Five ways to avoid procrastination – Zoe Lea

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By Zoe Lea

I’m terrible at procrastination.  I could have twelve deadlines looming, word counts not done and edits to get through, and instead of cracking on, I’ll scroll through Instagram or start reading blogs.

In fact, just now, whilst I’m meant to be writing this, I got a notification from Facebook. Unable to ignore it, I just wasted five minutes looking at an event that I’m not remotely interested in.  A mountaineering event.  I am not a mountaineer, but nonetheless, I just wasted valuable time checking out the itinerary.

I’ve learned that if I want to get anything done, I need to put some kind of structure in place, so here’s the top five ways I avoid procrastination and get my writing done.

1. Switch off the internet

I know!  So harsh!  But like the example above, I’m easily distracted.  One little notification pop-up, one alarm that a new email has arrived and that’s it, I’m gone. So in order for this not to happen, I’ve found the best remedy is switching off the internet altogether. I go to settings and turn it off, or I go take my laptop to somewhere with no internet access.  I also don’t allow my phone anywhere near my keyboard for the same reasons.

2. Do small steps

I find if I break my work down into smaller steps, it’s easier to start.  I often find the thought of writing a little overwhelming; I look at the blank page, the cursor blinking and find myself thinking of something else to do.  So I break the task down into smaller steps.  Once I think I’m only going to tackle part of it, and not the whole thing, it’s much easier to get going.

3. Have some accountability

I have a writing friend and we keep up with each other’s goals on a weekly basis.  Our word counts, tasks for the week and so on.  We hold each other accountable to what we’re doing and what progress we’ve made and knowing that I’ll have to explain why I didn’t get something done, often makes me do it.

4. Rewards

Rewards are a great motivator.  I plan small rewards for each of my tasks, be it in the form of a snack, exercise or free time on the internet.  I tell myself to write a certain scene, or edit, or whatever writing job I’ve got to get through and then, after it’s done, and only then, I can get my reward. It’s also useful to have a timer, so the ‘reward’ doesn’t take over your day!

5. Do the worst, first

The thing I’m most dreading, I tackle first.  If it’s a scene that needs rewriting, or a particularly difficult piece of dialogue I’m not looking forward to, that’s the thing I do first.  Getting the least pleasant task done before anything else means I’m not dreading it for the rest of the day and I find it easier to concentrate on my other tasks.  It also means that I get to feel a little smug and proud of myself for getting it done, and that’s always a good feeling!

How about you?  How do you stop procrastinating and get writing?

Zoe Lea lives in the Lake District with her husband, two children, three dogs and peregrine falcons. She has previously worked as a teacher, photographer, freelance journalist and is a writer by day and a reader by night. If He Wakes is her debut novel.

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