Thursday, June 10, 2010

Procrastination Nation

Hello, my name is Julie, and I’m a procrastinator.

I’ve blogged about it in the past. It’s something that I struggle with often. I have a short attention span, which isn’t helpful when you’re writing novels.

In college, I was great at cramming for a test all night the night before and doing okay. Now that I’m a mom to a toddler and have a full-time job, if I procrastinate, I’m not going to get it done. I was doing all of my writing at night after the little guy went to bed, but now that it’s light outside longer, he stays up until 9:00pm. I get up at 5:15am. That means I either don’t have much time for writing or I don’t get enough sleep.

It has forced me to teach myself to stop procrastinating and work on my writing during the small spaces of time I have available throughout the day. Here are some of the tricks I use to get things done:

1. I use a timer. A kitchen timer would work, but I use an online timer I found through a search on google. Whether I’m writing or working, I keep one open on my desktop. I choose the project I want to work on, set the timer for 15 minutes and commit to not getting off task until the timer is signaling that time is up. Usually, I end up working much longer than 15 minutes, but the short amount of time keeps me from making any excuses.

2. When I sit down at my computer, I always start with 15 minutes of writing or editing (or if I’m at work, I start with an important project.) If I let myself ease into writing by checking blogs or my email, I can lose half an hour without even noticing. Then when I do start writing, I’m still thinking about everything I’ve just seen on the web. If I start with writing, I allow myself to do whatever I want after the time is up, but I find that I usually want to keep writing.

3. I track how much time I’ve actually spent writing. But there’s a catch. I can only record the time if it is more than 15 minutes of continuous work. I don’t stop and restart the timer to go get a cup of coffee or text someone on my phone. If that happens, I have to start my time over again. It’s motivation to focus on the task at hand.

4. In the morning, I write down a list of three things I want to accomplish that day. I also have a longer, master to do list so I won’t forget all the things I want to do over the next week, month, year, but my list of three is what I’m going to focus on that day. The things on my list of three must be small and specific. For example:
• Send a chapter to my critique group.
• Write and post today’s blog.
• 30 minutes of editing on my YA.
Hopefully, I’ll get more done than that through the day, but the list of three keeps my main priorities top of mind.

Now that I've shared my steps for avoiding procrastination, I better get back to work!

I'd love to hear how you fight the inner procrastinator.


  1. Wonderful suggestions! I'm going to have to try the fifteen minute timer. I never thought to apply that to my writing. I have done it with exercise, "I'll just do 20 minutes," then I usually get 30, but it's how I get myself started.

    Smart gal, I'm off to search google for a timer.

  2. I'm searching Google for a timer too! What a great idea! That way I can use it wherever I am.

  3. I should have supplied some links. I use this one online: I downloaded this one on my pc:

  4. Thanks for the link. Emails are really disruptive. I'm not much of a procrastinator, but it's hard to get past Twitter, blogs, and emails. Great post!

  5. I like your timer idea and keeping to 15 minutes. I use to write in morning the 3 things I need to accomplish that day, AND my 3 successes from yesterday, and a few gratitudes. It really worked to keep me on track because I had a sense of accomplishment that speared me to keep doing.
    Then I started blogging and my morning ritual kind of fell apart. After Boot Camp I'll get back on track again, hopefully!

  6. I have such a procrastination problem as well and these advice are really wonderful, especially the timer one. Thank you!

  7. I'm a procrastinator too, so this is a really great post!
    I can't believe your son stays up until nine!!! Wow. I stick mine in bed before seven thirty. LOL Even when it's light out. Gives me a lot more time. You must be exhausted getting up at five too....I hope you get some sleep!

  8. I'm a big fan of the lists and the timer method. When I sit down at my computer, there are usually at least three (but usually more) things I want to accomplish, so it helps me too, to set a time limit and work on each project. Sometimes I'll space those out with tasks around the house or something that requires me to get up and stretch my legs so it doesn't feel like I'm sitting so long and it doesn't make my eyes blurry :)

  9. that works for anything! love the idea :)

  10. Hi, I just found you from Alissa's blog Faith imagined. I totally am the same way. When there are babies around it makes the list harder:O) Some easier than others. Nice blog!!! I am a new follower too:O)

  11. i am trying to follow, blogger is not allowing it:(

  12. And here we all are procrastinating:) lol I like the timer thingy--might use the kitchen stove one if I can make myself get up and go over to it. Maybe tomorrow.

  13. thanks for finding my blog :)

    I love your ideas.
    I fight the procrastinator by bribing him. If we just get this done then we can...
    It mostly works :)

  14. My wife helps me out in this area. Anytime I appear to be neglecting my writing by goofing off, my wife suggests some housework that needs to be done. BAM...I'm back writing in no time! :)

  15. Great ideas, Julie! Thanks for sharing!

  16. You are very organized my friend! I like the 3 things on the to-do list. This sounds doable and like I might actually get things done that way, thanx!

  17. I'm one of those annoying people htat don't procrastinate. I used to drive my cohort group in college crrazy because they'd all be like, "Oh man, I haven't even started that paper yet. Have you, Katie?" And I'd be like, "I finished it." Yep, I was THAT person. Annoying, I know. But I'm sort of psychotic about finishing things.

    However, I would LOVE a timer! Because I do find myself procrastinating on a smaller, day-to-day level. Like, it takes me at least thirty minutes to get in the writing gear. I piddle aroun don the internet first. A timer would be great!

  18. I'm trying to do the same thing as you and get straight to writing when I sit down at my computer, rather than surf the internet first. Good advice!