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I'll Stop Procrastinating Later

Tips to Overcome Procrastination

I’ve been meaning to blog about procrastination for over a year, but I’ve had so much to do. Like washing the dishes and grocery shopping. Teaching and writing for actual pay. Surfing the web and answering emails. I’ve even stooped (literally) to vacuuming.

Because I’m self-employed, procrastination is not an income-generating activity. Fortunately, I love my work and am good at motivating myself, but it takes practice and discipline to show up consistently and get the job done.

I was reading Bossypants and looked to author Tina Fey for advice. But all she had to say was, “If you think writing is hard, try managing a Chili’s on a Friday night.”

When I’m not procrastinating by reading funny books, here’s how I get the jump on procrastination:

1. Schedule appointments and create deadlines.

The easiest way to motivate myself is by scheduling appointments – for example, meeting with clients (for which I have to prepare) or agreeing to submit manuscripts by a certain date. In other words, I create deadlines and take them seriously.

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2. Calendar a block of time for a project and treat that time as sacred.

If I schedule three hours to work on my book, I dedicate that time to writing, though I may have to keep reminding myself that this time is not for phone calls, exercise or house cleaning. If I schedule time for exercise, I remind myself that this is not negotiable. Sometimes I have to repeat the mantra over and over: This is not negotiable.

3. Leave the house and its distractions.

My office is in my home with its endless loop of distractions. Sometimes I find a place to write outside my home — perhaps a café, library or park — and I don’t bring my dirty dishes with me.

4. Bookend.

Agree with a friend to bookend tasks that you’re having a hard time accomplishing. You can bookend by any means — email, voicemail, texting, even person to person or voice to voice. Tell your action buddy what you’re going to do, e.g., I’m going to call the lawyer now or I’m going to work on my dissertation to an hour. Then contact your action buddy when you’ve completed the task.

5. Pay attention to the cost/benefit analysis.

Procrastination often increases stress. If I don’t leave enough time to be comfortable, I feel less expansive. It can affect my creativity on a project and my relationships with others.

And now, back to Tina.

Writing prompt: Write about something you really don’t want to do and all the reasons you have for not doing it.

Copyright © 2012 by Laura Deutsch

Laura Deutsch is a San Francisco-based writer. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and More magazine, among others.

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