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Tips to help fight procrastination

OK, I’mll confess. I’mm writing this blog post because I should be busy writing the book about my walk across India. I’mm procrastinating.
Procrastination is the curse of writers, of the self-employed, and of all of us when we’re suffering a bit from doubt, ennui or a lack of motivation.

Here then is a list of some of the ways I try to snap myself out of my procrastination when writing.

– Go for a run. I know that I use this as a solution to almost everything in life. But just getting away from it all and sucking in some fresh air always helps give me perspective. It’s a chunk of thinking time, it helps me remember that the books matter to me, reminds me why they matter to me, and helps me figure out what it is that’s stopping my productivity.

– Just write. Quantity not quality. You can edit your work later. I find that the hardest part of the writing process is simply getting sufficient words down on paper. I enjoy the editing process but I struggle at times with sitting still at my desk for long enough to get 80,000 words typed out. So, at first, I try not to worry too much about what I am writing, I care only that I am writing.

– Go old school. Switch off your computer and dig out what in olden times they used to call a “pen” and some “paper”. Pen and paper somehow allows me to scribble thoughts and paragraphs much faster and more freely. When I am typing I have more of a feeling that what I produce needs to be right first time. Whereas when I am writing I feel happy to scribble out sentences and move things around with arrows and asterisks. I feel less stifled.

– Go somewhere new. A change of environment can really help. Write in a different room in the house. Sit on your front doorstep and write there. Go to the Library, be a ponce in a cafe with your Moleskine and Mac, go to the pub, take a train, do a lap of the Circle line. Whatever it takes!

(10+2)*5. This is for desperate times when you just cannot get anything useful done. If this does not make you realise what a loser your procrastination is turning you into and snap you out of it then -frankly- you’re doomed. I have only fallen this low once, and this method helped me.

– “Leave some water in the well”. Hemingway suggested ending each day’s work half way through a sentence or paragraph, the thinking being that it helps kick start you the next morning.

– Set yourself targets. “Right, once I’mve done 1000 words I can turn the computer off and go out to play.”

– Phone your mum for a chat. Mums don’t think you’re a procrastinating loser and will cheer you up.

– Give up for the day. Very occasionally I think it’s worth just thinking “Sod it, let’s go to a gallery, sit by the river and be idle…” A break from it all can help re-spark the enthusiasm.

– Turn the music off.

– Turn the music up. Drink lots of espresso. Now WRITE!

– Forget about the chapter you’re on right now. Start another one, the one you feel like nailing right now.

– Stop being a loser and go for a run. (That’s me talking to myself, not to you!)

Any other suggestions to help me next time?

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  1. I just used to turn off the internet. Now I live in a flat without connection and my production is increasing substantially. Whenever I need internet, I take my laptop, go for a coffe and go straighforward to what I really want.
    Right now, though, I’m at uni connected to broadband internet. Downloading films, listening to Spotify, youtubing, facebooking… Ok, I’m gonna switch it off!

  2. Delete your Facebook account. This works seriously well. (You can still have a ‘Page’ for your fans without having a personal account!)

  3. Hi Alastair, I just picked up Write or Die software as part of NaNoWriMo. Free version online or $10 for PC version. It’s brilliant – screen goes bright red and noise starts blaring (e.g. screechy violins or baby crying – you can choose)

    Definitely worth a look! Saying that, I’m off to brunch now! Have a good weekend. Joanna

  4. For me, moving to a new location is a big one. Just in my little condo I have 4 different work stations that I can move back and forth between. I work in one location for a while and then switch to another. And when I get bored of the places inside, I go outside – if it isn’t snowing!

    Going on a short bike ride usually helps as well.

  5. The best treatment for procrastination? In addition to your lovely piece, I suggest you make “Protrast” a significant character in your next novel. Write about what it feels like to be procrastinating, to have procrastinated and so on.

    Procrast has brothers & sisters, children too. Friends and enemies. There are those who plot against Procrast. Those who scheme to construct an alliance with procrasting folk.

    Make Procrast your best mate. Then every time you put off writing you’ll be generating more material. All procrastinating is research in disguise.

  6. Great blog post. I especially liked the one about phoning up your mum. Glad I found this blog.

  7. Procrastination led me to this blog…oh the irony.



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