When Procrastination Wins: What Do You Do To Return To Productivity?

This post, from Shaun Kilgore, originally appeared on his website on 1/25/10 and is reprinted here in its entirety with his permission.

What happens when procrastination wins and you find yourself staring at all the unfinished tasks or projects that you have to perform?  What do you do?  It can be frustrating.  You may even be suffering from anxiety due to putting things off.

Nowhere is this truer than when you are working at home and you alone are responsible for your work schedule.  You are the one who has to manage your time in constructive ways.  There is no one to tell you what to do.  It can be liberating at first.  Then you may realize that the loss of structure created by having a boss or supervisor and the set time frame of your work hours actually sends you spinning out of control.

I’ve always struggled with procrastination.  It is a struggle to keep things focused and on target.  My freelance writing business is no exception.  I’ve been a writer for the past four years.  I’m self-employed.  While the venue has changed some, I’m still the one who is ultimately responsible for how successful or unsuccessful my business is.

Procrastination does put me in some tight binds from time to time.  Depending on your view of the causes of procrastination, you may think I need to think more positively about my abilities, get busy working and stop dwelling on the past, or get an appointment with a psychological professional.  (It could be a little bit of all three.)

Why Am I Writing About Procrastination?

It’s been a recurring issue with me lately.  That’s the short answer.  Why am I procrastinating and putting off my work or at least not spending all the time I could on it?  Well, I have other ambitions or creative endeavors that are distracting me from the bare bones work I have to do.  For instance, I’m starting a publishing company.  This has taken a great deal of mental energy and time and diverted it to something not related to freelance writing.  I’m thinking about the upcoming release of the first book.  I’m speculating about future books and future authors we could have in our business.

Another reason I’m procrastinating is that I’m more interested in building this blog up and exploring my brand as a writer and creator rather than being the pen behind somebody else.  Ghostwriting does have financial incentives, but I’m at the point where my name on a blog post has more power to arrest my attention.

Perhaps, some of you are dealing with similar circumstances.  Heck, maybe some of you are dealing with the same issues in a more constructive way.  I applaud you for that.  If you have some tips, I would appreciate them.  I do have a few things to say that might help you (and maybe me as well.)

Productive Again

1. Be positive. I’ve got to stop dwelling on negative thoughts.  (So do you.)  Starting doing what you can to build your confidence about the tasks that you’ve been stuck on.  If you accomplish a series of daily goals, you will not only increase you confidence about the whole project but also increase your sense of satisfaction.

2. Break things up. This is accomplished by setting your mind on accomplishing a set number of daily goals and making them something you can accomplish easily.  Once a task is complete, you will feel better about the whole situation.  The funny question comes to mind: How do you eat an elephant?  Answer: One bite at a time. With this strategy comes the ability to start planning ahead more.  It may also give you a way to be more organized as well.  It’s important that you really take the time to separated those big tasks into smaller, manageable components.

3. Start immediately! Don’t let yourself procrastinate about dealing with your procrastination.  You must determine within yourself to start dealing with the problem now.  Right now, while you are reading this. (Even, while I’m writing this.)  You have to do something about it because no one else can.  When you start to tell yourself that you’ll start on this tomorrow, stop yourself.  That’s procrastination talking.  Every day is precious and once you’ve spent it, you cannot get it back.  Remember: If you want to break a bad habit, then break it already!

4. Make priorities.  You’ve got to do this one too.  When you have a whole host of things to do, there may be a tendency to start with the easy things.  In fact, the whole dynamic of your procrastination may run on this first assumption.  When you choose to start with easy things, you may end up putting it off since it’s so easy.  That’s a mistake. You must organize all of your daily tasks in order of legitimate importance or based on their overall practical value.  As a freelance writer, the priority should be the paying gigs that get money in your coffers.  Everything else should come after that.  Yes, develop those other businesses and potential projects, but don’t neglect what helps you stay afloat.

The Power Of Choice

I want to summarize all of this by way of an analysis of how you deal with the choices you make.  Everyone has the power of choice.  But not everyone knows how to use choice to their advantage.

The first thing you should do when given an assignment or taking on a project is to pay attention to how you first respond and your attitude.  You should be conscious of your choices – the ones that you make right away.  Your awareness of these choices will help you fight the urge to avoid the work. Pay attention to how you feel when you choose to tackle those tasks and get things done.  Make sure you keep a list of clear responsibilities.  This will help you set realistic and relevant goals.  Also, make sure you can be realistic about how long each of these tasks is going to take.  Being conscious and maintaining a focus on the power of your choices should give a way to be confident and help spur you on to more actions.

In Closing

I’m ready to defeat procrastination in my writing life so I can find the balance I need to expand my businesses and become successful at what I enjoy doing.  I’m lucky to be a writer, working from home.  Not everyone gets that option.  I cannot let procrastination rule the day.  Neither should you.  There is too much to do and you only have so much time in this life to do it.

If you have anything you want to add, please contact me or post your comments [at the original post].  I’d love to hear from you.  Until next time, keep fighting the good fight.  And keep writing.

Shaun Kilgore is a freelance writer and co-founder of Founders House Publishing, a new small press.  If you’d like to read more of what Shaun has written please check out his blog at www.shaunkilgore.com.

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