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Writer’s Block may be more well-known as the archenemy of authors, but procrastination is Writer’s Block’s sneaky sidekick—and is just as unwelcome in a writer’s life. The tasks that we don’t enjoy (like researching literary markets or writing a synopsis) often get pushed to the back burner, where they can languish for weeks and cause unnecessary stress.
At Writer’s Relief, we know the most effective way to beat procrastination is to simply GET STARTED. Once you take a single step toward a writing goal, you’ve created momentum that will help propel you forward in the right direction. Here are other ways to deal with procrastination and get the wheels in motion!
12 Ways To Quit Stalling And Start Writing Again
Banish your inner perfectionist (for the time being). Many times we’re reluctant to start something new because we’re sure we’ll do a bad job. But whether it’s researching, writing, or baking a cake, very few people get it perfect the first time. The only way to move forward is simply to take a stab at whatever you’re putting off—and then work on refining, editing, or covering imperfections with icing.
Reassess your goals. Are your goals realistic, or are you setting yourself up for failure? Break down broad goals (I’ll get published!) into smaller bite-size chunks (I’ll send out 10 submissions this month!). A series of small successes can give you a sense of accomplishment and provide the impetus to complete other tasks.
Change the channel. Get up, get out, change the scenery, and change your attitude. After you’ve rearranged your office, communed with the pigeons in the park, or tried a new haircut, you may find your overall motivation has returned.
Find an accountability partner. Teaming up with another writer can help you both reach your individual goals. You can support and encourage each other, devise a reward system for goals met, and keep each other on track.
Do the worst task first. The longer we put off a task, the larger it looms in our minds—and the more we want to avoid it. Try doing your least favorite writing chore first. Then you can focus guilt-free on your fun, creative endeavors.
Or do your favorite task first. Other writers beat procrastination by starting with a favorite task to prime the pump, like dashing off some poetry or working on a short story, before tackling more difficult tasks like revisions or query letters.
Try the Pomodoro Technique. Set a timer and work for twenty-five minutes; reward yourself with a five- or ten-minute break, and then work another twenty-five minutes. With set time limits, tasks won’t feel so big and unending (and therefore be something to avoid), but instead seem more manageable.
Create to-do lists. Some of us are motivated by the satisfaction of crossing things off a list. Create a detailed to-do list, with lots of simple tasks you get to cross off easily: rearrange pencils, make coffee, and turn off phone. By the time you get to outline blog post, you may be feeling so good about crossing off three items, you’ll be eager to tackle the bigger tasks.
Turn off message alerts and notifications. “Distraction” is procrastination’s partner in crime—and one of the biggest modern-day distractions is that little ding letting you know there are emails, tweets, new photos on Instagram, and a match on Dating.com all waiting for you! Put your phone on silent and keep it out of sight until you’re finished writing. (Read more: Wasting Time: Procrastination Problems For Writers.)
Share your work. Sometimes you get stuck on a plot twist or word choice and procrastinate returning to a piece because you don’t know how to get unstuck. Have someone you trust (or members of your writers group) review your writing. They may have a new perspective or advice that helps you get moving again.
Create a procrastination-busting playlist. A personalized playlist might be the way to revive your muse. Some writers find soothing background music (or sounds of the rainforest or the ocean) sets the tone for serious writing sessions.
Be flexible and self-forgiving. You’ve set a writing schedule, eliminated all possible distractions, and devised a reward system for a productive day. But sometimes, no matter how hard you try to stay on track—life happens. Don’t beat yourself up about it: You can start fresh tomorrow. But if a one-day delay stretches into weeks or even months, see the tips above!
Bonus Tip for avoiding procrastination: Let Writer’s Relief handle the tasks you hate! Our submission strategists happily complete those tasks that writers love to put off—we identify the right literary agents for your book manuscript or the best literary journals for your short stories, essays, or poems, create your query or cover letters, and manage your submissions. That leaves you with only one task: WRITING!
QUESTION: How do you deal with procrastination? Share your best tip!