Getting started is often the hardest part of any project, whether it’s tackling that difficult scene or cleaning out the basement you’ve been tossing things willy-nilly into for the past ten years. I spend an inordinate amount of time procrastinating, especially when I’m making the transition between two very different tasks, say–for instance–wrangling my three children into bed and writing. A lot of laundry-folding and RSS feed checking goes on during that time.
Along the way, I’ve developed some tactics to help me get past the how-do-I-even-begin hump. Here are a few:
1. Warmups. Not every project lends itself to warmups, of course (I don’t know what sorts of warmups one can do before scrubbing out the bathroom–and no, I don’t really need to know if there are). But you can ease into a difficult task. No one goes into a rigorous exercise routine without stretching out their muscles. I don’t tackle a difficult piano piece without limbering up my fingers with scales, or something easier.. In the same way, writing warmups can help get you into the mood before you have to figure out how to rescue the beautiful Princess Meliandora from the Dark Lord’s impregnable fortress. I recommend freewriting.
2. Break it down. Writing a novel is a big undertaking. So is cleaning your entire house. Or starting a business. Or creating a historically accurate Marie Antoinette costume. My advice? Break the project down into manageable chunks. Don’t think of it as writing an entire novel, but as getting to that first candybar scene. Focus on one drawer instead of the entire house.
And celebrate the milestones, even if it is with a cookie or five minutes to check Twitter/Facebook/email/[insert social media of choice].
3. Give yourself a time limit. I’ve extolled the virtues of writing in sessions of 10-20 minutes before. You can do anything for a short burst of time, whether it’s weeding or scrubbing the inside of the oven or drafting a blog post. Sometimes that short time period is enough to get you going so you can continue even when the timer beeps. Or, if you’re like me, you write super-fast in order to cram in as many words as possible before the time runs out!
4. Get support. Make your goals public. Tell your family and friends what you’re going to do. Use the #amwriting hashtag on Twitter, tell your Facebook friends you’re attacking the attic today (and that they should send in search parties if you don’t re-emerge in a few hours). Get your spouse to prod you, and your friends to harass you about your goal (in a nice we-support-you sort of way). Tell your blog readers you’ve decided to post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday–oh wait, did I say that out loud? *grin*
5. Get it on the schedule. Clear your schedule for your project. For the longest time, exercise wasn’t even in the kitchen for me, much less the back-burner. Now, with my husband working from home, I have a standing date with his iPhone to listen to a podcast while taking a brisk walk during the kids’ afternoon Quiet Time. Hire a babysitter, send the family out of the house, or go out yourself–just block that time off. Put it on the calendar, even. In pen. It makes it all the more real and official.
What about you? How do you deal with procrastination?