Procrastination. It’s a word that most of us have first hand experience with. According to Wikipedia procrastination is “the act of replacing high-priority actions with tasks of low-priority, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time.”
At some time or another, we all do it. Sometimes we do it without even recognizing it. All too often though, we know we are doing it. I mean, come on. We are all adults here. For the most part, we know. We know when we should be getting something done, and yet we make conscious decisions to do something else.
It’s the consequences of our procrastination that trigger whether it’s something we need to work on. There are two consequences to procrastination:
1) external- Do you send in the request for a partial or full MS after being contacted by an agent or publisher? Do we have a MS ready to pitch the day it’s being ask for or do you have to let another opportunity pass you by because you aren’t ready?
2) Internal- Do you feel anxious all the time, even when you are doing something you enjoy because you know you should be writing, researching, reading and answering the questions for that online workshop you signed up for but aren’t really participating in? (Can you tell I’ve done that one?)
WHEN AND WHY WE DO IT:
Procrastinating doesn’t mean you are lazy or inefficient. It’s a habit that can be overcome by looking at its origin and making the right, but sometimes hard, choices.
First we have to look at why we do it when we know we shouldn’t? Here are the two big fears for writers. See if they fit you.
1) Fear of:
a) Failure-Do you avoid doing something because you think you won’t do it well? This involves the idea of perfectionism.
b) Success-This is one that many people looking at us from the outside in don’t understand. Why would we be afraid of succeeding with what we want to do? Ask yourself these questions: Are you afraid that if you become a successful writer you will turn into a workaholic, someone no one else will want to be around? Or are you afraid that if you succeed everyone will expect more from you, making you live with pressure you aren’t sure you can live with?
2) Perfectionism- Many of us know we aren’t perfectionists in all areas of life, just look at our homes, but in writing, we want only quality work. Producing something that isn’t up to our standards makes us feel that we aren’t good at what we do, so we just put off writing. As a newbie, I’ve been guilty of this one already. It can cause you to doubt yourself so badly, you even contemplate quitting altogether.
3) You are too busy with life demands. This one is hard to shuffle. On the one hand, you want to write. You need to write. On the other hand, you have a family you have to interact with. Being a parent is hard work in its own right. Shuffling kids, “keeping” the house, being there for your spouse are all things that pull on your time. Finding a balance here is hard, but it’s doable. Do you put off writing by telling yourself that you are needed elsewhere? I’ve been there, done that one too.
4) Procrastinating works. We have taught ourselves to avoid those things we dread by doing what we enjoy. It’s a way to escape those dreaded tasks.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?:
1) Figure out when and how we are procrastinating. Don’t take too long on this, or you’re just procrastinating again, but often just looking inward can cause us to reason out the causes of our procrastinating.
2) Create a productive environment. Here’s the clincher. This place needs to have no internet access! If you are addicted to email and facebook, this is a must. If you can put that window down and not think about it, it’s not as imperative you do that. Now be careful here. It’s easy to procrastinate during this step by working hard on our spot that our time is wasted looking for pretty, relaxing pictures to put on the wall instead of writing.
3) If your schedule allows you to write for long periods of time, take breaks in your writing. Get a small projects done, like switching loads of laundry. Take a few minutes to stand and stretch your muscles. Set the timer for ten minutes and check your emails. Doing this will allow your brain to feel like it’s not working as hard, but in all actuality, you will probably be more productive.
4) Break down you writing into obtainable goals. Figure out when you want to be done, how much you want to get done, and then take out your calendar and see what is a realistic way to get there. Having goals will help your writing in a way that you’ve never imagined.
5) Have a new attitude. Tell yourself only POSITIVE THINGS! This one is probably my biggest struggle as a new writer. It has to do with that perfectionist disease, but it’s something I’m trying to work on. Don’t just tell yourself these things either. Write them down. Put them on your mirror, around your computer, your kitchen cabinets. Surround yourself with positive thoughts and quotes.
6) Ask for help. Writing is a solitary endeavor. We sit at the computer in our own little brains for hours at a time. Sometimes we need to ask for help from our family. Getting help with household chores doesn’t make you an unfit mother. It makes you a mother who will raise her kids to call her ‘blessed’ because they’ve learned to do things they need to do in order to live away from you. I’m not saying you should sit around while your family does all the work, but asking for help once in awhile is a win-win situation. Really.
Procrastination is NOT a personality trait. It is a habit and it won’t go away just because you are aware you do it. But, as a habit it is something that we can overcome. Thank goodness. Now it’s time to take those first steps to change and get writing!!
For more information look at: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/procrastination.html