Monday 1 June 2015

Procrastinators Unite! (Tomorrow...or maybe the day after)

by Marilyn Forsyth

Let me guess. You’ve got something important to finish but before you can settle down to it, you just need to: read this blog; play one more game of Candy Crush; scan Facebook; reorganise your linen cupboard and check the oil in the car. How’d I go? Yep, that was me too.
Procrastination is the world’s worst time-suck and the scourge of writers everywhere. There are two types: difficulty in getting started, and being distracted while working. In this post I’ll focus on difficulty with starting.

This is where I should say ‘Stop reading. Get writing!’ but the thing is I may have a way to help YOU stop procrastinating. From widespread reading on the topic, I’ve put together 12 suggestions, one of which might be right for you.

  1. Prioritise your ‘to do’ list, including only those things you’ve been avoiding and omitting anything you intended to do anyway. (I know it feels good ticking them off but in all honesty, what’s the point?)
  2. Begin your writing time with the most important thing – Writing! That annoyingly persistent voice in your head telling you to check your emails? Ignore it! Use your willpower; procrastination is a choice.
  3. Getting started is more important than perfection. Adopt James Clear’s ‘2 Minute Rule’ When you start a new habit it should take less than 2 minutes to do, and although most goals can’t be completed in less than 2 minutes, every goal can be started in 2 minutes or less. This will help you past that hurdle of actually starting - write for 2 minutes and you might find yourself writing for much longer.
  4. Break down goals into small, attainable steps. Small accomplishments bring their own reward and rewards boost motivation.
  5. Set deadlines. Keep to them.

  6. Use social media as a reward rather than a distraction. Hold off until you’ve met your daily word quota, or set a timer for 30 minutes of writing followed by 10 minutes of internet browsing, then more writing.
  7. Intersperse your writing time with bouts of physical activity to get that body active
  8. Make your writing space a ‘feel-good’ area. Surround yourself with things that make you happy.
  9. Develop a ritual to associate with beginning writing. For me, it’s lighting a scented candle. For you it might be eating a Smartie (everyone knows Smarties boost brainpower, right?), or turning on the soundtrack you’ve created for your story.
  10. Finish off that sentence you left unfinished at the end of your last session, or write by hand to start with.
  11. Enjoy what you’re writing. I love writing dialogue and often begin with a page of pure dialogue, layering in the rest later.

There you have it –12 ways to get you started. There’s never been a better time to write than now. Go for it! (After you’ve left a comment, of course.J)

Do you have any suggestions that have helped you move past procrastinating? Love to hear them.

I also:

Love to Love citrus-scented candles to help me get in the zone.

Love to Laugh at the Grammarly Facebook page.

Love to Learn how to craft a great first page. Flogometer provides an opportunity for writers to get feedback on the first page of their ms. Ray Rhamey (Flogging the Quill) lists criteria to judge whether that first page is compelling, gives his own reasons why it might not be, and calls for responses from other readers. Click on the link to check it out.

As mentioned last week, our own Karen M Davis is currently on the road with Jenn J McLeod and Tricia Stringer, visiting 11 NSW towns. Check out the itinerary below to find out when they'll be somewhere near you and go along and support them.


  1. Oh, this is fantastic, Marilyn! I am the biggest procrastinator in the world... I love the idea of writing for TWO MINUTES, and it starts to create a habit. I've probably taken two minutes to write this, actually. A believable, small goal is always what I need - as opposed to sit down and write 120,000 words right now! Also, the Smartie is genius.. 😉 Little goals, little encouragements, and we get there. Thanks so much for this encouragement. Monday Morning Magic!

  2. Thank you, Malvina! I really appreciate your comments. Procrastination had been my middle name for too long so I decided to do something about it by researching ways to overcome it. (Some people may see that as a form of procrastination in itself :) ) Anyway, I'm so glad you found it useful.

  3. What a great article Marilyn. There is always something that can stop us from writing, isn't there? It is often easier to surf the net than to start a new chapter in our ms. For me I write at night (a scheduled writing time) if the words won't flow I don't force them and do some research instead. I don't use social media as a reward but I do try to separate it from my working time.I'm participating in a Book in a month (BIAM) challenge with my RWA Historical e-loop for June so I hope that will keep me from procrastinating. Nothing like a deadline to keep you focused.

    1. Gotta love a deadline, Cassandra! (or is that a contradiction in terms - lol). It does seem to work for a lot of writers, though.
      The BIAM idea is a great one for getting words on the page, too, isn't it? And as has been said many times before, you can't edit an empty page. :)
      Thanks for dropping by, even though I suspect you already have procrastination under control.

  4. It's number two for me! Begin your day with the most important thing--writing. I will make this my priority! Simple. Effective. True.
    Thanks Marilyn Forsyth!!!

    1. Hi Dee! I really hope it works for you, but in case you're struggling to resist checking those emails, you could try this. Write 100, 200, 300, etc down the page until you have the intended word count for your writing session. Cross off each milestone as you reach it, and don't stop for anything (yes, even emails!). I've found it a great visual way to keep focused.

  5. I would think #2 & #6 are the killers. Nothing more distracting from a task than hearing the 'ping' of an email or the temptation to check Facebook. One possible method is to do your writing on a laptop set up basically as a word processor (not connected to the internet!!) and situated in another room. While the temptation to check may still be there, you will have to make a conscious and physical effort to go and check.

    1. Hi David! Nice to see you here! I like the idea of having to physically move to attend to social media. At least it gets you up from sitting for too long at the computer (even if only for a minute while you walk to another room to again sit down at a computer-lol). Worth a try.

  6. Hi Mariyn. Love your suggestions re stopping procrastinating. No. 3 is my sore point. Have to tame the editor in my head. Do like points 4, 9 and 10. Will definitely adopt them.

  7. Thanks for dropping by, Enisa. You might find the 'Don't Break the Link Calendar' helpful too. I first saw it suggested by Anne Gracie on Facebook. If you follow the link in the post you'll find it's a free download, and such a great visual way to ensure you write every day.


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