One of the biggest problems I have as a self-employed writers is procrastination. I’ve always been the type of person that would put work off until the last minute, and it was never much of a problem for me. With this business, however, it has really become something I need to overcome in order to be more successful. I have really been pushing myself to try to find ways to get jobs done early, and remain focused on writing (both the actual writing, and finding new clients) and while I still struggle with it, I have made some significant improvement.
I decided to write this post not only to share some of the strategies that work for me, but also to reach out to all of you to ask for additional tips and tricks. Anything that you have found helps you to avoid procrastination or stay motivated would be extremely helpful! Please share any suggestions you have in the comments below.
Tip #1 – Make a List
Make a list of what you would like to accomplish each day. I’ve found that if I make a list that has a lot of things on it, but highlighting only those that I absolutely must complete, I am able to stay focused. It eliminates my temptation to sit there and think about what I should be doing, or jumping from item to item without actually completing any of them.
Having the list have more items than I am likely to complete works well for me, because it shows that I always have something I should be doing. It is important, however, to highlight the minimum acceptable number of things to get done. If I don’t finish those things (baring some sort of emergency) I can’t go to bed at night. If I complete more than the main requirements, it is very rewarding that I made more progress than I had hoped!
Tip #2 – Family Buy In
Make sure your family (or friends, or whoever) are aware of what you are working on. Let them know that you are running a business, and it requires a significant amount of time and focus. If you work at home, make sure to tell your family that during certain hours, you need to be left alone (if at all possible) so you can focus on your work. During these hours, follow tip #3!
Tip #3 – Eliminate Distractions
Close out Facebook, eMail, Twitter, YouTube, your phone and anything else that will distract you. While these may be important tools for you, they are also very distracting. Turn them off or close them out while you are working on writing something, or getting something else done. Multitasking is almost never an efficient way to get things done. Focus on one item until it is done, then move on to the next!
Tip #4 – Schedule Your Time
I like to categorize all the different things that I need to do for my business, and then try to schedule a specific amount of time each day (or week) for them. For example, I have to spend a lot of time writing, which I break down into writing for my own projects and writing for clients. In addition, I need to spend time marketing myself to find new clients. Then I also need to spend time replying to emails, sending invoices, following up with clients and things like that. If I schedule each task to take place at certain times of the day, or certain days of the week, it helps me to get a lot more done without putting anything off for too long.
Tip #5 – Diet & Exercise
This is one I’m working on improving in my life right now. It has been shown that if you have a healthy diet, and get plenty of exercise, you will be able to focus and concentrate much more effectively. I have noticed that in my life, when I have a healthy breakfast with lots of protein, I tend to get a lot more done. If I just pull out a pop-tart, however, I feel like I’m struggling all day long. Of course, there are many other benefits to having a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise.
Tip #6 – Take a Break
When I start to feel distracted, or find that I have to constantly go over the same thing because I can’t get it right, I’ll take a break. Whether this is going up to play with the kids for a while, switching focus to deal with something that doesn’t require much conversation, or just watching a little television (NOT TOO MUCH!!!). Let your mind go a different direction for 10-30 minutes, and then come back and you’ll likely be able to complete your work.
Tip #7 – Identify Your Procrastination Triggers
Everyone is different, but I’m sure everyone has some sort of triggers that cause them to procrastinate. For me, it is ‘information shopping.’ I’ll often get tempted to jump on different blogs or forums and read about new things. While this is sometimes a good thing, I am typically tempted to do it when I’m supposed to be doing something else. I try to schedule time for reading other people’s blogs or forums each week (and also commenting on them) so that I know that I’ll get to it then. That way I am less tempted to jump around while I am supposed to be focused.
Tip #8 – Set Medium and Long Term Goals & Write Them Down
Setting goals for your business is extremely important, but if you don’t write them done, you’re much less likely to reach them. Write down very specific goals, and dates by which you want to achieve them. You can also expand it to include the steps you will be taking in order to achieve the goals. This will help you stay focused, and help you take those little steps each day toward achieving your dreams.
Tip #9 – Just Do It
There are some tasks that are just no fun. Parts of the business that you hate doing, but are a necessary evil. Rather than putting these off, and allowing them to sit in the back of your mind, just get them done as quickly as you can so you can move on. Accept the fact that this is just a part of the business that you don’t like, and get it out of the way as quickly as possible. At some point in your journey, you will be able to hire a virtual assistant to take on some of these types of things, but until then, just do it!
Tip #10 – Stay Organized
This is one of the most important tips for me. If I’m unorganized, every little thing takes longer than it should. This means, even during those times when I am feeling very motivated, I still can’t get as much done as I should. I have a spreadsheet where I place all the tasks that I need to do, sometimes months in advance, with dates by which they need to be done. This way, whenever I am ready to work I just pull it up and pick what I’m going to do. There is no need to do searches or try to remember anything when it is all in one easy place.
Bonus Tip #11 – Harness Times of Motivation
I’m sure everyone has certain times of the day where they feel extremely motivated. Whether it is just after watching Rocky IV, or after watching a motivational YouTube video, or any other time, make sure you take advantage of those times. If you’re feeling motivated, don’t waste that energy on unimportant things. Pull out your most important work (even if it isn’t necessarily next on the list) and get it done! You’ll be glad to have it finished, and you may even feel an extra burst of motivation to keep going even further!
I hope these tips have helped you. I know that everyone is different, and what helps me to avoid procrastination might not work for you. Coming up with your own list of things that will help you get things done and become successful is extremely important! Share your tips and thoughts below. Also, please consider sharing/liking/tweeting this post with your followers!