Today I’m struggling with procrastination. Apparently I’m not on my own with this. I have spoken to friends and family who seem to be feeling a little bit ‘challenged’ at getting back into work, studies or writing this January.
The irony is that in the US, it is National Do Nothing Day and boy! Am I embracing it!
In fact, as I procrastinate about writing this blog I am also texting my niece who has essay deadlines coming up. She has been training to become a nurse, a career to which she is thoroughly well suited, and inevitably not only is there the practical side but also all the written work too.
So Jess is writing her essay and I am writing this blog. She suggested that we should ‘buddy up’ when we have something to write or need to write. Great idea, so Jess you are now officially my writing buddy (please) Just don’t ask me to spell any long words!
Regardless of whether you like the thrill of leaving things to the last minute OR you won’t start a task in case you get it ‘wrong’ or it’s not perfect OR if you cannot stand the thought of being responsible if you make a decision and it doesn’t go to plan…you simply have to face up to the fact that some things just need to be done.
Encouraged by having gained inspiration from the younger generation (thanks Jess) I decided to pursue this line of enquiry with my 18-year-old son. He’s no stranger to the written work deadline himself and had some particularly helpful nuggets he was happy to share with his old mum. Here are some of his offerings…
Me: Any advice to help me stop procrastinating when I’m trying to write?
Me: Excuse me?
Josh: Yep, just dribble it all down on to the page. Don’t think about it just get started. What’s important is just to get started.
Me: OK. This makes sense because it sits with the old, ‘don’t think it, do it’ mentality. What else fountain of both youth AND knowledge?
Josh: If you are writing an essay, get going without reading anything first.
Me: Seriously? (I am starting to itch slightly at the thought of this)
Josh: Yep. See what you already know or what theories you have before you start the actual research. Use your research to back these up (or not) and add to your work.
Right. So I’m dribbling and free-forming. Top tips indeed.
I also used to find that writing the essay question in BOLD LETTERS on a separate piece of paper was helpful…and also STICKING TO THE QUESTION rather than following my tendency to go ‘off piste’!
What if you’re procrastination is not about an essay? What if you have a tax return to complete, an important telephone call to make, or a really boring form to fill out? What if you have been meaning to join the gym or Weight Watchers?
Perhaps it helps to work out WHY you are procrastinating in the first place.
If you are worried about the outcome, what will putting it off actually accomplish?
If you are worried about getting it wrong, can you ask someone to help or just do it anyway (what’s the worst that can happen?)
Or you might have concerns about being judged?
Once you have decided to tackle it then create some structure:
1. Give yourself a fixed start time and keep to it. Eg. I am going to the gym tomorrow at 9:30, straight from school drop off.
2. Start with a small and realistic target, eg. I will have completed the first section of this form in half an hour.
3. Factor in some breaks if it’s a long task, such as an essay. Will you stop for a cuppa after an hour?
4. If you are working from home on that tax return and get tempted to see the chores as a good distraction, allow yourself a set time to get them done, eg. Load the washing in the machine at 11 am and then get back to the task.
5. Don’t go off piste! Put all distractions such as phones, emails etc. out of sight. You can look at them again when you have a break if you choose to.
6. Don’t give up…If you can manage 20 minutes at the gym then that is a fantastic start. If you go to get started on that essay and experience writer’s block then, in the words of Josh, DRIBBLE! Just make a start.