Friday, September 19, 2008

Blogging the Write Way: Procrastination

We all do it. Hell, I did it writing this post - halfway through, I got up and washed a few dishes to give myself time to better formulate my words! And though I am making this part of the Blogging the Write Way series, it is applicable to all forms of writing.

The truth is it is sometimes okay to procrastinate - sometimes, it can't be avoided - and you shouldn't let that get you down. This particular story is about a failure based on my procrastination, but even though I am depressed enough about it to make a point to discuss it, I refuse to dwell on it much longer. Allowing yourself to get overwhelmed, depressed, or distraught is one of the major reasons people procrastinate in the first place, so go ahead and just accept that procrastination is human nature.

In my case, I was offered a chance to make a recurring $10-20 every month. All I had to do was sign-up for the offer, add some code to a few pages, and voila! Problem is, I wasn't sure which pages I wanted to use and I kept telling myself I would figure it out later. I even went so far as to login and start the registration process, but got interrupted halfway through and never finished it.

Now the opportunity has passed me by - at least for now. Hopefully, it will be there again soon, but if it is not, I will probably kick myself daily for at least the next few months. That's almost as bad, as I noted above.

In general, it is always better to trudge forward and do whatever it is you need to do. At the very least, start it and save whatever you come up with. Go back to the old elementary school process of brainstorming, organizing, fleshing it out, and actually writing as the final step. This is the approach I take with the site, and while I still don't get everything I want to get done on time, it is a lot better for me personally.

When I just can't bring myself to undertake the ever-daunting task of starting a new page, or - worse yet - developing an entire new department or project, I break out the notepad and index cards. On the paper, I write out every idea I can think of relating to the project. I then use the index cards to group them. I go back to a fresh sheet of paper (or the back of the first one) to add details as I can. Mind you, none of this involves research or actual planning; this is all directly off the top of my head. Finally, I use a paperclip to keep individual projects together, stack them by priority, order, or whatever is clever, and move on.

When I finally get ready to actually tackle the project, I pull out my notes and get to work.

What made me think of this was a list I came across earlier which had all sorts of blog post ideas. Almost all of them had been crossed-out and I realized which posts they were. Of those, almost none of them would be recognizable to anyone else comparing the two, though almost all of the "brainstorming" elements made their way into the finished product in one form or another - whether they became key points, supporting concepts, or lead to divergences which better served the project.

So don't let the fact that you procrastinate hold you down. Everyone does it, some even develop a "system" to it, and it can be overcome. You do not need to resort to trite "break things down into smaller tasks" approaches (though I think my proposal qualifies), either; simply do whatever it is you feel like doing or know you can accomplish. So long as you are doing something related to the project, something is getting done.

Just be careful not to "spin wheels." If you can't think of something actually productive to do, dive into research or immerse yourself in related activities. For example, instead of working on your sci-fi short, pop-in a favorite sci-fi flick and enjoy! Sometimes, this is best.

Chronic procrastinators may need more aggressive tools.

© C Harris Lynn, 2008

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