Writer's Block and Stress - Part 3

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We previously looked into the science behind procrastination, the evil beast that sees us put off important tasks until the very last minute.

As promised yesterday, here are a few tips for countering the procrastinator within, tried and tested by yours truly.

Make a start!  Procrastinators of the world unite – but later.  For now – one of the best pieces of advice for procrastinators is to just start – do something, write anything, just start.  Promise yourself a quick break after starting; don’t focus on the big picture; focus on the smallest of goals: starting.  Are you getting the message here?  It’s all about starting.  You know – making a start.  Getting going. Starting off and that. Get on with it. Now.

Create a reminder of why you are doing this – this should be something motivational for you – something visual, audible or even tactile.  What does success mean and look like to you?  It’s worth having that consistent reminder of your end goal or goals so you don’t lose sight of the big picture and your ultimate aims when things start to weigh you down or overwhelm you.

Develop a schedule for your writing and stick to it - Be realistic about your time, but remember the procrastinator is great at distraction and it’s going to take a lot of discipline to overcome that in-built desire to do something unrelated.  Consider scripting your day: don’t just make a to-do list – script out each and every 15 minute block of your day (click for an example of mine), scheduling activities, breaks and meals. The most important thing is to stick to the times.  After using this method for just 2 weeks I found I was already being 200% more productive!

Break up big projects into bite-size chunks – Then focus on achieving each chunk. You will get so much further by writing 500 words a day, four days a week, than the sporadic 2000 words once in a blue moon.  I have been writing my stress book for 18 months – it’s only in the last 3 months that have I moved from 300 words (that took 15 months) to almost 30,000.

Provide breaks, treats and reward yourself – each time you achieve something or cross another chunk off your to-do list, find a way to reward yourself with a break, treat or even a star on the day’s calendar. Give yourself a pat on the back – you’ve earned it.

Give yourself non-negotiable targets – this must be done, otherwise…  It could be missing a night out and donating the money you would have spent to a charity, missing a football match, banning your favourite food, drink or TV show for a week. Identify a treat you’d normally have that you don’t want to miss, and find people around you to enforce it if you fail to meet your self-set deadline. This is a bit of a psychological game but it works, and once the habit is developed, you will feel driven to do achieve your results every time.

When you start to lose sight of the big goal and the big picture, focus on the small – the next paragraph, the next 500 words, the next page – that’s all. Just get that bit done. And so on.  That’s often how endurance athletes through the toughest of challenges – by focusing on the next 100 yards, the next hill, the next bend in the road, to the next check-point, to the next flag… one after the other.  Writing may be an art, but the reality of bringing a large piece of work to life is a grind – it’s an ultra-marathon, not a sprint.

How do you battle the procrastinator within? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks, so please add them in the comments box below, and I’ll be sure to feature them in a future post.

That’s my activity time done. I’m off for a well-earned break and a cuppa!  Perfectionism and more tomorrow.

SG out

Finding it hard to de-stress, take time-out or switch off?  Check out my free 6-step e-book - 'Emergency Stress CPR'

Dave Algeo, Stressed Guru is a speaker and writer committed to spreading the message - well-being and success need each other.  Get in touch to find out how he can help your organisation develop greater success with wellbeing, or learn more about his speaking and workshops.