This week during a session, one of my clients complained about her constant procrastination. She wanted so badly to write her book and to get published—or so she said—but she just couldn’t get herself to sit down and write or to take steps to build platform. Instead, she piddled away her day on other activities that didn’t help as much and complained about being stuck.
Sound familiar? If you are like this woman—and like me, it probably does. I know I could relate…big time.
The reason we procrastinate is simple. We avoid what we don’t want to do. We may say we want to do it, but for some reason, we don’t really want to do it. We may want to achieve the end goal, but not take the steps to get there, for instance. So, for example, my client wants to become a published author, but she does not want to face her fear that she isn’t a good enough writer or doesn’t have enough to say, which could happen if she sits down to write. And she really doesn’t enjoy the internet, so she dislikes social networks. She also doesn’t like public speaking. It’s not surprising therefore, that she avoids these activities or anything to do with them, such as interacting online or trying to find chances to speak or media opportunities.
She’s not stuck. She’s in avoidance.
Consider the ripple affect of such avoidance. I’ll speak from my own experience now. (Yes, I’m at fault of this, too.) When I don’t want to do something, I often don’t do other things I need to do as well. I may have a to-do list with quite a number of items on it. But I may not get started on any of them because there are a few I am avoiding. The energy of avoidance, otherwise known as procrastination, takes over. Before I know it, I’ve looked at both of my book sales in my Amazon Author Central account and all four of my blog statistics (twice), checked all my social networking accounts several times and posted status updates, checked my email account—but not necessarily answered any of those emails if there is something there I’m avoiding, and surfed around to some links that looked interesting, gotten something to eat, gone to the bathroom, called my mother or sister, and started over again. Three hours later…I’m wondering why I’ve gotten absolutely nothing done!
Sound familiar? Come on…admit it.
I’m not stuck. I’m in avoidance.
Knowing this, the way to get unstuck is to stop avoiding the things you don’t want to do. This sounds pretty simple, right? It can be.
Basically, you need to tackle the things you are avoiding. You could first spend some time trying to determine why you aren’t doing what you say you want to do. (Read this post or this prompt for some help.) In the end, though, you need to adopt Nike’s motto and “just do it.”
Completing something you have been avoiding will change your whole day! Your energy will change. You’ll feel motivated, exhilarated, confident. You’ll be ready—and willing to take on the next task, such as your writing.
Nonfiction Writing Prompt #31: Do What’s Hard First
To complete this writing prompt, start your day by prioritizing your to-do items by the one that causes you the most stress or cause for avoidance and completing that one first.
Recently I read some great advice from none other than master of his time, Tim Ferris, bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. Although his solution seems pretty simple, I’ve put it to use in my daily life and with my to-do list, and it works wonders for procrastination/avoidance. In a podcast, Productivity Tricks for the Neurotic, Manic-Depressive, and Crazy (Like Me),” Ferris explains his productivity hack:
- First, in the morning, write three to five things on a piece of paper that are causing you the most stress. “They’re often things that have been punted from one day’s to-do list to the next, to the next, to the next, and so on,” Ferriss says. He likes using a Post-It note to force himself to keep things short and sweet.
- Second, look at each to-do item and ask two questions: “If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?” and “Will moving this forward make all the other to-do’s unimportant or easier to knock off later?”
- Third, examine the items for which you answered “Yes” to at least one of the two questions.
- Fourth, choose one of these items, and set aside two to three hours at some point in the day to complete this task. Ferriss stresses the importance of choosing just one task to ensure it gets done. That’s it.
Ferriss claims this prioritization method provides an antidote to procrastinating, which can be a form of self-sabotage. I agree.
I’ve changed the questions to this hack a bit. My to-do list is a perpetual list, every growing and changing in a mind map program. I look at it in the morning and ask myself:
- Which one item on this list is causing me the most stress?
- Which one item do I need to complete and mark off the list to feel able to move forward and complete other tasks without the sense that something is hanging over my head?
- Which item would give me the greatest sense of accomplishment if I completed it today—and the greatest sense of freedom?
I do that item first. Completing it frees me up to do other tasks.
Let me know how this works for you. Do you avoid less and get more writing done?
For more information on how to create nonfiction book ideas that are marketable and that support your writing goals, join the NFWU. When you do, you’ll receive this month’s Nonfiction Writers’ University (NFWU) homework assignment, which contains more exercises and information on this topic. Plus, you’ll have access to the growing archive of past homework assignments and NFWU event recordings as well as some introductory gifts worth more than the membership! Members also get additional bonuses during the year.
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