One of the hardest things to do as a freelance writer (or anyone) is to overcome procrastination. It's so much easier to zone out than it is to actually DO something.
I've got a recent problem: I've been procrastinating quite a bit. First of all, I've really gotten into a game called “Threes” that can be played on the iPhone. Keep your Angry Birds and your Flappy Birds and your whatever else. I'm all about the puzzle games, and right now it's all about Threes. Also, I tend to prefer reading something interesting and/or enjoyable to doing actual work.
As I look at my work schedule, I can see that Things Need To Get Done. But it's hard to muster the interest at times. So, right now, I'm looking into how I can overcome procrastination and just my work done.
Why Do You Procrastinate?
If you want to overcome procrastination, the first thing you have to do is look at the why behind the problem. One of my favorite books and the game Threes aren't the reasons I'm procrastinating. Those are just the methods by which I carry out my intensive campaign of Putting Things Off.
In order to attack procrastination, you need to find the root cause of the difficulty. Taking care of the symptoms will only work for so long. Sure, I turned off Threes. But then I started looking around on Facebook. I picked up the Kindle and read for a little while (ok, for a long while).
Think about the reasons you are procrastinating right now. Here are some of the issues that I currently face with my freelance writing:
- Reluctance to tackle long posts: I've been writing longer posts lately. On the one hand, these posts often pay more. However, the mental process that goes into writing longer posts is a little more involved. Often, there is a bit of research involved. Also, writing a post that is twice as long takes a little more than twice the time as a shorter post. The prospect of doing this extra work tends to put me off a little bit. I can't just dash off a shorter post and be done. Thinking about the longer posts puts me in a frame of mind that involves shutting down to some degree.
- Daunted by the email: In some cases, the procrastination is the result of not wanting to deal with the email. I don't want to respond to someone because I'm not sure what to say, or there are issues I don't want to deal with. I let the email pile up, and before I know it, there's a stuffed inbox and I don't know where to start. Why don't I want to deal with certain issues? What makes me reluctant to move forward? Whether it's just that I'm uncomfortable with the person, or whether it's that answering the email would be an involved process, it can be difficult to move forward in some cases. It would be nice to achieve “inbox zero” but I'm not sure that will ever happen.
- Fear: Sometimes, I'm just afraid. What if the client doesn't like what I've done? What if I make a mistake, or what if I fail? Sometimes, I'm actually afraid of what happens if I do well. Fear of success can lead to procrastination as well as fear of failure. This happens to me when I have a project that I'm not really interested in. Will doing a good job mean that I have to do more of the same down the road? It prompts to put off what I should be doing. And, of course there's always the fear that you aren't as good as everyone thinks you are. What if you're exposed?
All of these can be the reasons behind your procrastination. Once you understand where you're at, it's possible to overcome procrastination, since you can tackle the source of the issue, rather than focusing on the symptoms of the problem.
Tips to Help You Overcome Procrastination
Now that you understand why you have problems, you can tackle the issue. There are some ways to improve the chances that you will procrastinate less. Psychology Today breaks it down into four steps that include:
- Finding your motivation: List the benefits that come with your ability to stop procrastinating. This motivation can help you move beyond fear, and help you focus on the good things that come with success.
- Set GOOD goals: Setting goals the right way, by being specific and breaking them down into more manageable chunks, can help you overcome procrastination by making the big things seem smaller. If your problem is that you don't know where to start, or you feel overwhelmed, learning how to break it down can be a big help.
- Manage your time: I find that tackling my big projects during my peak productivity can be a big help. I'm more motivated, and I use my time better. Also, interestingly, I find that it helps when I have more on my schedule. When I am serious about working out, making time for my son, and practicing music and other self-improvement, I overcome procrastination by default. When my schedule is full (but not jam-packed to the point of being overwhelming), I get more done. One of my problems is that I tend to think “Oh I'll have time later” and then get back to my book or one more episode of Doctor Who. However, when I have other things on the docket, I know there is no time later; it has to be taken care of Right. Now.
- Change your thinking: Finally, the Psychology Today article suggests you change your thinking. This can be difficult, since negativity is addictive. I've had my own struggles battling negativity, and that sort of defeatism can actually drag you down and lead to procrastination. If you want to overcome procrastination, sometimes it requires that you think about things in a new way.
All of us tend to procrastinate at some point. However, if you find that it's a recurring theme in your life, it might be time to take steps to move beyond it.
What do you do to overcome procrastination?