Alright, let’s get something out of the way first – we both know you’re here to procrastinate. That’s fine. No judgement here. Let’s make a deal – we’ll list a bunch of things we think helps dampen the urge to procrastinate, and then you’ll get back to your writing. No extra detours, no more articles. So without further ado, here’s how to stop procrastinating and start writing your book!
Enough procrastination, let’s get to it!
So let’s get started! Few activities are so intensely associated with procrastination as writing. Whether it’s writing up a report for work or school, writing that email or DM to a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, or just getting started on that book you’ve been meaning to write; our brains just don’t seem to go along with our ambitions when it comes to writing. Blank pages staring you down, the ominous spectre of editing creeping around in the back of your mind. Not to mention that the act of writing involves baring your thoughts to strangers, which can be an intimidating prospect for a lot of people. All in all, writing can be scary, so we tend to avoid doing it.
At the time of writing, a lot of people are stuck at home due to various lockdowns. While this doesn’t mean we have more time on our hands, it does mean we always have near-constant access to our writing tools. Great in theory, but if you’re reading this article you’ve probably made the same discovery as the rest of us – the urge to procrastinate grows even stronger when you’re stuck at home. As such, we thought it might be useful to share some tips on how to overcome that urge, and postpone your procrastination session in favour of writing!
Get some air
If your situation allows for it, we cannot recommend this enough. If you find yourself staring at a blank page, either with your head overflowing with thoughts or completely devoid of them, go for a walk. Your brain is a bit like one of those outboard motors with a rope start; a bit of movement can really get the machinery going. Don’t ask us how – neuroscience is not our strong suit. Nevertheless, whether it’s the change of scenery and the impressions that come with it, or simply the act of walking itself, nipping out for a bit tends to make you less prone to procrastinate. While we suppose you could argue that going for a stroll when you should be writing is in itself a form of procrastination, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.
Set short-term goals
Rome wasn’t built in a day, the longest journey starts with a single step – insert whatever cliché you like; these phrases are overused for a reason. A lot of the time, what makes you procrastinate is knowing the sheer enormity of the task ahead of you. Writing an entire book is no small commitment. Besides, you don’t even know if it’ll turn out good! No wonder you don’t feel like getting started. The key is to break up this gargantuan undertaking into bite-sized exertions.
Depending on how far along you are, you may want to set yourself the goal of writing a chapter a week, or perhaps a certain number of pages a day. It’s all up to you, and there’s no such thing as too little or too much. This is about finding a flow that complements your lifestyle and motivation.
Short term goals just happen to be a great segue into the next point. After you complete of of those short term goals you set, it’s time to:
Most of us probably do this already. We allow ourselves a certain snack after hitting the gym, a glass of wine after work, you name it. Well, why not introduce a similar reward system for yourself when writing? Much like working and working out, it’s an activity that requires discipline and dedication, so there’s no reason not to extend the same reward regimen to it. As you know, it’s much less attractive to procrastinate if that also means postponing that tantalizing reward you give yourself for completing the task at hand!
Be ruthless with distractions
The time where one could blissfully sit at a Parisian corner café hammering away at one’s typewriter without being subjected to countless distractions is long gone. We’re expected to be reachable 24/7. But how often are we actually contacted about something truly urgent? Think of your concentration as a bucket full of water. Each piece of communication technology at your disposal is a little hole in that bucket. Your phone, social media, even your internet connection (depending on your discipline) is slowly but steadily draining your concentration bucket. So, to minimize the risk of procrastination, you’ve got to plug those holes, by unplugging your router.
We know, we know. Perish the thought. What if that cute barista finally texts you? Well, it’s probably a good idea not to seem too eager anyway, and you can always blame your delayed reply on the fact that you were busy writing your very own book, i.e. a killer conversation starter.
“But I need the internet to do research for my book!” you might say. Well, in that case, we suggest splitting writing and research into two separate modules. Do research one day, and spend the next day writing based on that research (offline!). Besides, even if you desperately need to fact check something, there’s no hurry. Just leave a placeholder and come back to it later. After all, you should also:
Remember it’s not the final draft!
If you’re at all serious about your book, then you will be spending just as much time (probably more) editing your manuscript as you did writing it. So if the fear of messing up is what’s making you procrastinate, don’t worry – you’re going to mess some stuff up no matter how good of a writer you are. That’s what editing is for. That’s why editors are a thing.
In other words, your first draft is by no means the end of it, so there’s no need to put it off for fear of not doing well enough. Just focus on getting words onto that page for now, whether they’re good or not. Often, you’ll find yourself stumbling upon new ideas while doing this, and end up writing some decent material. Much of the time, the first draft of anything is going to leave something to be desired in terms of quality. Learn to accept your subpar writing as well, knowing that you will be able to polish it for as long as you need to. That’s part of the beauty of writing – unlike spoken words, there’s no need to get it right the first time around.
We hope this article on how to stop procrastinating has given you some ideas on how to get on with writing your book. Do you have any tips or tricks that you’d like to see included? Drop a comment below!