Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin. ~Victor Kiam

In a Dance With Time
Originally uploaded by it's life.
One of the hardest things to do is to motivate myself to write when it’s late at night and I’m tired. I find that if the task ahead is daunting or boring, I develop sudden addiction to the random article button on Wikipedia. My husband is the best procrastinator I have ever seen. He raises the bar in our house. I once saw him peek over a pile of ungraded tests to tell me that I just had to take a look at the graph on the computer showing the difference in deforestation rate in Haiti versus The Dominican Republic…he was serious.

Because writing is a solitary task, and I don’t have a publisher’s deadline looming, it’s sometimes hard to get my hind-quarters in gear. In light of this, I decided to ask people what they did to help curb the procrastination urge. Not just other writers, but people in general. They had some helpful advice. Now, I know that not everyone who reads this blog is a writer, but the tricks I learned are helpful for any task.

First, we need to recognize why we do it. Common reasons we avoid are the fear of failure, or the need to be perfect. But sometimes life gets all of our attention and we forget to carve out time. My favorite reason is that I’m constantly rewarding myself to do so. If I don’t work on my book, I can watch my favorite show or go meet a friend for coffee. I usually write at night after the kids are asleep, so sleep is a pretty good enticement to put off writing.

Second, we need to recognize the things we do to put off our task. Do you pretend it doesn’t exist, or convince yourself you can’t function in such a cluttered space? How about setting unrealistic stretches of time…in most instances, you don’t in fact need an entire day to do your task.

Third, we overcome these stumbling blocks with some simple tricks.
• Leave out your work. It’s a great reminder. This way, I have to see my papers, research notebooks, and plot blocks every time I pass by my desk.
• Set a reasonable goal. I can’t finish my entire book in one sitting, but I can do a chapter, or a scene. I often set page goals.
• Avoid distractions. I am a notorious web crawler. So I make sure NOT to open my browser when I’m supposed to be writing. If I need to look something up, I write it down and do research later.
• Have a deadline/appointed nagger. I meet with my writing circle every other week and we require two to three chapters. This is highly motivating. I’m accountable to someone taking time out of their day to meet with me. I want to be prepared.
• Understand that there are consequences either way. If I put things off, I will have a nagging feeling in my gut. I’ll get stressed because I know I should be further along in my work. On the other hand, consequences to not putting it off are relief. I feel accomplished and hopeful. I get ice cream.

Putting these tips into action helps me to stay on task. What are you tricks to combat procrastination? Let me know. Until then…Get To Work!

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