From procrastination to productivity: 5 steps to the write stuff!

Procrastination is sweeping the nation!

Every single article on procrastination starts with the writer listing everything they did before sitting down to write said article.

In fact, it’s an unwritten rule that you can’t write about procrastination unless you thoroughly indulge in it first. So in the interest of full disclosure: before I wrote this I went for a walk, vacuumed the house, and made a cup of tea I neither wanted nor needed; I checked email, LinkedIn, Twitter and the weather forecast; I scanned Pinterest, and my Library holds.

With so many ways to distract ourselves while never leaving our desks, we have the illusion of working hard all day, while actually accomplishing very little. It’s a sad comment on the world today that there are apps out there to help us beat procrastination, including one that prevents us from using the Internet while we work.

Every time you log on to the Internet there’s another article about procrastination – see? – you’re reading this one instead of working! There are plenty of articles claiming that writers are the biggest procrastinators, and that may be true, but only because most writers work from home, and home is where the distractions are.

The tips below are crucial for giving you a nudge in the write direction. Ouch. Bad puns are a sign that we both need to get back to work (although, technically, writing this is my work, so I’m currently winning the battle.)

Without further ado, which is just another word for procrastination, here are my five secret steps to get you from procrastination to productivity. Put away your phone and concentrate (unless you’re reading this on your phone, in which case: full steam ahead!)

Step #1: Habit

It takes three weeks to ingrain a new habit. Only 21 days: you can do this! Sit down, for an hour a day, at the same time, and write. I know this sounds like teaching someone to do something by telling them to do it, and it takes some willpower in the beginning, but knowing that you’re only going to give it an hour before moving on to something else makes it doable. Doing it at the same time every day makes it inevitable. And once that hour is up, whatever else happens in your day, you at least have the satisfaction of knowing you wrote for an hour.

However, just because you’re sitting at the computer doesn’t mean you’re working, as evidenced above, so…

Step #2: Schedule

Create a schedule of what you’re going to work on each day. If you’re focussing on writing a novel, and nothing else, then each day is going to look much like the next. However, if your writing life consists of juggling blog posts with freelance work with creative writing, then a schedule is both a time and life-saver.

Assign a different task to each day of the week: blog on Monday, research articles on Tuesday, write freelance articles on Wednesday, develop short stories on Thursday, work on ebook venture on Friday… Now when you sit at the computer each morning, you know what you’re going to do that day, instead of getting overwhelmed by the enormity of all your tasks and giving up and playing spider solitaire instead. (Helpful Note: delete all gaming software from your computer to prevent spider solitaire marathons.)

Step#3: Ritual

Similar to habit, but more Pavlovian. Do the same things every morning, in order to trigger the habit. Sitting at my computer with a cup of coffee is a signal to my brain that it’s writing time. I write for an hour, sometimes more, and then get on with all the other tasks the day brings. Most afternoons I make a cup of tea, and again, that’s the signal that it’s time to sit and write some more. For me, the ritual of a hot beverage is the catalyst for getting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). In the same vein, the ritual of a cold beverage (preferably hops based) on a Friday evening is the signal that the weekend is finally here.

Step #4: Deadlines!

Nothing jumpstarts productivity like a good solid deadline. Whether it’s a contest deadline or a self-imposed must-blog-every-Monday deadline, the act of having to accomplish something by setting a time goal gets the juices flowing. Don’t make it a mental deadline only, though. Put it in your online calendar so the reminder pops up. Write it on a sticky note and stick it to your wall. Tell someone that you’re going to have it finished by next Tuesday. Be accountable for that deadline.

Step#5: Consistency and frequency

The first four tips are all basically saying the same thing, which is: show up and do the work. By consistency and frequency, what I mean is, consistently do it every day. Make it a habit, put it in the schedule, develop a ritual, and meet your deadlines. The more you do something, the easier it becomes. The more you write, the more ideas you have to write about. It’s true, and it’s magic, and it works.

Simply follow these five timeless tips for endless productivity!

(That’s the idea anyway. Pay no attention to the person behind the curtain who was sneakily checking email, making phone calls, eating snacks, and carpooling while writing this…)

Have some anti-procrastination tips to share? What works for you?


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