OK, so in order to break this habit maybe you need just a little help?
In my previous post on procrastination I laboured the point that we are programmed to procrastinate. I also made the point that every time we do, our brain rewards us and it is this chemical reward cycle that makes procrastination so habit forming. So if we break the cycle, we break the habit.
I have assembled a list of 37 tips, some of them require that you understand the “point of no return”, some will suit you and some will not. Hopefully there will be enough that work for you, that the habit can be broken and procrastination can be controlled.
Plan to plan; set a fixed time each week to draw up your writing plan.
Fix your slot; know exactly when you will start writing and for how long.
Brick wall; make the end of your slot immovable, so that your slot can’t slide.
Break it up; make it a collection of small events, each so small that it can be done quickly.
Set targets; make three performance targets, that correspond to 1) I’m ill, 2) I’ve done well, 3) I’m on fire. However make them real, don’t expect too much, no matter how behind you are.
Set rewards; at fixed points have that coffee, biscuit, play with the cat.
Set punishments; make them real and unpleasant, make them personal to you.
Create accountability; tell everyone just how far you are going to get, add your word count on your e-mail signature.
Set deadlines; know when your major deadlines are and do everything you can to turn them into real “deadlines”.
Change your clothes; put on your writing jacket, hat, sweater, headband or whatever. Putting on your work clothes can change the way your mind perceives what it thinks you should be doing.
Talk to yourself; talk aloud, tell yourself the things you will be doing over the next so many minutes. Build up some momentum in your mind for the task. You MUST do this aloud, sorry if you feel silly but it is a MUST.
Visualise the reward(s); Place photos, drawings, cuttings of what will motivate you on the wall. They might be your future book cover or maybe a holiday resort, anything that you significantly desire. Help yourself to remind you why it is so important.
Motivational notes; stick motivational notes up everywhere that your eyes rest on when you are at the point of no return. From “Come on girl, back to work” to “STOP SLACKING”, whatever works for you.
Instrumental music; play instrumental music or ‘white noise’, these will cover background noises. Anything with lyrics will diminish your brains ability to focus, so lyrics are a no-no.
Nibbles; have drinks and nibbles to hand, work them into your rewards system.
Plan some fun; make a reward significant, especially if it involves the family. After all you would not want to let them down, would you?
After or during starting
Focus; eliminate everything else, everything, absolutely everything.
Procrastinate; procrastinate the procrastination, tell yourself that you will fiddle with, do or watch whatever in five minutes. Surprisingly it will not be important by then. You need to trick the brain that you have accepted its distraction and will action it.
Head phones; wear headphones, you can’t hear the family and they tend not to speak to you.
Cap distractions; some distractions cannot be avoided, for these set an absolute limit on them. Only allow them a fixed amount of time before you HAVE to be back at work.
Focus on afterglow; keep your feelings focused on the good feeling at end and not the drudgery of this particular point.
Don’t criticise; self criticism lowers your self esteem and makes the task harder. Take yourself to task yes, but in a positive manner, “Come on girl, you can perform much better than this”. You can be quite hard on yourself without being negative.
Talk to yourself (1); talk aloud to yourself about what you are going to do. It keeps all parts of your brain focused on what is needed.
Talk to yourself (2); ask yourself questions about what is needed, again aloud. Keeping the logical and non-creative part of the brain working on questions stops it from being distracted away from the current task.
Make distractions; use chewing gum, hard mints, stress balls or any distraction that doesn’t stop the flow of your writing.
Starting point; start at the easiest point. Get moving quickly and build some momentum.
Tick list; keep a tick list, add one tick for each paragraph. After five, ten, fifteen… whatever suits you, reward yourself with your planned reward system.
Add stress; use a cooking timer. What can you achieve in five, ten, fifteen minutes?
Don’t clock watch; watching the clock or kitchen timer is another form of procrastination, hide it behind your proposed book cover that you are using for motivation.
Notice time; download a free metronome or use a loud ticking clock to keep you subconsciously aware of how time is passing.
Distraction free software; don’t use a word processor which keeps distracting you with squiggly lines. Use Q10 or Darkroom’s full screen text only interfaces.
Plough on; don’t keep stopping to fix small mistakes or large ones, plough on and get it down. Later after it is drafted, go back and tidy it properly.
Restart; keep restarting, don’t stop, give-up or put off. Keep restarting for a few minutes more, it is amazing what you can do in a number of ‘a few minutes more’.
Blitz cycle; a sprinters marathon. Try blitzing, rest, blitz, rest, blitz using time periods that work for you. In the rest periods of course you will be talking aloud to yourself about exactly what you will be doing in the next blitz session.
Moving numbers; check your word count at suitable points, remember to reward yourself when you are ‘on fire.’ Correct yourself when you fall into the ‘I’m ill’ target.
Three minute target; at the point of no return, tell yourself what you are going to do in the next three minutes. Keep repeating until you are past the sticky point.
Three task plan; only have the next three tasks in your head at any one time, kick out everything else. How can you really focus and concentrate on more than three things? Note once you have done one, then and only then, add one more.
In order to break the procrastination habit w
e have to learn to manipulate the primitive part of our brains. How we do that is quite individual to each of us, but once we learn how to trick, distract or involve that part of the brain, then the procrastination habit is broken.
It doesn’t go away, but it is no longer a habit.
If you have your own favourite tips on breaking the habit I would love to know them. Leave yours in the comments for everyone to benefit from.
Photo: You Know Those Days cc Christina Snyder