I first learned when I taught English at university that procrastinators are the rule, and not the exception. Almost everyone finds it difficult to sit down and get to work.
Procrastination isn’t something to be ashamed of, since it’s the norm. Not procrastinating is a superpower — a totally attainable one!
Once you figure out how to overcome procrastination, you will have the world on a string. Not only will your writing benefit, but so will your day job, your studies, your relationships, and every part of your life.
Not doing a thing may suck up more time and energy than you realize. And while we might sometimes think of disciplined people as being joyless, research suggests that the exact opposite is true.
I learned a lot about procrastination from the book The Power of Habit, which also gives a lot of insight into why people do what they do. Here are a few of ways to stop putting off your writing. I think they’ll apply to other things, too!
Remember That The More You Do It, The Easier It Will Get.
If it feels hard to sit down and work, it may be because it runs counter to the habits you’ve developed so far. We all have things we do every day, and when we do something else instead, it makes us uncomfortable.
“I don’t have enough discipline,” we say. But to stop procrastination, it might help to know that if we keep on making ourselves write on a daily or at least somewhat regular basis, after a while, it won’t feel uncomfortable. It will be a normal thing to do, like logging onto Facebook or watching TV. The thing that makes it difficult now—habit—is exactly the thing that will make it easy later.
I know many, many writers who are more productive than I am, and I am working on the habit of taking too many Internet breaks, but writing is at least something of a habit with me. It no longer feels like an act of great discipline.
Allow Yourself to Do Just a Little Bit.
One of the reasons we procrastinate with many things, particularly with our writing, is that we make it out in our heads to be a huge commitment and a radical departure from the rest of our lives. We imagine that we’ll need hours of uninterrupted time in order to make any progress. It’s just not true.
If you’ve never been able to establish a regular writing habit, try doing just twenty minutes every day. You can even set a timer on your phone, if your phone has that function.
Twenty minutes is nothing. You can’t even watch a TV show in that length of time. But for a creative project, twenty minutes on a regular basis is a big deal. Fair warning, though — you may find yourself getting inspired and going longer.
Give Yourself a Little Reward — Every Time.
This is advice from my friend Jennifer, and I am really bad about remembering to follow it! The principle is rock solid, though.
You know how if you’re training a dog, you give them a treat every time they do the correct thing? Human behavior gets reinforced in exactly the same way. Reward yourself with a piece of chocolate, a bubble bath, an episode of a TV show you love, a latte, a little trashy reading (and I say “trashy” with the utmost respect), or whatever you think will make the connection in your brain between writing (or any desired habit) and enjoyment.
I always get great ideas from other people’s comments, so if something else has worked for you, please let me know! Thanks for reading!