Is writing a priority on your list? If you’re a serial procrastinator, you look at that list with writing at the very top and think, "What can I do instead?" Well, it’s probably not that flagrant. It’s more like the siren call of the internet subtly pulls your attention away, and hours later, you find yourself looking at pictures of celebrities who let themselves get so fat. Mark another day on the calendar you didn’t meet your word count.
How do you procrastinate?
If you’re like me, you make time to study your craft. You read all the books out there and devour content on other writers’ routines. But you let life take over the time you scheduled to write. You tell yourself you’ll make it up tomorrow; you’ll double the word count. No, this time you mean it.
Then there’s always laundry or dishes to do. Someone calls you out of the blue and you end up going out to lunch instead of writing. Or just when you sit down at the computer or take up a pencil or pen, your mail person delivers a package you’ve been waiting on.
Oh, no. You’ve run out of toilet paper, Hearts of Romaine, milk, your prescription medicine, or any number of essentials that require a quick trip to the big box grocery store. Where you get sucked into looking at the books, journals, new curtains for the living room… and on it goes. Until you realize that once again, you’re not getting to your daily word count.
Believe it or not, you’re not alone. Many writers procrastinate. Yet they still manage to put out a few books a year. And if they can do it, so can you. The key is to make procrastination work for you.
You need to-do lists
Instead of aimless procrastination like Netflix binges or falling down the rabbit hole that is social media, make best use of your to-do list. In fact, you need two of them: one for writing and one a daily "things to get done."
Everyone feels accomplished when they mark items off their to-do list, right? It’s motivational and inspiring when you look back to see everything you accomplished. The key is to put the easy things you do each day as you procrastinate at the top of your list. This might sound counter-intuitive, but hang with me for a minute.
On your daily "things to get done" list, include the little ways you procrastinate each day but are productive like doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen, fixing meals, etc. Everything you do during the day can go on this list from getting dressed in the morning to picking the kids up from school.
Your writing to-do list should be just as banal with specific tasks. It should never hold something as impossible to get your arms around as "Write my novel." Rather, you want easy-to-do tasks that will take less than 30 minutes. Say, for example, you’ve got this idea for a story about a woman counselor whose deeply disturbed patient stalks her and her family. But you know nothing about being a counselor, so you must research. Your writing to-do list could include "Research counselors near me. Email two a day until I find someone willing to answer my questions."
Now mix and match items from your two separate to-do lists. You know that the first thing you do every morning is get dressed and make coffee. Mark that off your to-do list. Now pick something from your writing to-do list and get it done. Next, spend time on the laundry or fixing breakfast. Then do a 30-minute item on your writing list such as "Write the scene when the counselor meets the stalker for the first time."
Feel the motivation flowing through your veins as you mark items off each to-do list. But it doesn’t feel forced because you’ve got procrastination built in on your daily-tasks-to-get-done list. Instead of letting them take over, you’re holding them to a 30-minute window. Because once that 30-minute period is over, you will do a task from your writing list.
When you have a limited amount of time to write, you’re more likely to sit down and get it done.
Try to get three or four 30-minute sprints from your writing list done a day. You’ll find the longer you stick to it, the easier it gets to work writing into your day while still doing all your little procrastinating activities. Imagine days where you get the laundry done, the grocery shopping completed, and 400 words written in each 30-minute sprint you did. If you do four sprints a day, that’s 1,600 words. That’s not bad for someone who procrastinates for most of the day.
Make procrastination work for you. Choose to procrastinate strategically by doing daily tasks that need done. Don’t procrastinate on time wasters that get you nowhere like binge-watching four seasons of your favorite series on Netflix. Instead, procrastinate with purpose each day and you’ll be surprised at how much you can get done. Including writing.