Procrastination is the arch-enemy of productivity in writing. And we all do it – especially us writers.
So when the success of our careers is invariably linked to our productivity, how do we learn to effectively shove procrastination out of our way and get on with the work at hand?
Well, for starters, you need to first understand what procrastination actually is.
Simply put, procrastination is a powerful, emotional response to something you need to do that you really don’t want to do. And for writers, being at your computer with virtually infinite entertaining distractions just a couple of mouse clicks away, the short-term enjoyment of bouncing around the internet instead of getting down to business can have heavy productivity consequences.
Fortunately though, procrastination is just a product of the way we think about things. It’s just something we do, it’s not who we are. And by simply reshaping your mindset, you can reduce your procrastinating habits and greatly amp up your productivity.
#1 – Set A Schedule
Locking down a writing schedule is an excellent way to beat procrastination. Sure, there are a bunch of different ways to get your writing in, but ultimately it’s about scheduling, and whether it’s in a notebook, you smart phone, or you laptop, writing your schedule down down is the way to go.
The key is to treat your set times to write as you would any other serious commitment. You don’t have to go big at first either, just start with 15 minute blocks of writing and go from there. What’s important is that you train yourself to stick to a writing schedule.
Studies have shown that the most productive writers write daily, for a maximum of 90 minutes with set breaks and endpoint. Forming an almost military-like adherence to your schedule will eliminate the second guessing when figuring out when to write and keep you from wasting time with distractions.
#2 – Rewards
We all love rewards. And by giving yourself something to look forward to once you’ve knocked out a writing session is a great way to keep you focused. So instead of jumping onto YouTube to watch a couple fun videos or having a cupcake before you start writing, save the fun activity as a reward for completing the task at hand.
The key is to motivate your present self by rewarding your future-self. Work hard now, and your prize can be as little as an hour way.
Another reward method is almost purely psychological. Just visualize the great feeling you’ll have when you’ve completed your block of work and use it to motivate yourself to stay focused on what you want to accomplish.
However, if you like the idea of a reward that takes the task of writing a given project off your hands, seeking out professional writing sites that offers custom writing is always an awesome way to go.
#3 – A Clean Workstation
Going as minimalistic with your work-space as possible is a powerful way to stay focused.
It’s the same concept as when people who are trying to lose weight throw all the junk food in their house away and replace it with snacks that will help them reach their goal.
So by putting your iPhone in a different room, straightening up any eye-catching clutter, and removing any other potential distractions, you’ll be far better able to keep your mind on your writing.
#4 – A Clear Head
Nagging or wandering thoughts can be a serious distraction for writers. So you need to practice what the masters of mindfulness teach you in order to let those thoughts flow through your head without disturbing your focus.
One way to do this is to create what David Allen calls a ‘tickler’ file. By writing down the random thoughts that pop into your head and then putting the file away for you to address later, you can stay locked onto your current task, and most importantly, stay on schedule.
#5 – Free-Writing
When you can’t get going because of anxiety, you’re feeling overwhelmed, or you’re just flat-out scared to write, then give free-writing a shot. It’s simple, just write out whatever pops into your head. By getting something, anything, onto the page without worrying about content, form, or grammar, you’ll be able to shed off those inhibiting feelings, allowing yourself to then get to the work you need to do.
Remember, just write anything. Don’t review it or judge it. You’re just trying to make the blank page disappear. Once you do that, your anxiety will go away.
#6 – Avoid Perfectionism
There’s no doubt that perfectionism is the enemy of productivity. Just the stress of feeling your work needs to be perfect is enough to keep you away from getting anything done. So the key thing to keep in mind is that most of the time ‘good’ is ‘good’ enough. Sure you need your writing to be well-structured and read smoothly, but having irrational expectations or obsessing over readers throwing your work in the garbage due to minor nits, is a surefire way to mentally freeze up and waste hours not getting anything done.
So just stay relaxed, trust your talents, and understand that making mistakes or needing to improve in certain areas is part of the process of becoming a better writer. Most writers are far tougher on themselves that their readers are to them anyways, and if you can keep your own inner critic in check, you definitely give your level of productivity a big boost.
What can make writing such a tough gig is that it’s purely mental. This leaves a whole bunch of opportunities for your mind to sabotage your ability to work, which leads to the procrastination monster setting in. But, obviously, it doesn’t have to be this way – if it did how could we have so many prolific writers out there. So just stay cool and follow the tips in this list. With some practice you’ll start to see huge spikes in your writing productivity and procrastination will be a thing of the past.