Maybe it’s the post-project blues, maybe it’s the challenge of fully immersing myself in a new project, or maybe it’s simply February, but I’m still struggling with focus and motivation.
How do I know? Because I spent more than an hour of precious work time Saturday afternoon Googling and then watching deleted scenes from my favorite reality TV show. I’m no stranger to procrastination, and one would hope that since I wrote a book called Doable, I’m good at pushing through it. So in this post, I’ll share my best tips for handling procrastination.
I’ve also gotten feedback from readers curious to know more about the “one-sheet” I put together for my book idea, so my next post will focus on how to put one of these together for a book or any other project.
But first, here’s a quick look at how I did on my goals for the week:
- Refine and email my 3-sheeter on the WIP to Theo for feedback – YES
- Begin creating an “outline wall” in my office for the WIP – YES
- Continue filling out my lists of main themes and key points for the WIP – YES
- Write a blog post for author community, continuing my behind-the-scenes look at Doable – YES
- Explore using Google Hangouts as a tool for my Doable Interview series – NO
- Continue researching SEO and how to tag my blog posts – YES
- Research podcasts I can pitch myself as a guest on for Doable promotion – NO
Not bad, all things considered. I’m noticing that the goals I didn’t accomplish are tasks that don’t have any sort of strict timeline associated with them. They’re kind of like the extracurriculars of my writing and business life. Still, I want to keep them here because I want to make progress in those areas, even if it’s slow.
PUSHING THROUGH PROCRASTINATION
I’ve written extensively about procrastination before, partially because it’s something I have a lot of experience with, and partially because it’s something most every writer I know struggles with at some point or another.
So without further ado, here are my top 10 tips for pushing through procrastination as painlessly as possible.
1. Notice the procrastination. I’ve found that “fighting” procrastination or denying it’s happening is a surefire way to stay mired in it. Procrastination isn’t a dirty word…it’s a part of most everyone’s life. Acknowledge it, name it, and don’t judge it.
2. Shut that lizard down. My lizard voice (a.k.a. inner critic or whatever you want to call that disapproving voice in your head) gets its kicks from reminding me what “what being productive should look like.” Luckily, I know that when I use the word “should” when referring to what I am or am not doing, it’s just my lizard brain talking and therefore I can simply shut it down. Because the truth? My lizard brain doesn’t know what’s what.
3. Continue using a weekly planner. Structure is always my friend, but especially when I’m floundering with time management. So even if I don’t follow it to the letter, taking the time to plan out the week absolutely helps me be more productive and focused when I do have the time to work.
4. Make deals with yourself. I’m a sucker for little rewards, so I employ these freely when I’m struggling to make progress with my writing. My little deals often involve the simple things in life: microwave popcorn, watching an episode of The Mindy Project on HULU, taking a guilt-free nap, getting out for a run. Finish this and I get that…it’s a simple equation.
5. Acknowledge every day what you did do. Part of what makes procrastination so disruptive is it can spark a cycle of negative self-judgment, incidentally not the best mindset for future productivity. So instead of focusing on what I didn’t do, I flip it around and list out the things that I did do. When I focus on accomplishment, I pave the way for more of the same.
6. Create and immerse yourself in productive work environments. When I left the house Sunday to work at my favorite coffee house for a few hours, I took drastic measures to ensure my time there would be productive: I left my computer at home. I hesitated more than once on my way out the door, but I had an editing gig to tackle and I knew having access to my laptop would only slow me down. The result? For the two hours I was there, I got some serious work done (what else was there to do?).
7. Give yourself a break. Literally. I know that I go through super productive spurts, and I also know I go through not-so-productive ones. I’m human. It’s just part of the deal.
8. Work in short bursts. When I’m struggling with procrastination, slowly but steadily chipping away at my work is a key part of how I move forward. I can do anything for five minutes here, ten minutes there. So I do. And then I give myself a little reward (see number 4).
9. Get comfy. If I’m doing something that feels difficult, I try to make every other aspect of it feel as good as possible. This might mean sprawling out on the chaise lounge wearing cozy slippers, a ridiculously soft throw on my lap, a hot chocolate on the window ledge, a favorite Spotify playlist playing softly in the background. Hell, by the time I get set up, I might even be looking forward to doing the work!
10. Know this too shall pass. It always does. All I have to do is take a look back at my track record of things I’ve accomplished, of projects and books I’ve completed even though they felt impossible at the time. Look for the evidence of how productive you are instead of how productive you aren’t…it’s always there.
* WRITING GOALS FOR THE COMING WEEK *
- Continue fleshing out my outline for the WIP, either on my wall or in Scrivener
- Continue filling out my lists of main themes and key points for the WIP
- Write a blog post for author community, continuing my behind-the-scenes look at Doable
- Explore using Google Hangouts as a tool for my Doable Interview series
- Continue researching SEO and how to tag my blog posts
- Explore hiring a VA who can research podcasts and blogs for me for possible guest posts, etc.
* * *
I hope you enjoyed this installment of Writer Unplugged! If you aren’t already on my email list, I encourage you to sign up below so you don’t miss any of the series!