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How do I Procrastinate?

I hereby dub myself “Queen of the Procrastinators.” How do I procrastinate? Let me count the ways.

Instead of working on my WIP:
• Yesterday I baked bread.
• Today I cleaned my keyboard.
• And I'm writing this article.
• Once I even cleaned my stove!
• I go grocery shopping.
• I check e-mail.
• I have lunch.
• I do dishes.

And on and on…

I even took a class on procrastination once. No, not how to, but how to avoid doing it. I think I need to re-read my notes!

One thing the instructor recommended was to make an appointment with yourself. Every day from 9 to 10 a.m. (or whatever time you designate), I will write. Period. Nothing should interfere with this appointment. This is creating a habit, and most likely you will end up working longer, because you’ll find you’re on a roll.

Reward yourself for doing this. Even something that seems as silly as putting a sticker on your calendar each day that you write is a huge thing. I did this a few years ago and I found that if I had a day that interfered with my writing and I couldn’t put up a sticker, I was disappointed. I became determined to fill my calendar with stickers every day. (Except Sunday. It’s OK to give yourself permission to take a day off.)

Some writers set a daily word goal. Maybe the reward for that is to check e-mail AFTER you’ve accomplished this goal. Or to go for a walk (that results in a number of rewards, mentally and physically). Or meet someone for coffee.

How do you procrastinate? And how do you overcome it?

A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, has recently been released. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.

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  1. It happens to everyone, doesn't it? The need to procrastinate. Instead of working on my WIP, I've ended up playing computer games. I mean, it's so easy! You're already there at the computer, the distraction is just a click away!

    I had to look at my writing as a full time job (even though I don't get paid). I have a whole routine that includes breaks for lunch and exercise, but I consider it part of my 'work' day, so from 9:30am to 4:30 pm, I am at work.

    So far, it' seems to be working.

  2. Wow, Heidi--cleaning the oven? That's serious procrastination. ;)

    My husband once read THE MYTH OF LAZINESS by Mel Levine (I was too lazy to read it). You gotta love the blurb, which includes the phrase:

    ...Dr. Levine shows how we can spot the neurodevelopmental
    dysfunctions that may cause "output failure," as he calls it...

    In my experience as in Levine's, procrastinators (those with "output failure"!) aren't lazy--they're afraid, and it's probably of the demands that success might place on them.

    I've also found that quite brilliant people are often the worst procrastinators. They thrive on the added challenge of pulling off their project by deadline AND being able to say they did it in a panic at the 11th hour.

    Such last minute efforts and the accompanying adrenaline do focus one's thoughts! The enemy isn't procrastination, per se: it's having no deadline at all. So at the start of your career, holding yourself accountable to a critique group or contest deadlines can really help.

  3. I set my daily goal for 1,000 words. Most of the time I get them done, but there's lots of procrastination happening along the way, mostly on the Internet. For a while I was on a house cleaning binge, but decided my work in progress was preferable.

    Morgan Mandel

  4. I'm with Jenny. Checking in with favorite blogs is a way I procrastinate. I keep telling myself "write first, check blogs later" but then I need to update my blog... and while I'm there I might as well see what my friends are doing.... and then I need to leave a comment...and then I need to check out a new visitor's blog... and then.... LOL

  5. Ah, yes, Heidi — procrastination, the bane of progress in any field. Great post, and so true that it hurts. I think the cure lies in priortizing, but I've been putting that off…

  6. I play mental games with myself. Such as - my blogging and much of my e-mail are related to moving forward as a writer so spending all my time doing that isn't really procrastinating. Right?

    And then there are the computer games... (wanna hear some of my best scores?)

  7. Procrastination is my biggest bug-bear. There are days when I win, there are days when it wins. How do I overcome it? Guilt. That overwhelming wave of guilt will generally force me to write something; or at least try. Sometimes.

  8. Wow, great comments. I'm glad I'm not the only one who fights this battle.

    Kathryn, I love "output failure"--sounds better than procrastination, doesn't it? Yes, I find that I thrive on last-minute deadlines. I don't think that means I'm brilliant (LOL), I think it may have been my newspaper days training. Alas. Thankfully I do have two weekly critique groups that keeps me at least putting out a few pages at a time!

    I had to remove the games from my computer--I get completely obsessed!

    This is fun!

  9. I do not procrastinate with important things. I set an outside limit for when everything of importance has to be done and I've never been late once.

    I procrastiate with chores that can be put off like cleaning the sliding glass door. When it got so dirty that I though the ocean was a dustbin, I finally cleaned it. I waited many years to have an ocean view and I won't allow anything to stand between me and my ocean ... even if it means a half hour of cleaning 150 square feet of glass! Ugh.

  10. I pretend to clear my desk by my computer so that I can get my next project moving. But first I have to find the notes.

    I'm easily distracted.

  11. Procrastinating is so much easier than working -- and usually more fun.

  12. I rarely procrastinate when I'm writing. House work is my bug-a-boo and I procastinate big time there. I do tend to get nervous if my house is cluttered, so it almost always looks good. But as Phyllis Diller once said,"If you write in the dust on my furniture, don't put the date." Anything that takes me away from writing frustrates me. When I do have trouble with my writing... when it's not going well, I get sleepy... terribly, terribly sleepy and I have fallen asleep at the computer.

  13. Deadlines, even self-imposed ones, help me to evade procrastination. Working under pressure tends to pump the adrenaline necessary for me to produce the words on the page. Once the words have begun to flow, they become self-sustaining.
    Even so, there are a million ways to procrastinate and I think I've tried them all: pet the cat, feed the birds, watch the wind in the trees, catch dust bunnies, etc...

  14. You forgot how important it is to clean the litter boxes. Turning the compost pile can't wait either. Oh, and toilets bowls do need a good scrubbing.

    The problem I have is that I really do the above sometimes, before I can bring myself to sit down and write. Sick!

  15. I'm procrastinating right now by looking out all the interesting blogs instead of writing. Sometimes I do housework but I procrastinate over that too (by looking out all the interesting...).
    I must now give myself a terrible telling-off.
    I like this post and the comments.

  16. Laundry, cleaning, cooking. My teenage boys and the puppy are great for helping out in this area. The minute I sit down to write they need a ride someplace, or the new puppy needs to go outside. It's great, I don't even have to make up my own ways to procrastinate.

  17. This is how I get through my editing. I barter with myself. Let's just say, though, that I haven't perfected the process yet, as here I am, on The Blood Red Pencil. At least it's related to editing! Okay. Back to work.


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