My name is Mary and I am a procrastinator.
Procrastinate: vi to defer action; to put off what should be done immediately. n procrastination.
The way it goes is as follows. I sit at my desk to write. I check my emails, reply to anything urgent. I take a quick look at some of the blogs I follow. I leave a comment, like and share. It seems rude not to like and share and it only adds a few seconds to the time already spent reading and commenting. After another quick check of my emails I resolutely close down the programme.
I open the WIP file, realise I’ve finished my coffee and nip downstairs to make a fresh one. I notice the kitchen floor needs sweeping so do that while waiting for the kettle to boil – then realise it really needs to be properly mopped. And the load of washing is finished, which I should hang out.
Back at my desk I switch on Outlook just to check no urgent emails have come in, clear out the spam – seems to be an awful lot of invitations to subscribe to funeral plans which make wonder if someone knows something I don’t, in which case I should make the most of the time left to me. Resolutely close down email programme and, oh, look, it’s almost lunchtime and so it goes – and that’s without admitting to the time spent playing spider solitaire.
I’m glad to know I’m not alone in needing help with my procrastination problem. Recently my writers’ group had a session on this very topic – and almost everyone confessed. Various helpful strategies were described and advocated by those who had tried them and found they worked. They included the Pomodoro Technique, scheduling a fixed length of time each day or even a 500-word-a-day spreadsheet.
I decided on the spreadsheet with a target of 500 words a day. It was duly sent to me – a truly magnificent piece of work which added up each day’s words and showed how far ahead or target I was, or how far behind. I started off really well but began to feel a bit uneasy. I’m a freelance journalist – but did the commissioned 800-word article count? No, the group decided – that was cheating. What about the words written for my blog? That was okay but definitely not words written for work.
Some days, I write a lot for work, usually after interviewing someone or carrying out research and struggle to fit in time to write another 500 words. Or, I might be working on a poem – definitely not 500 words. I was beginning to feel like a failure.
Someone suggested setting a timer for 15 minutes. This idea is based on an ebook called The 15 Minute Writer, based on the premise that everyone can manage to find 15 minutes in which to write – it’s only a couple of games of spider solitaire, after all.
It has been wonderful. If, as usually happens, by the time the timer goes off, I’m immersed in what I’m doing, I can carry on. If it’s a struggle, at least I’ve done the 15 minutes – and earned a break.
The other thing which helps is that we all report back on our success or failure each time the group meets – that’s a huge incentive to get writing.
How about others? Do you sit at your work space and write without any procrastination? Or, do you find washing the kitchen floor suddenly holds great appeal, or walking the dog even though it’s raining? Did you find a way to overcome the problem?