Hate procrastination, but find yourself indulging in this dangerous habit?
Me too. I’m always making excuses for procrastinating; my excuses feel legitimate at the time, even though they’re rubbish.
Perhaps you make excuses too.
Procrastination: you have many, many excuses
My favorite excuses for not writing:
- “I don’t know enough.” I decide to call someone. This person never has time to chat for at least a week.
- “What’s the best angle for this? Are there any research studies?” Research is always a magical excuse.
- “Why can’t I find anything? I need to get organized, and create a comprehensive index file. When did I last do a backup?” You couldn’t force me to get organized with a gun to my head, but it works well as an excuse. Apparently my talent for lying to myself is huge.
- And on, and on.
Things may change. Recently I began using Mel Robbins’ 5 second rule to encourage myself to ACT, rather than procrastinating. I’ll write a blog post about how it’s working in a month or two.
Of course, it could turn out that reading this book is just another form of procrastination.
In the meantime, I’ve developed a writing process for confirmed procrastinators. Here it is.
1. Generate more ideas than you’ll ever use
For years, I had an excellent habit of generating 10 ideas a day. They could be ideas for writing, but also ideas in general: for books to read, places to visit, things to do.
Then I gave up the practice because I was “busy”—yes, another excuse. Idea generation is an effective productivity hack for writers, so it’s now the first thing I do every day.
The big advantage? No more hunting for ideas.
Try it: it may work for you.
Next: use mind maps.
2. Mind maps: the perfect brain dump
Choose an idea from your idea stash. It might be for fiction: you need to create a new character, or choose fresh settings, because your scenes seem stale.
Perhaps you’re creating a content calendar for a client, or writing an article for your blog. You can use mind maps as brain dumps for anything you want to write.
Grab a notepad: hand drawn maps inspire my creativity. Your mileage may vary. Use a mind mapping app if you wish.
After creating your central topic, dump your brain, without thinking about it. Use colors, lines to connect ideas, doodles, anything you choose.
Take ten minutes for this; it saves time later, because you can refer to the mind map when you create later drafts.
3. Lightning draft: points you want to make (use “XXX”)
Working directly from your mind map, choose main points and subtopics. List them in your draft, then tap out the draft quickly.
Vital: avoid breaking off to research anything. Instead, add “XXX” to the draft where you feel you need more information, or want to check facts.
4. Research as needed, with a time limit
Draft done? Good enough is perfect; it’s just a draft. Find the XXX notations using the Search function. List them, then grab your calendar app to schedule the research.
Next step: your final draft, then version 2 of the “final” draft.
5. Final draft, and final draft version 2
If you suffer from procrastination, a final draft of anything can seem threatening. You may be tempted tell yourself that you need “at least three drafts”, as some of my students do. Endless drafts are just another form of procrastination.
Check that you met the client’s brief. Give yourself ten minute to half an hour for this, to be certain.
Then trick yourself. Tell yourself that you can create as many “final” drafts as you need. (You can, of course.) Try revising and editing on your phone or tablet: this helps many of my students to stop putting off a final edit.
All done: try the process; it kills procrastination
Try this process. The basic foundation is generating daily ideas and creating mind maps. These two activities act as warm ups; they generate inspiration and make writing easier.
Have fun. 🙂
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.