If you’ve ever felt blocked as a writer, you know that one of the best ways to stop procrastinating is to just sit down and start writing. By getting into the action of writing, you stop procrastinating and immediately start producing sentences. As many successful authors will tell you, it’s best to just start writing, even if the sentences aren’t yet coming out just the way you want them to. Make time to write every day and you will find that you’re able to stop procrastinating.
Today I finished up last year’s taxes. It’s May and yes, just in case you were concerned, I did file for an extension. I should have gotten the taxes out of the way sooner, but since I don’t like doing taxes, I allowed myself to procrastinate. But the good news is that it wasn’t as long as I procrastinated last year. Last year I didn’t turn in my taxes until August.
Journal every morning.
One of the biggest benefits of writing three morning pages, as suggested by Julia Cameron in the Artist’s Way, is that by writing these pages every morning, it gives me an opportunity to think forward toward the day ahead. It’s natural to write about the things I’m excited to do that day as well as the things that are bothering me. I also write about the things I know I need to get done, but don’t want to do. And I write about things I don’t have enough time to get to today even though I think I’d like to. When I’m journaling in the morning, it all makes it to the pages.
When writing for the third or fourth day in a row why I don’t want to do a thing, it’s like having a little internal coach that’s reminding me that I really need to get this thing done. Once I get in motion, it usually happens quicker than I expect, or I feel rewarded just knowing that it’s done. In the case of reminding myself over and over again that I needed to vacuum and mop the floors last week, I finally did it, and I got the satisfaction of a cleaner home.
Choose to do one task to break through procrastination.
All of these projects that stand in front of me are like little flies buzzing around my head reminding me that I’m not good enough, and that I should be getting more done each day. These projects are like challenges that dare to hold me back. By deciding to bust through them, they disappear just like those little enemies do on video games when I shoot at them. It’s feels great to know that they’re out of the way and I can proceed forward.
Speaking of shooting, sometimes when I finally get involved in something I’ve been procrastinating, I find out that it has already solved itself or that it’s much less time consuming than I originally expected, or that I only need to take one small step now and there’s a good reason to wait to complete the rest of it. So many good things come from just getting started, doing the tasks involved, and feeling the relief of knowing that I can move forward.
Take action now to make room for new opportunities.
In her book, A Broom of One’s Own, Nancy Peacock talks about her housecleaning business and some of her clients. She rants about her challenges of picking up after people. In chapter four, she describes an older couple, The Kruegers, who are on her “hit list.” They frequently ask her to move furniture and large plants. Mrs. Krueger is always pointing out the dirty spots in the house, or a place where she recently saw a spider in the curtains. She points out some dust that built up between the wall-to-wall carpeting and the baseboard, and a spot on a cabinet in the kitchen, always nit-picking about something.
Nancy needs the money and the housekeeping gives her the freedom to write on her own schedule. But does she really need these clients that she dreads to visit? She doesn’t like working for them, and as she records this on paper, she’s emphasizing the fact that she doesn’t want to go back. The very act of writing it makes it become more apparent to her conscious mind and automatically lays out an action item she should do. She becomes aware of something she’s procrastinating. Yes, she might have to find a new client and come up to speed with their needs, but wouldn’t it just be better to get it done sooner than later?
Assuming you’re writing fairly fast from your stream of consciousness, those things that come to mind from your flow of inner voice are the things that can propel you forward. Just by acknowledging what you want to do, you plant a seed that can now sprout and begin to manifest in your life. As you write about it, the sprout begins to grow.
When you’re proactive, you find that random opportunities come up and you realize that don’t have to go back to that job. You don’t have to live in that place. You don’t have to put up with that person, or whatever it is. As I read Nancy’s chapter about her frustration with the Kruegers, I’m wondering through each paragraph if she’s going to resolve this and escape from the Kruegers. I want to know if she’s able to write her way out of procrastination. Will she stop procrastinating and tell the Kruegers that she’s never coming back?
This morning when I was writing my morning pages, I was reflecting on the fact that my husband and I had a full day at home with nothing on our schedule, so it was a great day to finish up our taxes. We have a way of doing our taxes together. I do a lot of the categorization, while he creates spreadsheets, scans documents, and sends everything over to our accountant. It’s a good process. It’s one we sort of fell into after almost two decades of being together. Next year, yes next year, I will surely get my part done sooner!
Pay attention to why you’re procrastinating.
There’s great value in journaling about things you don’t want to do, but feel you need to. Simply by writing about it, you gain insight into specific reasons you feel stuck.
Do you really need to do this thing? Or is it something you can ignore, delegate or dismiss?
After knowing for the past weeks and months that I needed to do taxes, I finally wrote about it so much that I realized it would be much better to just get it done. Even when I wasn’t writing about it, it was cluttering up space in my subconscious, like a nagging voice that got louder and more annoying over time. Writing about it allows it to surface and be addressed with the attention it deserves. I thought about hiring a bookkeeper, but it’s really not necessary, at least for now.
Writing about your to do list is more effective than a to do list alone.
Journaling about what needs to get done is more effective than just putting an item on a to list that you forward from one day to the next. It’s easy to look at a big task and think, “oh, not now, maybe tomorrow.” But when you’re writing about something day after day, your mind starts to percolate all the little tasks within the bigger project. As it bubbles up through the words on your page, it’s starts to boil and you get fired up about getting it done and overwith.
Writing the same thing over and over again every day is motivation in itself to stop procrastinating. How can I bear to be with myself if I put this off another day? By writing about what I feel I should be doing, it helps me to stop procrastinating. Even as I pause from writing, I have to ask myself, why am I pausing?
Decide to get it done ASAP.
It’s much easier to just get projects done quickly, especially those that you don’t want to do. It’s such a relief to get them done and check them off. It opens up the days ahead allowing you to move forward knowing that the project is done and you’re free from it. As long as it’s still on your mind as something you need do, it will stand in front of you like another hurdle to jump. When you look out on the horizon, you’ll see this thing that stands in front of you. It’s so much easier to just get it done and stop procrastinating. By getting it done, you get a huge sense of relief.
Today when I finished up my part of the taxes, it felt like I took a huge step forward. The next step is that my husband sends everything over to our accountant who takes care of all the details. One of the things I figured out when I finally decided to dive into the project is that I was having trouble with one major vendor. I needed a detailed report to catch all the right expenses and I wasn’t able to get it from them last year. But this year, I dug a little deeper and discovered that I could create this custom report.
Last year I just didn’t take enough time to search and ask the right questions in order to get what I needed. It was very frustrating. Just by making the decision today to stop procrastinating and get it done, I feel a huge sense of relief that not only did it get done, but it gone done much faster than I expected because of that one report that made everything go so much faster this year than it did last year.
Write about why you need to stop procrastinating.
Declaring that you’ve come down with a case of writer’s block is just another way of reminding yourself that you need to stop procrastinating on your writing. If you didn’t have a desire to write, then you’d never have the opportunity to diagnose yourself with writer’s block.
In the 7 Secrets of the Prolific, author Hillary Rettig tells writers that they should never apply labels like “lazy” to themselves. She goes on to say that “laziness, lack of willpower, etc., are symptoms, and not causes, or underproductivity.”
As I record the words streaming from my inner voice, I sense that it has much to say and will carry on indefinitely. I just need to ask the right questions and this inner muse will give me a flood of sentences, paragraphs and chapters. In fact, I know with the help of this inner wisdom, I break through barriers that used to feel like impossibilities.
The best way to stop procrastinating is to start doing that thing that you feel like you need to do. When it’s done, you’ll be so happy that you were able to reposition this thing from your future into your past.