I recently published my first book, Splash Into Calm. In the process of writing I realized how easy it is to put off what I had to accomplish. I could have easily thwarted my progress if I had not taken measures to ensure I stayed on task. I was lucky to be writing about the very techniques that help with procrastination, so I had a full toolbox of useful ideas.
Procrastination is problematic for many aspiring authors and many people struggle with it for years. I often share the concept of “one day at a time,” but when challenged, even that needs simplification. In essence, you should focus on accomplishing your project one minute or one simple task at a time, otherwise you risk sabotaging what you want to achieve. In many circles the acronym KISS is used —Keep It Simple, Sweetie. (I know many use the word Stupid, but I get no inspiration from that.).
This quote from Julia Cameron brings us to another layer of procrastination:We must work with what we have rather than languish in complaints over what we have not.
This is at the heart of what keeps you stuck. You cannot be great at everything. Unfortunately, people often use their weaknesses as excuses to quit, rather than cultivate their strong points. For example, when I began to write my book, I knew that grammar was not my strong suit. My children and husband have a sophisticated command of the English language that I lack. I almost quit before I began, until my wise advisor reminded me that there are trained professionals who can fill in where I lack skill. What I do possess is knowledge and experience of the practices and philosophies contained in my book. I also have my own style of effectively communicating concepts that stay true to my voice and those I want to reach. As I continued to forge forward, I dove in deeper and honed the skills that were already inherent within.
There are always options available. You can get help or hire someone to do the parts that either you do not want to do or are incapable of accomplishing, so the only thing that holds you back is fear.
The main ally to procrastination is fear and it shows up in many forms: We fear that we will never finish. We fear reality. We fear that we never measure up. We even fear success. Each of these fears can be destructive to your progress in completing your book.
There are a few things that I found helpful in overcoming procrastination while completing my book. I believe these strategies will work for anything you want to accomplish:
• Guidance: Find someone who can help you—you cannot do everything on our own.
• Structure: Due dates and a step-by-step process (there can be some flexibility here) are vital.
• Positive people: Surround yourself with those who are supportive.
• Accountability: Find someone who can help you create a timeline, and then report your progress.
• Keep it simple: Easy, step-by-step, bite size pieces will work most effectively.
• Know your strengths: Focus on what feels natural for you and then decide if you need accountability or someone else to help with the rest.
• Praise: Each step of the way, give yourself a pat on the back (or your shoulder if you can’t reach your back) for beginning. Reward yourself in some small way.
One final note—after completing this article I felt relieved and happy and am now free to indulge in a well-deserved pedicure. Goodbye procrastination, hello relaxation!
Consultant, speaker, author and teacher, Ellen is the President of Custom Calm and the author of Splash Into Calm. Ellen has extensive training in the area of transforming stress and pain into productive, life enhancing solutions. She teaches and consults at the Cancer Support Community, Weinstein Adult Day Program, and businesses.