you will do the same!
Now, if you got all the way through this blog post and should actually be writing – well done! You are a master procrastinator! I salute you! Now go take yourself off and do something productive! Let’s get the ball rolling and keep it going! 😉