Procrastination

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.

dscf0857Someone 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?

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54 thoughts on “Procrastination

  1. Very relatable! While I do not do most of the specific tasks you mention, I do follow the exact behaviour: I engage in all the minor work I can think of and think needs to be done while avoiding the elephant in the room. In fact, I’m doing it right now!

    The 15 minute block idea sounds like a great idea. Similar to the Pomodoro Technique. I’ll try it out! Thanks for the tips. 🙂

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    • Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Welcome to the procrastinators’ club!
      The 15 minute timer is, I think, even more effective than the Pomodoro Technique. Pomodoro is supposed to be 25 minutes then a 5 minute break times 4. With the 15 minute one you don’t have to re-set it when time is up – though the chances are you will actually be writing and want to carry on. However, even if you are struggling you can feel a sense of achievement at having accomplished that 15-minute target.
      Happy writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ha ha ha ha, that’s how I found your blog site. Sat down to finish off a chapter, opened the file, and thought have a quick look at emails, Why? only did that an hour ago, thought I’ll have a quick look at Social media. Why? I only did that 15 minutes ago, on my phone. And now I’m thinking get on with writing my book after I’ve posted this, but I’ll make a coffee first……

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good post – it is a juggle, sometimes, when trying to look after a family and fit in paid work. Writing is all too easy to shunt down the priority list, even though a little a day soon adds up. The timer is a great idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. Juggling is a good analogy – and it’s always the ball marked writing that drops. It’s changing my mind set to stop thinking that if I don’t have a big chunk of time there’s no point in starting to realising I can do something in a short amount of time. The timer is helping.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Wind Eggs and commented:
    When we complain about procrastination, we always treat it like the enemy. Have you ever considered the possibility that procrastination is our friend? Countless accounts of creative inspiration at work confirm that the best insights and flashes of genius don’t come when we’re toiling at our desks, but when we stop focusing on a project.

    This may seem like procrastination, but in reality the brain may be struggling to make a connection without the proper insight. However, when your guard is down you might notice something, even unconsciously, the suddenly puts everything into perspective. We call this the “Eureka,” or “aha!” moment.

    When procrastination interferes is when we experience that moment and we continue to dawdle with something else. Take the time to jot down or sketch your thoughts on paper, or in your smart phone. (I prefer this method because I can back up the note at several locations.)

    In the meantime, we don’t have to give up on writing when inspiration fails us. I call this creative procrastination. I like to turn to other projects, visual art, poems, or short opinion pieces. Even imaginary notes for another project.

    I believe the more tools an author has in her tool kit, the more likely he is to finish his projects. You can schedule yourself for a minimum number of words, set a timer, which are among the suggestions Mary Smith offers in her post “Procrastination.” You can even buy those word processing apps that tick off your goals and successes. But don’t make the schedule the chore. Writing should still be fun. And procrastination doesn’t have to be pointless.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for commenting and for the re-blog – really appreciate it. I love your take on procrastination not necessarily being the enemy.You are so right about the flashes of inspiration arriving when we are not at our desks – mine often come when I’m driving! It’s been so good to read other writers’ takes on this procrastination problem – okay, maybe not always problem! – and I am certainly beginning to feel less stressed about it.

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  5. I think all of us writers have this problem. I love the 15 minute timer idea! I’m also really glad that you check on blogs and make comments, because I’m always so happy to see you and your name on my blog. 😏

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We all struggle with this–you’re not alone. Your timer idea is a good one. What works for me is putting my laptop by my bed, since it’s not connected to the internet. Then I make sure I write before I do anything else. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, that sounds like a good idea, Cathleen. I might try that, though as my laptop is connected to the internet I’d have to be very disciplined not to look at my emails. Maybe I could do it in conjunction with the timer. Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – 7th March 2017 – Mary Smith, John Fioravanti, Ana’s Lair, Fiona McVie, Linda Bethea | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  8. I can so relate to this and I have got around it by letting go of expectations, because I worked out that with me it was fear based. Fear on being seen and measured through my words. I work by writing and have no issues with this at all. So I am letting go of the fear in my creative work and getting out of the way of myself. I’ll keep you posted on this one. Hugs for you and thanks to Sally Cronin, because that is how I found you Mary. x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, Jane, I’m glad you found your way here through Sally’s blog. She is so generous in her support, isn’t she?
      I think you make a very valid point about fear being one of the things which can stop us writing. I love your expression ‘getting out of the way of myself’ – I shall steal that! Good luck and keep in touch.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Geez, Mary, you’re outing so many of us! I hadn’t looked at it as procrastinating, but you’re right. That’s exactly what it is. Only problem is, I procrastinate with everything, including mopping the kitchen floor. In my younger days, I didn’t know the meaning of the word. I was always on the go and completed all I set my mind to. Then, something happened around the age of 55 or so. What was that masked something? Still not sure, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve got my handy dandy timer, and I’m good to go! Thank you for a delightful post and most helpful bit of advice 🙂 ♥

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for dropping by, Tina. Enjoy using your handy dandy timer! I think we could divide our lives into 15 minute chunks – mop the floor, clean the bathroom, change the bedding, hang out the washing, write that bestseller!

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Wow Mary great post… Guess we are all in the same boat. Interesting in that you Sue and and Chicklit sisters say how dangerous it is going round the house because you see the housework. I am ashamed to say I would never think that in a months of Sundays.

    Once read a biog of David Bowie by his wife and she said whenever he had to write new songs for an album he would always put it off. Generally he’d pull in his old broken down old motor bike into the front room and take it to pieces intending to fix it. When the mess in the front room got harder to face that the thought of writing songs he’d lock himself in the music room and not come out. Definitely go to be a man thing, you guys think of cleaning the house before sitting down to write, we think of destroying it.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. A timely post, Mary. ❤ 🙂
    Yes, yes, and yes! I confess. Now can I have my pizza… um wrong group.
    It feels I need to wind into the writing instead of unwinding before I start. O_O Once I start, the rest of the world dissolves around me. No, I'm not working at breakneck speed; it takes a while for the beginning sentences but once I'm immersed, don't bother me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Absolutely Tess. I need to wind into writing too. I can mess around all night putting off starting. However I only need to write that first sentence and I am away. And there are so many excuses I offer as to exactly I shouldn’t start at that instant! I ave taken off solitaire from my computer becauseI used to think I’ll just have a couple of games before…Fatal!

      Liked by 1 person

      • My son reminded me recently of when I took Solitaire off my computer. He said he could never get to use HIS computer when he needed it because I was always ‘just having a couple of games of Spider Solitaire on it’. Felt suitably ashamed!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Interesting comments – I share the same problem. I’m retired, so writing is my job. I read somewhere that if we, as authors, adopted the attitude that writing/publishing/promoting is our full-time job, we’d have less problem disciplining ourselves. Sharing and answering to a support group is a great idea! Creating a plan and sticking to it makes a lot of sense as well!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for dropping by and commenting John. I think I was more disciplined about my writing when I had less time and had to fit it in with my work schedule. Creating a plan is the easy part – it’s sticking to it that is my problem. I write to-do lists then ignore them while I go on social media and suddenly the time has vanished. I have to say having to admit to my writers’ group I fell off the wagon does make me clamber on and get writing – at least before the next meeting.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I think the way is perhaps not to give yourself a hard time over it???!! My routine is to spend up to 2 hours a day on emails, Twitter, blogs etc (might only be half an hour, but I allow myself up to 2 hours), to get it all out of the way. Then the word doc is opened. Also, if domestic chores need doing, think, right, I will do them tomorrow morning, but today’s a writing day. Planning ahead does work – I find myself assessing at the beginning of the week which are going to be the ‘full writing days’!

    By the way, get Spider Solitaire removed. I did. I’m sure it’s taken a month off the time it takes me to produce a novel! I miss it, but….!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ah, thanks, Terry. Maybe the problem is I always feel I should get stuck in straight away. Maybe allowing myself guilt-free time on social media and emails would make it easier to start work.
      The amount of time spider uses up is horrendous but having it removed??? I wonder if there are support groups for people coming off spider?

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Interesting that you said once you get started, tis easy. I’m like that. I will waste any amount of time before I open the WIP document, but once it’s open, I’m there and get right down into it. Of course, there are also silly games on my computer.. they do not help.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I once had the games removed from my computer – then spent ages searching on the internet to find similar ones, or nipping into my son’s room to comandeer his computer “just for ten minutes”. I finally decided I should act like a proper grown up person and had them re-installed. I’ve found the timer is good for this too as I can set it for those ten minutes and stop when the timer goes.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I think it is the confessional aspect of telling fifteen or other people you haven’t actually written anything for days, which makes us determined to get something done, Jenny. I imagine for most of us, as is my case, once we start writing it is easy to keep going – it’s the starting.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. The 15 minute timer idea sounds brilliant! It almost reminds me of a warm up before writing–a way to really get into it on those days you’re feeling blah. Because more than likely, once that timer goes off you’re still gonna continue to write! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • You’re right once I start I’m usually more than happy to carry on after the timer has gone off. And if I am having a really bad, totally non-creative day, at least I can feel some sense of achievement that I have written something in 15 minutes.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Ah, the dreaded P word! Yes, I share this problem and actually, I suspect most writers do. It’s interesting that it’s something you share with your writers’ group, like AA confessions or a slimming group! And I think you’ve found a good solution – keep going!

    Liked by 4 people

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