Procrastination Station

There’s a link on the NaNo website that used to take you to Procrastination Station–a page full of things to do when you want to avoid writing your novel.

I’m not sure anyone needs a Procrastination Station–most of us can find plenty of ways to procrastinate without any help from others. At least, I can.

I have noticed that most of the people I know (myself included) tend to have a similar pattern when we have a big task to accomplish, such as writing a 50,000-word novel in one month (yay, NaNo!) or completing a short story. No matter what the task, the pattern of procrastination is the same.

When we procrastinate, not only do we not do the thing we want to (committed to/agreed to/contracted to) do, but we also stop doing anything else enjoyable or fulfilling in our lives.

We tend to “multi-shirk” by watching bad TV or cleaning out a closet. We do the chores we have to do but we don’t allow ourselves to have any fun.

We basically tell ourselves we can’t have fun until the big task is done.

But the more we punish ourselves for not doing the thing we said we’d do, the more we procrastinate.

So, the best way I have found to deal with procrastination is to give myself permission to do the things that bring me joy, even if those things have nothing to do with getting my novel completed (or the blog post written). I find when I allow myself to go running in the park, I’m much more likely to come home and decide to sit down at my computer and get something done on my novel.

When we deprive ourselves of small pleasures because we “have to” get something done, we feel punished and our resistance increases.

If our lives are full of moments of fun, tackling that writing project becomes less stressful.

Any project is more doable when we are living a life of joy and fulfillment, which starts with figuring out what we enjoy.

My list includes things as small as a decaf latte and as important as conversations with my sisters. Other things that feed my soul are playing outside with my son, cooking for my family without any distractions, and reading.

There have been times when I didn’t allow any of these things—either because I created a life when I really didn’t have time for most of these things (can you say “med school?”) or because I simply didn’t give myself permission to do them.

Now I feed my soul as often as possible. And I procrastinate much less. I get my butt in the chair more often, usually with a good cup of coffee to my left and a picture of my son to my right. Such simple pleasures!

What are the things that fill you up? Do you allow yourself small pleasures, even when you are under a deadline?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: is a writer, blogger, life coach, mother, and family physician. I’m behind on NaNo, but I’ve made a start and I know I’ll get there!

36 thoughts on “Procrastination Station

  1. I have read about procrastination before too. But your article stands unique. It is very much sensible to think that the more we punish ourselves, the more resistant we become; which does not anyway get the job done.

    Thank you so much for this article!

    • Hi andrea,
      I agree, simple pleasures are the best. It’s amazing how easily I give those things up when I have a deadline or a goal to meet. I’ve had to train myself out of that habit–and I still struggle with it.

      Happy writing!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  2. I never thought about procrastination like this before, but now I see that’s exactly what I do in my life. I will try to do more pleasureable things instead, like reading a good book talking on the phone with a friend or spending time in the garden with my dog.

    • Hi Musings from a writer’s life,
      Let me know if you find a difference when you change your ways. I find I get just as much, if not more, done when I allow myself my small pleasures.

      Thanks for reading!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  3. Nice perspective. I think I will try to look at why I do what I do a bit differently, especially in the procrastination department. I think maybe it has to do with our society mindset – get your work done first, then play/have fun. I’m a bit behind on NaNo too, but I have been working hard to catch up and stretch the bars on my graph higher each day.

    • Hi goingtogermany0693,
      Thanks for your comments. I agree, I think it is a cultural mindset. I lived in Europe for a year many years ago and the pace of life was so much slower, but people still got a lot done. Totally different perspective.

      Good luck with Nano!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  4. I didn’t even realize I do exactly what you’ve suggested in this post. I deny myself. I’ll procrastinate by collecting the garbage, cleaning a washroom or going grocery shopping but not by watching a movie or going out for a treat. Maybe reading/writing a blog post or two is my single sinful indulgence??

    • Hi artsylikeme,
      I do the same thing–until I catch myself, and allow myself whatever feels fun at the time. I think if we fill out lives with small moments of joy, we can get a lot more “work” done than if we deny ourselves.

      I hope you’ll try incorporating a few more treats in your day–and let me know how it goes!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  5. One can also use behavioral activation therapy techniques that are used for anxiety related problems. The only way to overcome procrastination is to do the thing that you have to do. Nibbling around the edges, as we all do when we procrastinate, is not the same as setting aside a hour or two and finally doing it.

    BAT is built around positive reinforcement. One aspect is delayed gratification. No latte until one page is written. Not a big step, the smaller the reward, the smaller the step. But delay things a little and form sizable goals.

    The other is to associate it with positive habits. Going for a run is just one of those things. We know that exercise is a positive force mentally as well as physically. Getting in the mindset of forming a new habit, one with something you like (like running), creates a coupling effect and forms a new habit.

    If you feel that you don’t have positive habits, then form a large one. One where failure in one aspect is not the end of the world. If you don’t exercise, but always want to, and want to write, but don’t right now, join them into a large group. Coupling them means that positive reinforcement with one will bleed over into the other. It’s stupid sounding, that by simply grouping things it can have such effects, but it does.

    Finally, there is a methodology for fighting depression that often helps. It’s trigger-response therapy. Spend a day not writing. Have an alarm go off every half hour or hour. Record what you are doing at that time. Then write down on a scale from one to ten how happy you are doing that. Find the activities that uplift your mood and couple them with writing. You’ll be surprised at what small things make you feel better. Here you find the triggers and responses to life situations and give you the ground work to creating positive habits.

    I love to write. It’s like running to me. It’s an escape. So I join editing with writing. Immediately after writing I sit down and edit for a while. After I found that this gave me more ideas and is enjoyable in it’s own right (being coupled with something I enjoy) I started doing it first and delaying the gratification of writing until it’s done. Now I have the habit of reading, pruning, and writing all combined in a single session.

    Part of this is pavlovian, the association part. The other part is operant conditioning, the delayed gratification. They are old methodologies, very old, but they’re time tested methods of modifying behavior that will never go away due to the body of research behind them.

    • Hi james,
      Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge of all these different techniques. It’s great to have so many different options.

      Happy writing!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  6. yur right! We need to have inspiration… its not procrastination, its just staleianation, or stallination, hey artists need stimulation or the well runs dry, so have lots of fun, food music sex and shopping is always good for you on a sunny day and talk to strangers, poke into their lives and you will be inspired…I’m nosey but its I call it research and development…R&D… for creative purposes (no guilt)…;)

  7. Some call it procrastination, I call it “sanity saving”. If it comes down to getting a good night’s sleep or pounding out another few chapter I am going to go for sleep. If you don’t sleep you can’t think. If you can’t think, you can’t write…or at least you can’t write well.

    • Hi thewriterscafe247,
      I totally agree! It’s taken me many years to get to the point where I will choose sleep over deadlines, but I know my writing (and everything else) is better when I am well-rested.

      Warmly,
      Diane

  8. I always procrastinate in lieu of doing something stressful or that is going to impact on my life in a significant way so basically anything related to college work! I get really wound up and tend to go on cleaning frenzies so I’m definetly gonna try relax more and allow myself to enjoy down time. Usually a big pot of tea, some biscuits and my drawing pad allows me to wind down 🙂

    • Hi Ned,
      Great idea. I’ve coached a number of college and graduate students, and many of them had the same pattern. When you allow yourself that relaxation, you fill yourself up and are more able to get things done.

      Good luck and enjoy that cup of tea!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  9. I totally agree with you. This is my first year participating in NaNoWriMo and it has been difficult keeping up. I’ve been able to do so until yesterday because I felt a bit under the weather. Rather than punish myself or make excuses, I stayed in bed and read all day. I am feeling better and stronger today, so I will be on a mission to bring my word count above and beyond where I should be. I’d like to have a comfortable cushion. I heard the third week is the worst, and I really do not want to have to visit the ‘Procrastination Station’. Eek.

    • Hi lilicasplace,
      I hope you are feeling better. I have found when I give myself permission to rest and recuperate, I’m able to recover faster and get back to whatever tasks I had planned to do sooner.

      Best wishes for a successful NaNo!

      Warmly,
      Diane

      • Thanks Diane! I’m sorry it took a while to comment back, but NaNo had me nuts! I did, however, succeed and validated on November 30 with 50,091 words. I will be happy if I use a third of what I have written once I let it rest and hack it up during the editing and revising.

        Have a great night! Lily

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