We’ve all had those days: the ones where despite having the ideas, the ability, and sometimes even the deadline, we just. don’t. want. to. write.
As we wait for the sorcerer to sweep their motivational wand over us, we check our email one more time. We rearrange our task list in Asana. We search the cupboards for chocolate because just one more piece should do the trick.
Only, it doesn’t work. And…we run out of chocolate.
Freelancers: A world without chocolate might as well be a world without sunlight. Let’s not go there. Instead, try these five tips for beating the procrastination bug when it comes to writing and getting it done:
What used to be a novel concept (I wrote about it on the One Woman Shop blog back in 2014 and very few people recognized the term) is now a frequent suggestion because of one simple reason: It works.
Batching, or focused blocks of time spent on one task, works because it eliminates the overwhelm and lack of focus that inevitably accompanies multitasking, and gives us the presence we need to make concentrated headway on one thing.
When it comes to your writing, you can batch different parts of the process, like brainstorming, outlining, drafting, editing, formatting, and more. If taking one blog post from start to finish feels overwhelming, don’t try to do it. Spend two hours outlining ideas you’ve already had, instead, so that they’re at-the-ready when you need them. Then, spend two hours expanding one or more outlines into drafts.
You can also batch by client. I do this frequently as a copywriter, because it allows me to fully immerse myself into that client’s voice. Even better? By not allowing anything else to occur during this batch of time — even a quick response to an email — I don’t slip from that voice, and the work is produced much more efficiently. (But yes, it tests my self-control.)
2. Pomodoro it up
I like to look at batching as the hyper-focused, marathon jam sessions. (That’s a technical term.) Pomodoros, on the other hand, are like hyper-focused, sprint jams that follow the oft-revered Pomodoro Technique.
Because the Pomodoro Technique is great for getting started on a task you find yourself stalling on, it’s a natural solution to writing. Procrastinating? Set a timer for 25 minutes, close the eleventy-billion other tabs you have open (use OneTab to gobble ‘em all up like PacMan), and work work work work work for those 25 minutes.
Ready to set that timer, but not quite sure where to start? Keep reading.
3. Leave off mid-sentence
This is a trick I learned a long time ago that used to come in handy for journaling. In fact, I stumbled into it by accident when my journaling sessions would get cut short, but seeing it as a tip somewhere else made me realize its value.
Leaving off mid-sentence eliminates all wonder of where to start next. Can’t quite get that whole draft done in one Pomodoro? Drop it mid-sentence (I leave myself a comment with a clue of where I was going, because…memory), and walk away. Next time you come back, you can pick up right where you left off, like longtime friends.
Once you’ve started doing it, you’ll find it’s easy to…
4. Create a routine
(See what I did there?)
All jokes aside, routine fosters productivity as long as the habits practiced in that routine are healthy. It’s why a lot of writers swear by Morning Pages, or why many authors tout certain writing “superstitions” as the key to their output.
For you, it could mean writing at the same time every day, or creating the exact same atmosphere every day. (I work best with a latte in front of me and plants within view.)
The most successful people in my #justwrite community, where the goal is to write for at least 30 minutes per day, find that success when they’ve created a routine that makes getting it done a natural occurrence in their day, rather than a stressful to-do list item. It works even better for those with kids at home or with full-time jobs. The key: Keep it realistic.
5. Build in accountability
Sometimes a bit of external accountability is all we need to keep our promises to ourselves.
Moving that blog post to tomorrow doesn’t seem like the worst thing in the world, until we know that we have someone checking in on us at the end of the day, expecting to see progress…and we don’t want to make any more excuses.
So whether you’re on a one-time deadline or attempting to build a productive writing habit, don’t be afraid to reach out for help from someone who’s not afraid to hold you accountable. It could be a single partner, a mastermind group, a writing community, or your biz coach/mom/spouse — anyone who you can report in to, and who’ll ask if you haven’t.
When all else fails, walk away
Probably not the ending you were expecting, but it’s true: Sometimes the best thing we can do is just walk away, because every day has its own reality, and it doesn’t always include the ability to focus on getting words out. (Even for us copywriters. Okay…especially for us copywriters.)
In that case, walk away. Do something that gives your brain a break. Get outside, move your body, get other (productive) work done. Allowing yourself a break oftentimes makes your next round of writing that much better.
And chocolate. Chocolate does, too.