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How to Stop Procrastinating (and Keep Writing)

10/26/21

Content Creation, Content Planning

The Uncanny Content Team

As writers and content strategists, we’ll be the first to admit that writing is tough. But it’s even tougher when we’re so easily distracted by things like:

  • Instagram feeds
  • Text messages
  • YouTube videos
  • The news
  • TikTok
  • Emails
  • Cute animals
  • Plants
  • Chores
  • Snacks
  • TV shows
  • Movies
  • The world ending

…and the list goes on and on and on, right?

April Ludgate Parks and Rec GIF

Ashley here, and I am admittedly notorious for procrastinating. And while I try to laugh it off most of the time, it’s often a frustrating (and sometimes embarrassing) barrier for me. Not to mention the self-inducing anxiety it causes — always playing catch up and feeling like I’m letting others and myself down. (Latasha note: Ashley could never let us down. Unless she stops sharing great GIFs and funny quips with her projects.)

So, if you’re reading this, chances are you feel the same way. And I’m so happy you’re here. Because, together, we’re going to talk through our procrastination-related feelings (eek) and how we can stop doing it… or do it less often.

The end goal? Continue to be the badass writers we are while getting shit done on time.

Why do we procrastinate in the first place?

More often than not, society makes us believe that we put things off or don’t do them at all because we’re lazy, unmotivated, or afraid of hard work. But that couldn’t be any further from the truth. 

The driving force behind procrastination is actually a lot more complex. According to psychologists, procrastination comes down to factors like:

  • Fear of failing
  • Wanting to be a perfectionist
  • Fear of criticism or negative feedback
  • Lack of clearly defined goals
  • Indecisiveness
  • Avoidance
  • Lack of control
  • A disconnect from your future self (we might have to take this one up with our therapists)

Procrastination can also be made worse for those of us who suffer from:

  • Depression
  • ADHD
  • Anxiety
  • Low energy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Decision fatigue
  • And any other symptoms or disabilities that make everyday life…well, hard

Yeesh. That’s a lot to take in, right? 

The goal here isn’t to overwhelm anyone; it’s to help us better understand why we procrastinate. It also helps reinforce that no, we aren’t lazy human beings — we’re just dealing with a shit ton of mental and physical roadblocks. 

How to overcome procrastination

All of that said, there are tangible ways to manage your everyday roadblocks and stop procrastinating. Some are more to-the-point tactics, and some might require a little more self-work and practice. 

Just remember that you’re a human being, and you likely won’t stop procrastinating overnight. (Unless you’re a robot or a wizard, in which case, SOS: PLEASE HELP THE REST OF US!) But with some time, patience, and practice, you can start to overcome procrastination and get to work.

Identify why you’re procrastinating

First thing’s first, identify why you’re procrastinating. Start by recognizing any patterns, distractions, feelings, or triggers that keep you from writing. The more we understand our procrastination behaviors (and the driving forces behind them), the more success we’ll have coming up with tactics and habits to help us overcome them.

For example, if you struggle with low self-esteem and are consistently afraid of writing something terrible, it’s time to explore ways to build more self-confidence. Maybe that’s asking for positive feedback, working with a writing coach, or talking about any deeper-rooted issues with a therapist or someone you feel safe with.

As another example, maybe you always try working at the same time your favorite TV show is on. As a result, you put everything on the back burner so you can enjoy yourself on the couch (hey, no judgment here). So, as a solution, try writing at different times throughout the day so you’re not tempted by distractions (and can ditch the feelings of guilt that come along with them). 

Break the writing process into manageable steps

When it comes to writing specifically, one of the biggest reasons for procrastinating is that it can feel overwhelming. Whether you’re writing a blog post, an essay, an email sequence — or anything for that matter — it often starts with a blank page. And that page can seem virtually impossible to fill with brand-new creative thoughts and ideas.

The procrastinator’s solution? Not writing anything until you absolutely have to.

The better solution? Make the writing process more manageable.

Break everything into smaller, more doable tasks, like:

  1. Brainstorming ideas
  2. Researching + taking notes
  3. Writing an outline
  4. Writing a rough draft
  5. Revising where necessary
  6. Editing your content
  7. Publishing your content

With this approach, writing won’t feel as tasking and overwhelming — it will simply come together as you work your way through each step!

Set goals that work for you

Another roadblock writers struggle with? Forgetting our own end goals. 

And sure, those goals are often just finishing the damn thing. But that’s not very helpful or motivating, is it? 

Instead, set goals that actually motivate you to write and get things done on time. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Spend x amount of time writing (per day, per week, etc.)
  • Reach x amount of words written
  • Write in sections (e.g. “If I finish this paragraph or page, I can take a break)
  • Remind yourself why you’re writing (To finish your website? To get to happy hour on time? To make more money? To grow your business? To share exciting knowledge? No matter how minor or major your end goal, use it as motivation!)

Minimize distractions

It’s no secret we live in a world that’s full of distractions. But once you have a better understanding of what your particular distractions are, it’s time to combat them and set yourself up for success! Try doing things like:

  • Setting timers for work + breaks
  • Closing out of other tabs + websites
  • Silencing email notifications
  • Putting your phone on Do Not Disturb (or leaving it in another room)
  • Turning off the TV
  • And anything else that helps keep you on track

Set boundaries

Remember when we said it’s easy for writers to feel overwhelmed and procrastinate as a result? Sometimes it’s because we’re in our own heads. Other times, it’s because we have too much other shit to do. 

It happens to all of us at some point: We underestimate our current workload and overcommit to new projects. So, when it’s finally time to tackle all that extra work, we become stressed out and shut the f down. It’s essentially the perfect formula for procrastination.

Our advice? Know your work capacity. Know your physical and mental limits. Take your time before saying yes. Turn down shitty and low-paying jobs. Practice saying no. Make boundaries your new best friend.

Don’t beat yourself up

If you’ve tried all the tricks and tactics in the book and still need to put something off? Go for it, and don’t beat yourself up about it. 

Truth is, we’re all doing the best we can to navigate this world and everything happening in it. No one gave us a handbook or taught us how to overcome these obstacles. And if procrastination is just one of the ways you’re coping with it all? So fucking be it.

Remember: Your mental health is important, and you need to take care of yourself first. So, give yourself some grace, try to practice what we preach, and put in the work to become the non-procrastinator we know you can be!

(Starting tomorrow.)

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