“If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.” ~ Rita Mae Brown, author
Writers are notorious procrastinators. When deadlines loom, some are relaxed because all articles or presentations have been submitted. Others are right on schedule, just giving it a quick review before sending. Then, there are those of us who are still scrambling for ideas with neither outlines nor rough drafts, mere days before the due date. We know procrastination adds stress to our already overloaded to-do cart, so why do we do this to ourselves? More importantly, what can we do to stop?
What type of procrastinator are you?
According to Ali Schiller and Marissa Boisvert , professional business coaches and co-owners of Accountability Works, procrastinators are one of four main types: the performer, the self-deprecator, the overbooker, and the novelty seeker. Schiller and Boisvert explain that finding out which group you belong to can help break your cycle of procrastinating. For each type, they describe behaviors and challenges, and offer solutions.
The Performers are those who say, ”I work well under pressure.” Mostly perfectionists, Performers force themselves to focus by reducing the time they have. This self-inflicted ploy makes it impossible to have a perfect outcome when there is so little time, so why bother. Other Performers truly believe they are best under pressure to make deadlines. The Performers’ biggest challenge is getting started, and the best way to beat that, says Schiller and Boisvert, is to concentrate on the start date, not the due date. By inverting the timeline, you will lessen the pressure and can focus properly on starting the project.
The Self-Deprecators claim laziness, but in fact they are far from it. Schiller and Boisvert say many of their male clients are in this group of Type A people, who are very hard on themselves. When they miss a deadline, they blame laziness rather than admit they are tired. What they should do is give it a rest, literally. Take a break, even when you think you can’t. Regroup and recharge, so you’ll have a new focused view of your starting point
The Overbookers are too busy; they are mighty beasts at filling up the calendar, but too often overwhelmed by the load. Since the busiest people are usually the ones who get the most done, if an Overbooker says, “I’m too busy,” it may mean, “I don’t want to do this.” It’s a form of avoidance, but rather than admitting that, they let their chaotic schedule take the blame. The solution in this case is simple: ask yourself what you are really trying to avoid and why. Once that’s settled, you’re free to get started.
The Novelty Seekers
Finally, the Novelty Seekers are those who always have the best new ideas. Schiller and Boisvert call this the Shiny Object Syndrome, where these people are constantly coming up with new ideas and quickly tire of older ones. They are quick to see trends and act on them, but they fail to follow through, causing lost time and burnout. They aren’t consistent long enough to see results. The coaches say many entrepreneurial clients fit in this category, and their greatest struggle is completion. They often advise these clients to “make it stick,” literally, with sticky notes. Posting the ideas gives them validity and acknowledges the possibilities while recognizing the possible distraction. The only rule: Do not start them until after the current project is complete.
The Writers for Hire blog agrees. “Writers are known procrastinators,” says the (staff) author. “Whether we’re afraid our ideas won’t be good enough, or we’re waiting for inspiration to strike, we tend to set ourselves up for stress by waiting until the last possible minute to begin serious work on our projects.” Don’t worry, they assure us. We can stop this pattern with their tips:
“Always keep the main idea in mind.”
Define your purpose in one sentence, and let that guide you. Posting that sentence in your line of vision while you write helps. Keeping the end result in mind will help guide you and keep you from wandering off on random tangents, and strengthens your focus.
“The end is in sight.”
Visualize your end result, especially with larger projects. Vow to outline an article or two, do some research, or write a certain number of words daily. Keep track of word counts on a calendar. Little accomplishments will bolster your confidence. Remember: each word written is one word closer to the finish line.
“Just do it already.”
Stop with the excuses, and just start writing. It doesn’t have to be perfect; that’s why they are called drafts, and you can have as many as time allows. Don’t worry about the mechanics, just get it on paper. You can edit later. If you can’t think of anything, try some free association. Schedule time for brainstorming with a friend.
“Reward yourself for a job well done.”
Finishing your written project is a great reason to celebrate, and knowing there is a planned reward at the end of the road will motivate you to press on to completion. Then, relax with your favorite beverage, a round of golf, a much-needed nap, or a bit of retail therapy to congratulate yourself.
“Lose the ‘I work better under pressure’ mentality.”
Stop kidding yourself; that mindset is false, and it never works to your advantage. Stress causes you to rush through your work, forget things and make mistakes. Putting off your paper or article will only make you want to pull your hair out later. Stop trying to kid yourself and start writing. Now