20 Tips for Dealing with Procrastination and Distractions

20 Tips for Dealing with Procrastination and Distractions by Shelley Sturgeon offers tips for writers to avoid or overcome procrastination and distractions.

I was sitting here at my desk yesterday afternoon with the intention of cranking out a half dozen or so blog posts. There’s been absolutely no reason why I couldn’t do this in theory. My family was otherwise occupied so I had the house to myself (if you don’t count the four legged menagerie!) and there was nothing else burning a hole in my social calendar or to-do list.

But, instead, I shopped, did some DIY, ate lunch, surfed, checked email, called my sister, checked email again and then called my husband. I think you get the picture. NONE of that was priority so why did I do it? I have no idea.

Have you ever noticed how we tend to avoid things that we’re not quite sure how to tackle, things that overwhelm us because we don’t feel confident or comfortable doing them or we don’t know where to start? We tell ourselves that we’re just psyching ourselves up for the task, and sometimes I even tell myself that I work better when I’m pressured to meet a deadline, almost as if I’m intentionally building that pressure so I will work better, but the only problem with that is that when it comes to writing, I set my own deadlines, and well, I also tend to “adjust” said deadlines when it suits me. Do you ever do that?

So, to get the juices flowing, I started writing about how to manage the writer’s worse enemies: procrastination and distractions.

Tips for Dealing with Procrastination and Distractions

  1. Instead of thinking of a project or task as a whole, try itemizing the steps involved and concentrate on one step at a time. So, instead of writing about “25 Ways to Describe a Character” aim to write about one way, and then another and another and so on.
  2. You can try establishing deadlines. It might work for you, but personally I usually struggle with self-imposed deadlines. I do, however, find that it helps to know someone is waiting for something. If I had a beta reader drumming his or her fingers on a desktop waiting for my next installment I’d meet my deadline.
  3. Attach time for your writing to another task that you will never forget to do. For example, I could add writing to pouring my first cup of coffee each day and change my routine so that I always go to my computer and start writing when I’m drinking my coffee. That’s how I remember to water my hanging baskets of flowers in the summer. While my Keurig machine is brewing my cup of coffee, I fill the pail with water and carry it out to the front porch to water the plants.
  4. Aim for results not perfection. I think too often we forget that we can tweak things later but it’s more important to get a first draft down.
  5. Ever hear the quote by William W. Purkey “You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching, Love like you’ll never be hurt, Sing like there’s nobody listening, And live like it’s heaven on earth.” Well, I’d suggest we add “Write like you’re a bestselling author” to the list. Our inhibitions – fear of success, fear of failure, fear of what our mother might say! – can often hold us back from our writing.
  6. I read an article once a long time ago that suggested writing the climax of your book first when you are excited about the project and energized. Then, the article went on to explain, you could go back and write everything up to the climax. Your writing would be more focused, in theory. The same could be said for a blog post. Write your tips or main points, then complete it with your intro and conclusion.
  7. Maybe you really do need a change of pace to inspire and rejuvenate you? This is a dangerous one because we often deceive ourselves into thinking this way, but if you’re working hard, maybe you do need some time off. All work and no play, etc.? Live in the moment. Give yourself a break and enjoy the moment then really and truly get on with your writing.
  8. If you’re experiencing a brain spasm about a project, consider talking to a friend or colleague to get their feedback. Sometimes a fresh perspective or a show of enthusiasm from someone else can make all the difference and get you really excited about following through on something.
  9. Set a timer. Ever visited the Flylady site? This site is all about helping people organize their time so they can clean and organize their homes. It’s a great site full of helpful tips. Yes, I know that doesn’t have a lot to do with writing blog posts (stay on topic Shelley!) but they’re keen about setting timers to chip away at tasks so instead of setting timers and alerting a search party to rescue you in 20 minutes if you don’t emerge from your son’s bedroom, why not set a timer and start chipping away at the next chapter in your book? You may not finish it in 20 minutes, but it is a step in the right direction.
  10. Figure out what time of the day suits you best for writing. I know for me, when it comes to exercising, if I’m going to consistently do it, I need to do it first thing in the morning before I talk myself out of it or end up spread too thinly during my day to find the time to do it. Maybe writing at night before bed when the house is quiet works better for you?
  11. Try practising free writing. The more you write, the easier it gets and the less likely we are to procrastinate!
  12. For reasons similar to free writing, try keeping a journal.
  13. Try using a mind map to itemize your task and show you the big picture.
  14. If you’re writing blog posts, try using templates.
  15. Clean off your desk. This might be an unnecessary suggestion for some people but personally my desk can be very cluttered at times. It’s often the catch all for unfiled mail, coupons, print offs that I need to proofread, etc. I think you get the idea. I find that when I clean it off and shine it up with some furniture polish, I can usually get my head down and focus on the task at hand.
  16. Find a writing spot. I generally use my desk top since I’m at the age where I need reading glasses and struggle to see things on small screens without them, but I do have a laptop. Sometimes I find the change of scenery, taking my laptop out to the gazebo or into the living room away from the television, helps me to separate my responsibilities to my clients from my own personal writing projects.
  17. If surfing is your biggest distraction, check out utilities designed to shut off the internet like Write or Die.
  18. Determine if you’re someone who needs to work with background noise or someone who needs absolute silence to concentrate. Depending on the day and perhaps what I’m writing, sometimes I need absolute silence and other times I find it helps to crank up my music. Figure out what makes you tick – and write!
  19. We make time for things that are important to us. Those things become priorities in our lives. Ever notice that? Cat litter box? Not a priority – until the stench is unbearable sometimes like in those commercials where the cat is holding its nose? (I’m kidding – honest!) Having a cup of coffee first thing in the morning – HIGH priority for me! I never forget to do this. Get the idea? So, are you a writer or not? If you are, and you want to be taken seriously as a writer and if this is important to you, make the time. No excuses.
  20. If you are genuinely too busy with too many obligations eliminate some of your responsibilities. I don’t mean shoot the kids! Over the years I’ve done a lot of volunteer work. At first I would roll my eyes and watch while others sat on their hands and stared at the ceiling when volunteers were being sought for a committee or a particular project, and I’d quickly raise my hand to help out. After experiencing total and complete burnout I learned to sit on my hands – sometimes! It’s important to remember to that it’s okay to put you and your goals at the top of the list sometimes.

If you’ve read over this list and nothing here is hitting the mark, consider that maybe you just need to grow up and quit whining, kick yourself in the backside (and be sure to take a picture of this feat to share with all your friends and followers!) and just do it! Do you want to be a writer or not? If you do, make it happen. Suck it up, buttercup! You CAN do it!

Do you have any tips for dealing with procrastination or distractions so that you can write? If so, please share them in the comments.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles | Freedigitalphotos.net

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