First Things First – Beat the Procrastination Demon

Posted: October 19, 2015 in Writing Tips
Tags: , , , ,

One of the more popular blog topics targeting writer discusses why writers procrastinate.

One recent blog asked whether perfectionism caused writers to procrastinate. At last count there were 171 comments on the blog. Many agreed perfectionism to be an issue and offered advice, the most popular to write the draft and let the revision stage improve the manuscript. Easy to say, hard to apply, isn’t it?

For me and I expect a lot of writers, perfectionism never factors into the equation because some of us can’t even get started. Now that is true procrastination.

The reason (to me) is simple. Sitting down to work on a writing project, whether it is an outline, a first draft, or revising an existing project, means you have decided to commit a block of time to essentially create something from nothing. Many writers fail because they realize that block of time can be used to accomplish other tasks. Housework, yard work, running errands, exercising, watching TV, playing video games, playing golf, or, too often, grabbing a nap, all of which I’ve used extensively in place of writing.

The remainder of this blog is not about why, or what you can do other than follow Nike’s advice, ‘Just Do It!’ You have probably read that ad nauseam.

It’s a confession of sorts and a success story of my own battle with the procrastination demon.

I use Excel extensively to maintain a daily to-do list of tasks ranging from taking medication to preparing for the following day, with a lot of the tasks listed above in between.

When it comes to writing, I track the time spent on each writing project and writing-related tasks. This serves not only as an incentive and a boost to my psyche when I accomplish what I planned, it also gives me an idea of how long it takes to write a short story, a blog, or a novel, which helps me plan my time for future projects.

Weird? Okay, I’ve been called worse, but it takes just a few seconds to record start and end times and nobody needs to see the log but me.

This is relevant because I have documented proof I should wear the crown (probably should be a dunce cap) as King of the Procrastinators.

Every day I review my task list. Writing is and I suspect will always be the hardest, not only because it’s creative, but regardless of how much time I allocate, I won’t know until I finish whether I’ve been productive or have created another deposit for the virtual trash can.

So, what do I do? The tasks that are the easiest and the ones which I can accurately predict the time required always take priority.

Writing always falls to the end.

What happens throughout my day is the “same old story.”

And so starts my “confession.”

Once I finish non-writing-related tasks, I write journals, filter through Emails and put in appropriate folders for later handling. Emails dating back several months are still sitting in the “Writing” folder.

Now it’s time to see how many friends I can request on Facebook and how many connections I can make on LinkedIn. By the time I “retweet” selected posts, I can breathe a sigh of relief and it’s time for lunch and a much needed (but not deserved) break.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I go to the gym. Yes, staying healthy is important, but given my age, I need time to stretch so I don’t pull every muscle in my body. Following the stretching and the workout at the gym, it’s usually late afternoon and I’m tired from the workout. Unfortunately (or conveniently) my mind is in no condition to write, so I will work on anything I can find other than writing projects, even if that means taking a nap or lolling on the porch.

The dinner hour has suddenly arrived and so there I am, the table is cleared and and I’ve now been up for twelve hours or more.

I could go to my office or take my laptop to another room and dedicate an hour to a writing project, but wait! Those emails are screaming for my attention. I should handle them, because once I get those out of the way, I’ll be free of all those distractions and I can spend the day doing nothing but writing!

Sadly, it rarely happens. Old habits die hard and yes, I ask myself almost every day what am I waiting for? What event will allow me to rearrange my priorities and do what I should and want to do, leaving everything else for later? Let’s face it, if you’re like me, most of what we do can wait until the end of the day, some can be delayed for several days or more.

I knew I needed to be the catalyst for such an event, because I felt my best when I wrote, even if the result was incoherent first draft material. I was making progress and I felt good about it. So why do I avoid doing the one thing that gives me so much satisfaction?

I committed to and finally made the change on October 1st, 2015. Why not? A new month – why not a new approach?

At the time I was working on a short story and a novel, which I was revising for the (I lost count) time. I needed to make those the top priorities on my to-do list.

I did, and at the time of this blog, more than two weeks later, not only has it become more of a habit, each day it gets easier, and even though other tasks now get pushed to the bottom of my to do list, to my surprise and delight, the sky has not fallen.

Making this change wasn’t easy. I wasn’t yet fully awake and not in an optimal mental state to write. Even once I rearranged my priorities, I still wrestled with the perfectionist demon, and needed to constantly remind myself that the revision stage would make the writing better.

In the first few days, although I didn’t spend a lot of hours, I accomplished more than I ever imagined, and as time passed, I allocated more hours of the day to working my projects.

To put these accomplishments in perspective, I referred to my writing log.

From October 1st to October 18, 2015, I logged a total of 38 hours toward my two projects. In the process, I completed the first draft of my short story/novella (almost 21,000 words), and revised 17 chapters of my mystery novel (total word count of almost 54,000).

Over the previous 4 months, I logged a total of 85 hours on both of these projects.

If I continue at this pace from the last 18 days, over the next 4 months I will log a total of 272 hours, more than 3 times my previous four months.

The moral?

If the self-proclaimed King of the Procrastinators can win a battle with the procrastination demon, so can you!

Give it a shot. Trust me, you’ll feel better.

I welcome all comments.

My Author website:

https://www.wordpress.com/jstrandburg

Order Hustle Henry and the Cue-Ball Kid here:

http://www.amazon.com/Hustle-Henry-Cue-Ball-Jack-Strandburg-ebook/dp/B00BJ83O5K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1385144732&sr=8-1&keywords=hustle+henry+and+the+cue-ball+kid

Order An Appointment With God: One Ordinary Man’s Journey to Faith Through Prayer here:

http://www.amazon.com/Appointment-Ordinary-Journey-Through-Prayer-ebook/dp/B00CWRZ5GI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1385144792&sr=8-1&keywords=an+appointment+with+god%3A+one+man%27s

 

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Comments
  1. It’s October 26. I’ll begin my tracking on November 1. Excellent suggestion. I never feel like I’m ‘procrastinating,’ because I’m always working. But I’m working too much on blogging and promoting and getting in my yoga and dance exercise. I need to begin the day with the WRITING, and then get to the other ‘stuff.’

    • jackstr952 says:

      Pam – your dilemma sounds EXACTLY like what I fight every day! Glad to hear my blog will help! Good luck!

    • jackstr952 says:

      Funny you should mention yoga. I was doing it every day but for some reason got lazy and stopped. A few weeks ago I stretched and realized how tight my muscles got – back to doing it and stretching makes an amazing difference! Yes, life does get in the way of writing, doesn’t it?

      • Yoga is one of those activities that if we stop doing it, our bodies go back to tight mode, like a rubber band when it’s not pulled enough. And even though we’re supposed to not ‘think’ while in a yoga pose (and I really don’t – it’s the one time I can turn my mind off), yoga ‘clears’ the mind somehow and makes us more creative when we sit down to write. Namaste!

  2. ellenbest24 says:

    Popped from bryndonavan’s blog followed the trail of breadcrumbs interesting here, i will be back. Thank you for your hospitality. 😇

  3. Facebook is my downfall… I find it hard to ignore the notification number. Whether it says 3 or 93, I feel I HAVE to check it… I scroll down and see at least 4, 6 or ten items of interest… Each one of which leads to at least ten minutes of further reading and commenting, possible discussions, and could also lead on to articles on other sites – another ten or fifteen minutes of reading… And if an article mentions a book, then that could involve a trip to Amazon to check it out.. And the book might not be any good, BUT there’s a related one which does sound interesting… It’s a bit pricey, though – is Kindle any cheaper? Goodness, no, more expensive! How about second hand..? So I buy it second hand, and then realise I’ve got 31 more notifications demanding my attention on Facebook…

    • jackstr952 says:

      Amanda – I feel your pain and I go through some of this also . . . my biggest distraction to getting my writing projects done is when I see books or articles about writing, whether it be on character, plot, setting, or whatever, I think . . . hey, maybe this is the book that will answer all my questions . . . maybe I should buy it, read it, take notes . . . and so, I have another “excuse” to keep from writing. For you, try shutting down FB, or even the Internet connection until you have written first thing in the morning (or whatever your schedule), then you can worry about FB and other such obstacles when you’re done with your real priority – it has worked for me!

      • Thanks, Jack. I have been able to shut down FB recently – it’s like an alcoholic going without his booze! It helped that I found a site for Messenger, so I can still keep in touch with my friends but it’s this is far less time-consuming. Ugh, I’m the same with writing articles/books! We take procrastination to the highest levels!

  4. Gaby Pratt says:

    Just thinking about The Book doesn’t mean it’s getting written. Procrastination is not my middle name. It’s my first. Thanks for the making me aware of my “excuses.”

  5. mistybooks says:

    Unfortunately I can’t get around to doing my to do list!
    There’s no hope.

  6. Great post! Your struggle sounds EXACTLY like the battle I face every day. I read a book a little while ago called Eat That Frog (and have since gone on to read all of Brian Tracy’s books). It covers this very topic and it has some valuable ideas for defeating the procrastination demon. Have you read it? I hate defacing books, can’t even bear to ‘dog ear’, but it’s the one book in which I allowed myself to go crazy with a highlighting pen. Every time I feel myself sliding back into my old ways, I pull it out and re-read it. It’s been worth its weight in gold. 🙂

    • jackstr952 says:

      Amy – no, I have not read it – and fortunately, the procrastination demon is wilting under my assault – I set up a project management sheet in Excel itemizing individual tasks for each project and so far, that has been a bigger help than I thought. I like books to buy because I’m a psycho with highlighting! Thank for referring Eat That Frog – I’ll put it on my wish list.

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  8. kims7141 says:

    Well said. Thanks for sharing! You can visit my blog at http://www.kimsmithauthor.com

  9. Thank you for the post. I always wonder how other people approach writing. I buy books on writing, too. I get sidelined with worthy activities, too! I’m working on short stories, revising and writing and plan to finish this summer! Wish me luck!

    • jackstr952 says:

      Cynthia – best of luck and good fortune! I have so many story ideas and sources, it’s often hard to focus on my current projects because those ideas keep trying to pull me away! I followed your blog and look forward to reading your posts!

  10. erika leigh says:

    Reblogged this on Erika for President and commented:
    Procrastination – Writer’s are often experts. #amwriting #writinglife #writingtips

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