Make procrastination work for you

Tuesday, August 28, 2018
I don't need to ask if you have ever procrastinated. Everyone has. I procrastinated writing this blog post because I couldn't seem to develop a topic with enough support. I did some cleaning, laundry, and watched a movie on Netflix. As the deadline approached, I became a little nervous and realized I had to write something. So, I did.

There are some advantages to procrastination. Have you ever completed a "Hail Mary" project in record time? That may be because procrastination can make you worried enough to release adrenalin, which helps you focus and provide the energy to work faster and complete the job. That's what's happening to me right now.

If you have a lot of time before your deadline, it will take you that amount of time. You can break the work into chunks over a few days, weeks or months. That's a good plan. But if you have a week to complete a fairly large project, then it will only take a week because you are now energized, focused, and likely to use the time wisely by ignoring social media, your family, friends, and possibly hygiene. That's what I did today. I turned off the television, ignored social media, and focused on this idea I had outlined a few months ago.

Prime the pump

I have procrastinated in the past, and will probably do it again, so I write down ideas and outlines and snippets of thoughts for this blog whenever something interesting crosses my desk, phone, or mind. By doing so, I have primed the pump. Reading over those ideas in a file I have cleverly named "blog ideas" makes it easier to find a workable topic. Like this one.

Perfection is the Enemy of Good

If you struggle with perfectionism, you may freeze at the sight of a blank page. Many writers believe their work must be made up of perfect words in the perfect order. Translating that brilliant novel in your brain on to the page is difficult. That kind of pressure leads to procrastination. For all you perfectionists, here's my advice: Before writing the Great American Novel, or short story, or poem, write the Terrible American Novel, or short story, or poem. Get it out of the way so there's no pressure. Most of us can write terribly without much effort. And there may be a few (accidentally perfect) sentences/paragraphs/chapters you can use later.

The Good Enough Theory

My husband and I came up with the Good-Enough Theory when we were in college, working full time and going to school at night. We were close to graduating, and more than ready to finish. That's when we put Good Enough into practice. We realized our papers and tests didn't have to be perfect in order for us to pass. We knew a "B" or a "C" would be good enough to earn a diploma. Think about that next time you write. It's probably good enough, and if it's not, you can edit later.

Make procrastination work for you. Let go of your perfectionism, get that adrenalin flowing, write down ideas when they occur to you, and embrace the Good Enough Theory. I know I have.

Mary Horner teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges. She earned the Writing Certificate from UM-St. Louis, and her story, Shirley and the apricot tree, can be found in the current issue of Kansas City Voices.


Margo Dill said...

I have been doing "good enough" as I have been writing my novel, and it has really been working for me. I have the same philosophy that I can go back and work on it later.

Angela Mackintosh said...

I used to try and perfect the essays I write for classes, where we write one essay a week, but it's totally unrealistic. It's a workshop, you're supposed to be sharing unfinished work. So I've learned to let go and show myself a bit, show my in-progress writing mistakes for fellow writers to pick apart, and say it's "good enough for now." It's hard for a perfectionist like me!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Mary--We have family friends whose son would remind his parents over and over, "Bs and Cs get degrees."

Yes, a B or C-quality finished first draft is still a finished draft. (And as Martha Stewart would say, "That's a good thing.")

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top