It took me years to learn that procrastination isn’t something you have to stop doing.
But it took me even longer to figure out WHY I couldn’t get my destructive habit under better control.
Constant flare-ups of anxiety and panic could have been avoided if I’d just start things earlier, instead of waiting until the last minute.
Why was that so hard?
It turns out there’s a reason I still struggle. And it might be the reason you’re struggling, too.
I can’t break up big projects into small pieces. At least, not very well.
It’s one of my top writing productivity tips, yet I still struggle with it almost daily.
If I’m going to sit down to work on a 10-page story, for example, I want to sit down, write those 10 pages in one sitting or one day, and be done with it. I don’t want to keep coming back to it. I don’t like my flow being disrupted. Once I start deep-focusing, I don’t want to stop.
Writing is a work in progress all around. I’m getting better little by little, just like you.
I wait until the last minute to do things because it’s often the only point I can convince myself to finally make the time to do what I need to do by blocking off a large enough chunk of time to do it in.
It is a bad habit. I will not deny that.
But it explains why, even though I’ve technically been writing professionally for almost seven years, I still wait until the last minute to START things.
I always get them done on time and I always do them well. I just put unnecessary pressure on myself to do the work because I like doing things all at once instead of in parts.
If this is your problem too, you might be wondering how to overcome this barrier to writing productivity.
I wish there was some magic formula or a special set of instructions I could give you to instantly transform your procrastination habit into something more manageable. The only thing I can really tell you to do is train yourself to do your work in pieces, even if that’s not the way you want to do it.
I’ve done this in the past with NaNoWriMo. In 2017 I wrote a solid 2,000+ words a day for 30 straight days just to see if I could. If anything, that experience reminded me that I CAN do things in small segments every day. I just choose not to 99% of the time.
Find ways to practice when the pressure isn’t so high. Don’t do it at your job if you can help it, for example, just in case your trial strategy doesn’t work out. Try to set a word-count goal for a longer project on your own time and break that up into smaller daily or weekly word count goals, and reach for one small goal at a time until you finish.
Over time, it can become a habit. A much better habit than waiting until four hours before your final 15-page graduate school paper is due to start writing.
Not that I know what that’s like or anything. Nope.
Maybe this isn’t your problem at all. I don’t know you. I can’t read your mind.
But I think all of us are searching for simple fixes to our biggest problems, even if they aren’t life-threatening or hurting our relationships with loved ones or making us hate what we do. I hope admitting I struggle with seemingly small things too, and admitting that knowing the right thing to do isn’t necessarily enough, can help anyone who might need to hear these words today.
Now I’m off to stop procrastinating. I mean it this time. Really.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.