stuck in the mud

Break the Procrastination Habit Today

Does this ever happen to you? You sit down to write or create something and you end up doing everything but writing and creating. And then suddenly it’s the end of the day and you think “How did the day slip away from me? Arg!” It slips away because we find ways to procrastinate, often in the name of getting things done. The truth is we need to make our writing, art, and creation time a priority before we can overcome the procrastination habit.

Why Do We Procrastinate?

The reason people procrastinate is usually because of a few reasons:

  • Seeking Pleasure. You’re looking for a little serotonin fix a la checking email, blog stats, or some other compulsive pleasure producer.
  • Avoiding Pain. You’ve got your mind thinking only about the work and not the pleasure you’ll get from completing your creation.
  • Lack of Direction. You’re not sure what the next step is in your writing or what you are trying to create.
  • Faulty Prioritization. You have other things to do and you are inadvertently prioritizing them higher than your creation work. (a.k.a. procrastination by doing things)

How to Break the Procrastination Habit and Get Back to Creating

1. Make a Mental Commitment. Commit to doing your writing/creation work first before anything else. If you are reading this then it is probably important to you. Focus on how good it will feel when you complete solid progress on your creation work each day. The other things on your list can be done later.

2. Plan Your Day. Write out what you need to accomplish today including your creation work. Then prioritize each item with creation work being #1. Then schedule each item into a time slot for the day. Be realistic about your time frames and be sure to include transition and buffer time in between activities. Keep some time open for unplanned items. When your other tasks have been scheduled then your mind will be free to focus on writing and creating.

3. Clear Your Desk. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes and get everything piled up or put away somewhere else. Leave another 5-10 minutes at the end of your creation time to organize and put everything in it’s place. Don’t get sucked into organizing the items on your desk. Just move them out of sight so they won’t be grabbing your attention while you’re trying to create.

4. Clear Your Computer. Close all windows that don’t relate to what you’re creating. If there is anything you need to look at later, write it down in your capture notebook to review and prioritize later. You’ll be amazed how much unnecessary stuff will be eliminated from your life this way.

5. Start Writing or Creating. Just write/create. Don’t stop. Don’t censor or edit. Anytime you come to a sticking point, find a way to highlight it and come back to it later. Examples:

  • Title: Just fill in a crappy working title. Once the piece is written then it will be easy to bring the title into focus.
  • Items to research: Highlight and return to it after the piece is written.
  • Items to hyperlink: Highlight and create your links after the whole piece is written.

6. Writer’s Block. If you’ve been procrastinating because you can’t find the words, don’t know where to start or what comes next then it is time to get away from your computer. Transition to the simple tools of paper and pen. If you’re still blocked, get away from paper and pen and find a place to daydream. Try both lighted and dark rooms. Try closing your eyes and ask yourself:

  • What am I trying to accomplish?
  • What do I want to create?
  • What do I want to say?
  • Who is my audience?
  • What do I need to communicate?
  • What action (if any) do I want my readers to take?
  • How do I want them to feel?

Take as much time as you can. Really daydream. Don’t censor yourself. Be wild and free and loose with your ideas. There will be plenty of time later to hone your creation later. When you’re done, say after 20 minutes, then grab a piece of paper and quickly write down the main ideas you came up with.

7. If You’re Still Stuck in the Muck. You might be trying to hard or you may need a significant break. The cure is to get away from the task altogether to allow your conscious mind to unwind from the project. Don’t worry, your subconscious mind will continue to process and solve your next steps. Try doing something completely unrelated like going to the zoo, playing a sport, or going to see a movie. When you return you should have a better perspective and a renewal of energy. You may discover that you were going down the wrong path completely and you need to start anew. Even if you are contracted to create for someone else and you’re not into it, make it a goal to find a way to get excited about the project and have fun.

Please Share!

How do you get unstuck? All comments big and small are very welcomed!

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  1. 1
    November 27th, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    Ok OK
    I don’t procastine anymore!!

  2. 2
    November 27th, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    Great article! I particularly like the ideas about clearing your desk and shutting down non-relevant browser windows, apps etc. I’m guilty of this – I’ll have all sorts of distracting material, email etc open while trying to concentrate on something.

    As far as shifting writer’s block is concerned, I often go for a walk, which usually gets the ideas flowing.

  3. 3
    November 28th, 2007 at 9:19 am

    Great article. I think the best advice that anyone can give about “unblocking” is to just write. Even if it is a short story based on your grocery list (hmm…), just write _something._

  4. 4
    Almost Vegetarian
    November 28th, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    I’m always so astonished when I hear of a writer having troubles with idea generation or procrastination or any of the other tasks that are a daily part of our lives. I think we are all so bus coddling ourselves that we just don’t get the job done. Sit in front of the computer. Stay. Work. And thank the heavens that this is how you get to make a living.

    No one ever said writing would be easy. It is not. But it is rewarding in oh so many ways.


  5. 5
    Tim E.
    November 28th, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    Another assignment completed with pizazz, Agent Sully.
    Good reading, and dare I say it, Great Article!
    I liked it so much, I zoomed it for you on BloggingZoom……

    This comment will self destruct in 1,000,000 seconds.

  6. 7
    November 29th, 2007 at 7:38 am

    Sometimes it is better to work on the basis that anything is better than nothing and just make a start – often you surprise yourself how useful your “anything” can be

  7. 8
    November 29th, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Great piece! I especially liked tips 2 and 3.

  8. 9
    Mary Jaksch
    November 29th, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    This is a very interesting post.
    As a blogger and book author, writer’s block is something I obviously try to avoid. It seems to me that a writer’s procrastination is sometimes due to mixing up two different brain functions, the ‘creator’ and the ‘editor’. (I have written about this in recent post on creativity.) Writer’s block happens when we stop the creative process by judging what we are writing critically before the first draft is written.

    When we learn to control and use each of these two different thinking modes at the right time, writer’s block is a thing of the past.

  9. 11
    December 1st, 2007 at 12:45 am

    These are good tips to overcome the drudgery of any type of work… not just writers block. I find a cup of coffee and a long walk with the dog helps me clear my head and get some good thoughts rolling.

  10. 12
    December 1st, 2007 at 6:00 am

    Thanks for a great article, I always try to mix up my surroundings and routines. And of course my caffine intake which is food for the brain.

  11. 13
    December 2nd, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    When I’m stuck I usually go to the gym. That does the trick for me.

  12. 16
    July 12th, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    Writers block is one of those things that can be solved in quite a number of ways. All of the methods you talk about are great. The one method that works for me is watching random Youtube videos and playing video games. For some reason, when i’m having problems with creating new content for my sites, these methods works every time for me.

  13. 17
    July 17th, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    @Auto – thanks for sharing!

  14. 18
    Essay Tips
    October 15th, 2008 at 6:26 am

    These tips are indeed beneficial for students experiencing mental block when writing assignments come. Nice job!

  15. 19
    The Translator
    October 16th, 2008 at 2:22 am

    Writer’s block is the perpetual dilemma of not just writers, but of translators as well. As a translator, I often experience moments when I cannot seem to find the right words to use in order to retain the original message of a translated document. Thanks for your article. It’s a big help.

  16. 20
    Laurie PK
    October 26th, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    I just spent the last 3 days at a writer’s conference, and a best-selling author said that there’s no such thing as writer’s block! He said that professional writers can’t afford writer’s block, because they need to eat, feed the kids, pay the bills, etc.

    It was an interesting perspective, which I’ve heard a time or two before. I guess it depends how you define “writer’s block.” No ideas? Fear of writing? No energy?

  17. 21
    Franck Silvestre
    June 13th, 2009 at 3:59 am

    Whenever I have a writer’s blog I just read the comments on my blog. I can easily pick up a few good ones to write a topic or simply respond to the commenter in more detail.

  18. 22
    July 8th, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    @Franck – that’s such a good idea! Thanks for sharing!


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