I am an amazing procrastinator. It’s taken me a week to pen the first draft of this blog post. Why? I’ve been settling into a new job, true but it’s not that. I’ve made myself find other things to do. Why? I don’t know. I always enjoy writing blog posts and working on my stories. I don’t know why I procrastinate but I know that it’s a trait many writers share and that it’s annoying both for the writer and those waiting for his/her work.
Five reasons why we procrastinate.
1) Fear. Many people would rather procrastinate than complete their task. This is because they’re scared that they can’t do said task or scared of failing. Nobody likes failing and too much procrastination is a guarantee of failure. Can you see the problem here? I find first drafts particularly discouraging. What if the next draft isn’t any better? What if the story isn’t good enough? What if I run out of ideas?
2) Perfection. Have you heard of the cliché “100% effort”? If someone doesn’t think they’ll complete the task to the best of their ability they may not even attempt it. Similar to this, if someone thinks they’ll complete the work to the best standard then they’ll they may worry that all pieces of work have to be to this quality. Either way they may turn to procrastination.
3) It sometimes works. For some people procrastination is a good system of getting their work completed, albeit a system they don’t enjoy. They wait until the last possible moment before starting work. They then motivate themselves (through fear) and complete the task. Some people work well under pressure but hate the procrastinating beforehand. This period of time, before the work starts, is sometimes called the dark playground. The procrastinator completes leisure activities that would normally be fun but due to the approaching deadline, only produce guilt. An example of a writer who does this is Russell T Davis the former lead writer and producer of Doctor Who series one to four. (He talks about this in his book Doctor Who The Writer’s Tale. If you haven’t’ read it, please do. It’s a fascinating look at the mind of a writer and it gives you a peek at how Doctor Who scripts are made)
4) To break the rules. Some people leave their work to the last minute on purpose so they can give it in after the deadline has past, if at all. Why? To be a rebel. To prove they can’t be controlled. Admittedly this is more common at schools than in the work place, yet it still happens.
5) Other Factors. You tell yourself you’re simply too busy to write. You’ll moving house, getting a new job, meeting another deadline, family matters. You find writing becoming a side hobby or you tell yourself you are too tired to do it when you have free time so you start to procrastinate.
What can we do about Procrastination? Someone who doesn’t procrastinate might say “just stop!” It’s not that easy. If you look through google how to stop procrastinating you’ll find pages upon pages of answers and remedies. I’ve outlined the top five I found below.
Five methods to stop procrastinating
1) Remove any distractions. Hide the TV remote. The X Factor can wait. Turn off the Wi-Fi. Twitter and Facebook will still be there in an hour or two. Remove as many distractions as you can. The biggest distraction for me is YouTube. I’ve spend hours watching Game of Throne scenes and neglect my writing in the process. By all means, turn your Wi-Fi back on to do some research but when you’ve found the information you’re looking for, turn it off again. Don’t get distracted.
2) Make a schedule. This system worked well for my during my years studying for my A levels and my degree. Organise your day into blocks of time. (How long these blocks are is your choice. I used to do forty five minutes to an hour). One block is writing time. You don’t do anything else apart from writing. The next hour would be a break, to you allow yourself to unwind. Then it’s back to work. How you organise your time is up to you. Breaks are very important, you won’t achieve much if brain burns out.
3) Break it down. How much do you need to write today? Do you set yourself a target? (See daily writing Routine) If you example you wanted to write 1500 words in a day you could break it down into three segments of 500 words. You can easily break a story down into three parts (Three act structure anyone?) or plan the plot points of a chapter. Things often look more achievable if you have a plan making you less likely to procrastinate.
4) The carrot method. If you set yourself a target and reach it you can have the carrot, the reward. If you fail to reach your target because you’ve been procrastinating you don’t have the reward. In theory this idea is simple but you need a lot of will power and self-control not to take your reward anyway.
5) Make it public. Make a Facebook status, a tweet or tell your fellow writers what your aim is for the day. The fear of public failure is a strong motivator to help you finish your work and to stop day dreaming. This idea could work well in a group.
Do you procrastinate? Is it a big problem for you? What do you think is your biggest distraction and how do you overcome it?