Defeating Procrastination

Jun 2, 2015 | Personal


My author friends, let us talk about procrastination. We are all guilty of this. We sit down to write, and suddenly the laundry waiting to be done looks inviting, or we get the urge to vacuum all the things. It is our nemesis! And a wily foe it is, ever creeping into our brains and diverting us from our appointed storytelling tasks.

Long have I struggled with this, friends. Long have I fought this demon, and traded victories with it. Every day the fight begins anew… but I have found effective strategies to combat this menace, and today, I share them with you. Take careful note, and know that you must always play to your own strengths to defeat the procrastination monster.

Step 1: List all your current works in progress.

A work in progress is any that you intend to publish, that has not been published yet. The length and quality does not matter. Make a list of everything.

If you store your writing in digital format, create a new folder called Writing, create subfolders for each discrete work in it, and dump everything related to each work into its respective folder – covers, notes, drafts, everything. The list of folders in Writing will serve as your list.

If you store your writing in paper format, spread everything out on the nearest available floor. Make a stack of paper for each work – again, include everything related to each work in its stack. Store the stacks in a file binder or something similar if you want to reclaim your floor space.

Step 2: Rank the works

There are two criteria used to rank your work:

  • How much time is required to finish and publish it

  • How many people want to read it

This is all you need to know. Quantify how much time you need in order to finish each work, and then note how many people are waiting to read it. Place the work with the least amount of effort required and the most amount of people waiting for it at the top, and continue in that fashion. If you have to choose between time and people, weight it towards time.

This means that a novel you’ve been working on for a year with three beta readers waiting for the final draft should rank higher than a first chapter and outline you threw together and showed to ten people, all of whom liked it.

Step 3: Learn The Pomodoro Technique

This is a technique that makes you work in short sprints. There are dozens of apps on the iOS and Android app store if you want one specifically for it. If not, and you want to do it old school with a kitchen timer, here’s how it works:

  1. Choose a task to be accomplished.

  2. Set the timer to 25 minutes.

  3. Work on the task until the timer rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper.

  4. Take a short break (5 minutes is OK).

  5. Every 4 blocks of 25 minutes, take a longer break.

This technique is magic. It pushes productivity like nothing else on earth.

Step 4: The 3/1 rule

Determine how much time you want to devote to writing every day. This does not include time spent blogging or dicking around on social media or doing random marketing stuff for your writing. Two hours is convenient because it fits into the Pomodoro Technique above, and most authors have jobs and families and stuff.

For every four blocks of time that you spend working on a project, three should be dedicated to the highest ranked work in progress, and one block may be dedicated to any other work in progress. This gets you working on the most important thing, and stops you going completely bonkers from ONLY working on the most important thing.

Step 5: Profit!

The purpose of all this is to make your writing process modular. Every writer I have ever met complains about having new ideas, and getting distracted by random crap. It’s hard to write, to be honest. It requires brain power that we don’t always have available, hence we are beset on all sides by procrastination.

I hope this humble process will be useful to you, my friends. Now go forth, and conquer the monster! May you bring back its head and mount it over your fireplace!