Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Procrastination is a Thief

Procrastinate: to defer action; delay; to procrastinate until an opportunity is lost.

We’ve all done it. In fact, most people continuously do it. You know what I’m talking about. Procrastination. You put off for tomorrow – or next week or next month – what you really should be doing today. Sometimes you put it off forever. You delay, forget, avoid, and make excuses all to sidestep doing that thing you either need to or want to do, such as starting or completing your manuscript, getting published, or designing a publicity plan for your book. But why do you do it?

There many reasons why people procrastinate. I would venture to say that more often than not, those reasons are mental rather than tactical. It’s the thought of the thing that stops you in your tracks. You know how to do it and what it will take to complete the task, but you just can’t wrap your mind around getting started or getting it done. What are some of your mental blockers?

  • Uncertainty: Are you unsure of the next step to take? Do you need help or information?
  • Fear: Are you afraid of failure, success, the unknown, what “they” will think or say? Do you cringe at the thought of what will be expected of you when your book is complete? Are you afraid your next effort won’t compare to this one?
  • Doubt: Do you doubt your ability or your expertise?
  • Process: Do you focus more on the process than on your progress? Do you stumble mentally because you can’t envision the finished product and the results you want?
Moving beyond procrastination takes more than just “getting over it.” You really have to do some self work and determine which of the above blockers – or some other – is keeping you from accomplishing your goal. Think about your book project and the times you’ve procrastinated with it. At what point in the process did you stop moving forward? Was it during the planning, the writing, or some other part? Did you freeze up when trying to decide the main point of your book? Did you reach a point when you were not certain how to explain a concept or describe an incident? Did you get stuck when researching professional copy editors to review your content? Were you afraid you wouldn’t have enough money to complete the self-publishing process or to hire a publicist? Did you talk yourself out of approaching an organization to inquire about speaking to their membership about your book? What was it?

Next, determine the behaviors you typically exhibit when you procrastinate. Do you hoard, avoid phone calls, focus on busy work, overindulge in social media sites, go shopping, watch television, nap, eat, drink alcohol, or do something else? Identifying your avoidance behaviors is critical to stopping the cycle of procrastination. Most often, you know when you’re procrastinating, but you fill your time so thoroughly with other activities that you convince yourself that doing those things is more important than accomplishing the goal of completing your book.

The next time you find yourself procrastinating, stop. Consider why you are procrastinating and notice the behaviors in which you’re indulging. Then, consider these tips to help you move beyond procrastination and into progress.

Think about the grand goals you have for your book project. How will you feel once your book content is complete, expertly edited, professionally designed and printed, and in your hand as a finished product? How exciting will it be to speak to audiences about your book, to sign copies in the back of the room, to fulfill bulk orders, to get more business, to make more money, to donate proceeds to charities, to inspire other authors, to live the life of your dreams?

Break your project into smaller, manageable tasks
Maybe you put off writing because it’s such a huge project that you feel there’s no way you can ever complete it. Split the project into achievable milestones, and mark off your progress along the way. Set weekly goals. Decide on one of the following: how many words, pages, or chapters you will write each week.

Make an appointment with yourself
To help you stay on track with your milestones, schedule writing appointments with yourself – and stick to them. You would think twice before breaking an appointment with a friend, colleague or professional. Give yourself and your book project the same respect and priority.

Stay focused
When you sit down to plan, write, or make contact with people who can help with your book project, stay focused. It’s tempting to check email, review a news site, text someone, or browse your favorite social media sites – and you can still do those things ... as soon as you accomplish what you set out to do. Remain focused on the activity at hand. Do not become burdened with feelings of depravity, thinking that if you work on your book now you won’t be able to do other things. Staying focused on your objective and completing the task can actually relieve you of stressful feelings about other, less important activities.

Be accountable
Find a friend or family member to give you the support you need to stay on track. Is it words of encouragement, a firm taskmaster, a listening ear, an honest reviewer, or a reality checker that you need most? Tell your accountability partner what you’ll need him/her to do along the way. Be honest and check in regularly. Your partner should be strong yet loving enough to keep you on course.

Take breaks
Allow downtime in your schedule for resting. Burnout is a real possibility if your timeline is too rigid. But don’t take breaks that are too long because it may be hard to get back into your routine.

Give yourself a break
As tempting as it may be, don’t berate yourself for procrastinating. If you miss a deadline, or get off schedule, pick yourself up and head for the next milestone. Life happens and things come up that sometimes get you off track. But keep your vision in mind and you’ll find it easier to accomplish your goals.

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