Lesson 2

How to kill your procrastination gremlins

Writers are masters of procrastination – it’s far simpler (and often more appealing) to check on the out-of-focus snaps of your Facebook friend than it is to write that second chapter of your book. Whether you’re a full-time writer, a part-time scribbler, or a dreamer with ambitions to write, it’s all too easy to delay.

Dr. Robert Boice spent two decades delving into the minds of writers to work out why they are so easily distracted. He found that master procrastinators are suckers for falling for the short term hit at the expense of their long-term goal.

People prone to procrastination put a disproportionate focus on the outcome, rather than the input required to make their dream come true. This can cause increased levels of anxiety. With this in mind:

ACTION: Take the Pomodoro Challenge

One way to overcome procrastination is to make the activity you are putting off doing more fun. For example, many writers love using the Pomodoro technique of writing in 20-minute blasts followed by a five-minute break (ideal for eating chocolate). Why not set yourself a challenge of beating your personal best for words on the page?

Alternatively, simply changing your environment can make the chore a treat – splash out on some expensive stationery that you look forward to using or always have your favorite drink to hand when you sit down to write.

ACTION: Alter your ‘choice architecture’

If you know you procrastinate and get distracted, another way to keep focused is to design your ‘choice architecture’ – a term first coined by Thaler and Sunstein in their 2008 book Nudge.  When you organize your choice architecture, you deliberately arrange your external environment to influence the choices you make. For example, when we’re writing, it’s all too easy to get sidetracked and start tidying that cupboard or organizing those paperclips. One way to keep focus is to make sure that distractions aren’t anywhere near. Leave your phone downstairs, switch off the internet and ensure that you have a tidy desk. Better still, go and borrow someone else’s clean desk – there’s probably one in a coffee shop down the road.

Thinking about writing a whole book is understandably scary, whereas writing one word, one sentence, or one page is much less frightening.

So to kill your procrastination gremlins by approaching them slowly, one step at a time!

 

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