6 Ways Freelance Writers Can Quit Procrastinating

by Anne Wayman

freelance writers and social mediaIn AA’s 12 and 12 they define procrastination as a five syllable word for sloth (page. 48).

Habitual disinclination to exertion; indolence; laziness is the way Dictionary.com defines sloth.

I’m not sure either is exactly correct when it comes to most freelance writers. I don’t think it’s laziness that causes so many writers claim to be procrastinators as it is poor self-esteem or self-worth coupled with a misguided drive for perfectionism. Maybe the two go hand-in-hand.

If I’m right, here are six ways to beat procrastination  and get writing and making your writing business work:

  1. Know that you’re not alone. Lots of us procrastinate at lease some of the time. People confess it in comments here often, and elsewhere too. There’s even a blog called Procrastinating Writers – looks pretty good too.
  2. Honestly ask yourself what you’re afraid of when you find yourself putting off work you either know you want to get done or that you should get done.  Self-knowledge is helpful, almost required, when it comes to procrastination. Usually there’s some sort of underlying fear involved – fear of success, fear of failure, fear of not doing it “right” whatever that means to you, fear of rejection, etc. etc. etc. Often seeing the fear will help you let go of it, or at least take action in spite of it.
  3. If you need more information, get it. Sometimes it turns out we need more information or more thinking time. Be careful though that this isn’t just an excuse to avoid doing the real work.
  4. Break the task into baby steps. Sometimes a writing project feels to big to even begin. It helps to break it down into small, even tiny steps. It turns out chunking the task down offers several advantages. It often helps identify the fear because we see there are only one or two sticking points. And it’s amazing what can actually be done in small, 10 or 15 minute increments over time. I get my baby steps written in a table so I can also record when each is done. At first the table usually grows as I find more and more I need to do, but, if I keep at it that stops and the whole project gets finished. I keep these task sheets for future reference because when I discover something like the way to do part of it I make notes that will help me remember next time. And it seems there’s always a next time.

  5. Bookend it. Bookending is simply calling a friend and telling them (or their answering machine) that you intend to spend 10 minutes or 2 hours or whatever amount of time on X task. When you’re finished, you call them back and tell them you’ve done it. There’s more information on bookending here.
  6. Promise yourself a reward when you complete the task. Every sales manager knows that rewarding achievement tends to get more achievement. You can encourage yourself exactly the same way. The reward doesn’t have to be big or expensive, although it can be. I finished a technical task the other day and rewarded myself by watering the garden. Watering the garden isn’t always a reward, but it was that day. Giving yourself something to look forward to is a great way to help yourself get moving.

Try some or even all of these and see if you haven’t found your way to stop procrastinating and get writing or marketing or whatever else it is you’re resisting doing.

How do you quit procrastinating?

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth West September 20, 2011 at 10:37 pm

I try to get more sleep. I find that I procrastinate worse when I’m tired, because it’s harder to work and think, so I don’t want to. Not that I can nap at work or anything, although I’ve been tempted!
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Mark Keating September 6, 2011 at 9:28 pm

The classic resource to help understand and overcome procrastination is “The Now Habit” by Neil Fiore. Insights, encouragement, and tools to keep the beast at bay. Easy to digest and just as relevant today as it was when Dr. Fiore wrote it twenty years ago.
Mark Keating recently posted..Renewable jobs growth faster than any other energy sectorMy Profile

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Anne September 7, 2011 at 10:22 am

Thanks Mark, didn’t know that one.

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Ahlam September 6, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Ukh. Pro-Cras-Tin-Ation. It’s the road block to success that so many people (not only writers) deal with! So many times it feels like a wrestling match between the part of you who wants to get it done, and the other part that says, ‘nope, not yet’. The only way to beat procrastination is to conquer it, and just start. Whatever it may be, just start. When you start a blog post, article, etc., you’ll find yourself gathering momentum as you go….and it will be over before you know and you’ll feel great about yourself!

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Anne September 7, 2011 at 10:15 am

It can also be an interesting exercise to see if you can tell how the procrastinating side of you is trying to help you – it probably is, just working on the wrong info.

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Wendy September 3, 2011 at 10:58 pm

This post hits close to home! I feel I procrastinate because I get so overwhelmed sometimes with what needs to be done that I don’t know where to begin. A list certainly helps, but I like your idea of bookending with a friend. I think I’ll try that…soon! Thanks.
Wendy recently posted..How to Create a Writer’s RenaissanceMy Profile

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Anne September 5, 2011 at 10:01 am

Wendy, I’ve found bookending to be a wonderful tool for all sorts of things. Let us know how it works.

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Claire Broadley April 12, 2012 at 10:09 am

I also feel overwhelmed Wendy. Sometimes I don’t realise that it has caused me to procrastinate until I go back to the task, read the job description and immediately switch back to Twitter. Then it hits me!

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Nicky Parry September 3, 2011 at 7:04 am

Oh Lord, procrastination is the mother of all evil! I totally agree with you about how it’s driven by some aspect of low self-worth. I think most writers when they start out just feel that they’re not going to be taken seriously if they pitch this magazine or that magazine. And like you say, coupled with the idea that they need to be better before they can make that first pitch, it kind of starts a vicious cycle going.
Nicky Parry recently posted..Respect The SunMy Profile

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Anne September 5, 2011 at 10:00 am

So Nicky, how do you let go of procrastination?

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