Procrastination, Writer’s Block, and Other Things I Medal In: How to Beat Self-Sabotage

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It’s perverse human nature to put off what you should be doing. But what about when you put off what you want to be doing?  My personal reasons excuses vary from sleep deprivation, mental laziness, Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix, Trump, a 48% increase in my business from last year, and self-(mis)diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder (because I live in Florida and we don’t have seasons, though I swear I’m more sluggish and somber in the ‘ber months).

I know I should be writing, reading, and working out, and though it may be hard to believe, these are actually three of my most favorite things to get lost in. But I’ve given myself a little too much of a mental (and physical) break and now it’s hard to get back at it. Kinda like the first day back at school or work from a long holiday. Except in my case, I actually want to come back from said vacation. I just have a mental block of sorts. Writer’s block is an interesting phenomenon. Contrary to what some may imagine, it stems not from a lack of ideas to write about but rather, at least in my case, too many, and so the task becomes a bit too overwhelming. I overthink the work and come up with a laundry list of excuses as to why it isn’t good enough, has already been done, needs more research, etc. until I either scrap it entirely or painstakingly move forward, in spite of myself.

I know I’m not the only one out there who masters in self-sabotage so I figure I will jot down a few pointers here and the next time I feel a cop-out coming on, (most likely tomorrow), I’ll review the list below and try, try again. And maybe you will as well.

1. Block out time each day for the things that are important to you.

This may seem a bit obvious but this is why I, and I’m sure many of you, fail to develop our talents or progress toward our goals. I am one of those annoying mompreneuers (ugh, that sounds awful, I take it back) who have the pleasure of being self-employed and working from home. While a blessing, this provides a unique challenge for the creative/abstract thinker. Without a set start and end time to my work day, I struggle with how much time I devote to my business vs. teaching my toddler phonics, meandering around antique bookstores, and other things I should do a little more (or a little less) of. If I set an alarm for each day at 7:00 pm that reminds me to write, I will. Or at least I’ll feel guilty as I silence the alarm and return to Westworld.

2. Divide goals and tasks into small increments.

I currently have two unfinished novel drafts on my laptop. I also have three books I am in various states of enamored with (as a reader). In order to finish, or at least progress with, any of these, I have to set small goals for myself so my brain won’t shut down and quit like the sad, lazy quitter it is. Just kidding, brain! (He could be listening.) I have a post-it on my bedroom door that reminds me to read 50 pages a night and/or write 500 words. I perpetually ignore it. But, when the stars are aligned and I’ve had the right combination of coffee and inspiration, I complete my pages and go to bed a winner. A winner who dreams she is the unprepared temporary teacher for an advanced, but highly volatile, teenage science class.

3. Implement a system of rewards and consequences for yourself.
If I have followed my advice and have scheduled time each day to write, read, exercise, practice guitar, master French, etc. and have divided my progression in these areas into manageable amounts, I should accomplish what I set out to. And for that, I deserve a treat. Achievement unlocked! I like spontaneous outings to touristy places- like museums, historical sites, etc., band and fandom tees, and mozzarella sticks. Perhaps you go a different route with your reward system and give yourself a dollar allowance to spend when you hit your numbers. But as high as the highs are, the lows have to be just as low if we are gonna make this thing work. No self-flagellation necessary but a bit of sacrifice and penance is key. Shonda Rhimes is my guilty pleasure. No trips to the gym or even runs around the block this week? No How to Get Away with Murder for a month. And the aforementioned mozzarella sticks? Dead. Gone.

We all get a little rusty, a little lazy, a little scared to fail. The important thing is that we try, that we do, and that we accomplish. We are beautiful, creative, brilliant beings, however flawed, who just need to give ourselves a little kick in the ass from time to time. That is, until they release that drug from Limitless. Then, my friends, we are golden!

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