OK, here goes – I write posts for my website, but what is in this post applies across all other forms of writing too.
10 am: I am writing the blog post. It is about time-wasting. I have started this post in my head so often that I have become an expert, an addict even, of procrastination.
10:05 am: Look up the definition in not just one dictionary, but three (in case, perhaps they differ).
So what is it?
Cambridge Dictionary online defines it as ‘the act of delaying something that must be done, often because it is unpleasant or boring’.
Being a lifelong practitioner, I’d say what really is at the root of the delaying is fear – fear of failure. If you do get it written, then it can be criticised, and you can be seen to have got it wrong.
10:15 am to 11:20 am: Check for famous folk who’ve said anything about the subject, collect their quotes and select the best. (Why did that take so long?)
Many people have written about procrastination. Probably most people have suffered from the problem. No resist! – I shall not spend the next three hours looking up more things to confirm this.
If I let myself, I shall fall into the disappointingly familiar place of making notes on what I shall write one day. I do have to acknowledge that this would be replacing the doing of the writing.
Reading is another activity I often resort to instead of doing the writing. I often exceed my budget for buying books and often traipse off to the library, either in the real world or online, in search of yet one more authority on the subject.
How to stop procrastinating
Some things which do, I think, help to bring the shining searchlight beam of focus necessary to overcome procrastination.
- Be clear that the standard is not to write anything perfect (write roughly for your first draft – it can be edited later).
- Tightly reduce any media you engage with until you have done the writing.
- Turn off the likely distractors (phone, internet).
- Only allow yourself to make a limited couple of extra notes.
- Plan how long you think it should take and only give yourself that time plus five minutes.
- Plan to reward yourself when you complete the writing by the deadline. (Perhaps plan something you know you’d like, perhaps a cup of coffee, a turn at the crazily addicting computer game you have on your phone or a check of your email accounts).
In the company of Dickens?
It seems that many renowned writers can relate to the problem of time-wasting, as Charles Dickens (writer of fifteen novels) mentions in David Copperfield: ‘My advice is, never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.’
How do you collar him and keep on track when you are writing? And what is your go-to reward when the writing is done? Do get in touch.
Illustration courtesy of sketchrobin.com