Top Five Methods of Procrastination

Wednesday, August 11, 2010
"Only Robinson Crusoe had everything done by friday." - Author Unknown

What is your favorite way to procrastinate writing?

Here is a list of my personal top 5 methods of procrastination:

5. Reading novels – I debated whether or not to include this on the procrastination list. I read somewhere that reading novels, for a novelist, is like an apprenticeship. So by reading novels, I'm contributing to my overall writing-life experience. But it also keeps me from writing, and I often read specifically to avoid writing. This is what I call productive procrastination and makes me feel less guilty.

4. Going out to lunch – I write from home, which means my schedule is “flexible.” I don’t have to sit at my desk and write for eight hours a day, right? I can go to lunch with friends or my mom or grandma, right? Right, but…how often do these lunches turn into afternoon-long catch-up sessions or evolve into shopping trips? Hmm…almost always.

3. Working out at the gym or pool – It’s very important have a healthy, active lifestyle and I’m lucky enough to be one of those people who loves to work out, go to the gym, go for a swim or a quick run. A regular workout routine is, in my opinion, essential. I, however, often go to the gym or the pool as an excuse to stay away from my desk and computer. Exercise is healthy, but in my case, definitely a tool for procrastination.

2. Cooking and baking – Everyone has to eat, right? Yes. But in my case, I find myself in the kitchen needlessly baking double-batches of chocolate chip cookies or mixing an exotic blend of fruits in my juicer when I really don’t need these foods, aren’t even hungry for these foods, and know I should be writing.

1. facebooking, Tweeting and other forms of social media – Getting sucked into the black hole of social media is by far the easiest way to procrastinate. I'm not entirely sure how it happens. I get on facebook to check for messages, make a status update, check some friends’ updates, and then suddenly it’s three in the afternoon and I have written nothing more than a witty wall post that maybe a half-dozen people will read. Yes, social media is increasingly important for writers and a necessary part of the writing business. I, however, need to curb my social media urges, unplug my Internet connection, and just write.

If I’ve learned nothing else this summer it’s this: when you don’t have a set writing schedule, it is exceedingly easy to procrastinate and not write. Every night before I go to bed I tell myself, “I will write something tomorrow.” And then tomorrow comes and I find myself pumping iron at the gym and then baking a tuna casserole, and then what do you know, it’s bedtime and I'm in bed reading a good novel.

If I jot down my writing goal on my calendar, I am much more likely to meet that goal. For example, I might write: “write from 2pm – 4pm” on Wednesday or “write 1000 words” on Thursday. This helps. Usually.

Help me to stop procrastinating! What are your favorite forms of procrastination, and how do you overcome them?

procrastinated by: Anne Greenawalt at


Connie Hebert said...

Hi Ann - Enjoyed your blog today -- amazing how many ways we can find to procrastinate.

A wise person told me once that procrastination is based in fear - Hmmmm.

Anne Greenawalt said...

Hi Connie,

Glad you enjoyed it!

"Procrastination is based in fear" is a great quote, and probably true in my case. I worry if what I write will be good enough, witty enough, and then I decide that it's easier just to to go bake some brownies. But when I can push past that fear, stop thinking, and just write...that's when the magic happens.

Thanks for commenting!

LAH said...

My writing procrastination has always masqueraded as planning or pre-work. I will set a goal or tell myself that "tomorrow" will be an ideal day for writing and then I find myself:
1. Reading ABOUT writing-- on other people's blogs and websites
2. Re-reading my old writing-- and getting overwhelmed by my frenzied need to revise
3. Devising elaborate writing schedules and miraculous equations for how to meet deadlines

And then suddenly the perfect day or ideal bit of time for writing is gone and real life has crept back in.

Lately though it has been harder to procrastinate as I am traveling, with the goal of writing as I go. While yes, a trek through the jungle or a tour of a palace seems a good justification for not writing, but I still find myself with mass quantities of free time... So perhaps that is my best advice to you-- buy a one way ticket to the other side of the world, where wifi is unreliable and cell phones are a non-option. Ha, not exactly practical I suppose!

bigred909 said...

I'm a cleaner. I hate to clean, but when it's time to write, suddenly the soap scum in my tub can't wait another minute. Your idea to write daily goals on the calendar is a good one. I'm going to give that a try!

Anne Greenawalt said...

Hi Lauren,

Thanks for your comments! One day I would love to buy a ticket to the other side of the world :)

Re-reading old writing is a frequent trap of mine also. I re-read for inspiration or to revise but then nothing comes of it!

Good luck with your travels and writing.

Anne Greenawalt said...

Hi bigred,

Yeah, it's funny how much dirtier everything looks when it's time to write... ha ha!

Asha - 13 Years Later said...

Great post! I love that all your procrastination methods are “good” things. That is, there is a “good excuse” for doing all of them, which makes it so much harder to recognize what you’re doing as procrastinating.

W.J. Howard said...

Gosh, I could have wrote this post.

Reading blogs is another one of my little distractions...and here I am, procrastinating.

Dan Goodwin said...

Good post, and brave of you to share your top procrastination habits.

I wrote a similar post a couple of months back, and mine now I would say are:

1. Checking email / Seesmic/ Twitter too often.

2. Reading blog posts that aren't actually of much interest.

3. Baking! Cookies, tiffin, brownies...

4. Eating and making drinks I don't really need. Sort of connected with no 3.

5. Chatting on forums and creative communities.

All of these are I think important parts of my life and online career, but in moderation! Being aware of them is the first step, thanks for the reminder...

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