22 June 2010

Overcoming Procrastination

by Celcilia Dominic

I sat down at the beginning of May and mapped out short- and long-term writing goals. They were brilliant! They were ambitious! They were doable if I had a parallel life, a twenty-nine hour day, or more organizational skill than I actually possess.

Of course, the question isn't really how to find time to write, but how to stop procrastinating. I've come to realize that there are four things standing in my way, the four P's of Procrastination:

1. Personality

I'm a Myers-Briggs INFJ, which means I'm introverted, see things in a big-picture, possibilities-oriented way, make decisions according to values, and like for things to be predictable. You can see how this personality type works for and against me. In essence, I get stuck because I prefer conceptualization and planning, e.g., "the fun stuff" to execution, or the nuts-and-bolts getting to whatever it is.

2. Time Perception

I like to finish what I start, and I want big chunks of time to do it. Fifteen minutes of free time to write? Ha, that's barely enough for me to get started with my pre-writing ritual. I feel like I need two hours to really get something done. That brings me to…

3. Process Issues

My pre-writing ritual goes like this:

10 minutes looking at comics online to "relax my mind"

10 minutes checking Twitter and following Favorites to blog posts by other people, but not the time-management ones that make me feel guilty

5 minutes convincing the gray cat not to sit on the laptop keyboard and open windows…

You get the idea.  By then, it's time to move on to something else. I'm not going to say I'm ADD, but I have a problem with distractions. What are they distracting me from?

4. Feelings of overwhelm that come from Perfectionism.

I asked Hubby if he thinks I'm a perfectionist. He gave me that, "Oh, crap, there's no right answer to this question!" look, which likely means, "Uh, yeah. Duh."

The problem is that I see what things could be – remember that N part of the personality type? – but they don't start out that way, and I lack patience. This causes me to set goals that are too high, which leads me to be overwhelmed and procrastinate.

Now that I've recognized these things, what am I going to do about them? The four D's:

1. Deadlines

Before I left on a recent vacation, I had a ton of stuff to do at work.  That time perception problem, the one where ten minutes doesn't seem like enough to do anything, went out the window. I used every one of those minutes and was productive.

Now I just need to figure out how to generate and apply deadlines, which brings me to...

2. Death Threats

Okay, not literally. Think external accountability.

When I was in graduate school, I took an Adult Continuing Education creative writing class with Harriette Austin. I had to produce something, if not weekly, then every other week. It was one of the most productive writing times I've ever had. Harriette's encouragement didn't hurt, either.

Now my deadlines are mostly self-imposed, and I've found great encouragement from the #amwriting, #Writers_Life, and #writechat communities on Twitter.

3. Doucement

My mother is Belgian, and when I was eleven-ish, her oldest sister as well as my late uncle came to visit. They lived in the French-speaking part of Belgium, and my very active toddler sister's antics were greeted with concerned, "Doucement, doucement!" or "Easy, easy!"

When setting goals, I tend to think big but not realistically. It's good to remind myself that I'm only one person with 24 hours in my day, and sometimes I need to give myself a break.

Once I get into it, the writing process goes Doucement, which means "sweetly." That brings me to…

4. Doing It

I forget that, at the end of a busy day when I'm emotionally and physically drained from work, I enjoy writing.  The more I write, the less I procrastinate, and the more I look forward to it.  Sometimes the best solutions are simplest.

Cecilia Dominic writes best with a cat perched on the back of her chair and a glass of wine or cup of coffee in front of her.  She posts genre fiction, thoughts on writing, and reviews of self-published books at http://ceciliadominic.blogspot.com, and she blogs about food and wine at http://random-oenophile.blogspot.com  She has written three novels, revised two, and published none, but not for lack of trying.  She also writes short stories and flash fiction and is a regular contributor to the Decatur News Online and The Penny Dreadful websites.  Cecilia lives in Decatur, Georgia with two cats and a husband.


  1. That's what's wrong with me! But only 10 minutes to check Twitter. First thing in the morning I have hours of posts to wade through, though I scan through most of them - unlike this one which grabbed my attention.

    Now, if only I could turn by P's into D's like you did. Good for you!

  2. Thanks for your comment! Glad you didn't skip over it and that you found it helpful. :)


  3. Great post, I do enjoy "doucement," because no matter how many times I reread that word, I still feel it must mean something else.

  4. LOL For years I thought it was spelled doosemont. I didn't really understood what it meant until I took French in high school, and then it made sense. Now I enjoy muttering it to myself because it's so much more sophisticated to talk to oneself in French, n'est-ce pas?



  5. Always comes down to doing it ;)

  6. Okay Cecilia, you must be my long lost sister--except for that Belgium relatives thing. My Dad's family is from Georgia, but I live in Texas with my husband and not two, but *three* cats, and I can so associate with this post, I could've written it myself.

  7. Hi, Miriam! You're right -- I guess Nike was on to something with their slogan. ;)

    Nice to "meet" you, Linda! We had three cats but lost one to cancer, and the other two don't even get along with each other, so no more for right now. We were just in Texas -- wow, it was hot! Good wine, though.


  8. The timing aspect was a problem for me so I set a kitchen timer for 15 minutes -- just a minor interruption to those things that distract me. The pinger pinged after 15 minutes and I was in the middle of a sentence so I carried on. Most times there's no telling when I'll quit -- the distractions somehow get distracted.
    David Chesterton