I turn on my computer and tell myself to start writing at 2 pm. The clock says 1:51 pm. OOH, I have nine whole minutes to myself. I am chief editor of an international journal and my task today is to view two new papers. I have a wave of fear and dread, worrying that these new papers (one from Argentina and one from French-Canada) may require endless hours of painstakingly detailed and ant-like grammar fixes to be smoothly readable by an English-speaking audience.
I am one of those grammar girls who actually like to don the ant cape and examine every blade of grass, but it takes a while to get into the groove each time. So, for my nine minutes, I go to the kitchen and decide to bake banana bread, which ends up taking more than nine minutes, of course.
I have a note on my refrigerator that says “procrasti-baking.” It means baking as a way to procrastinate. I enjoyed making my bread, putting it in the oven for an hour and then getting back to writing.
In the spirit of true confessions, I have other delay tactics, and you probably do too. I check my phone way more than I need to and end up either dealing with some side issue, getting news updates, or looking at something entertaining. And then there are external distractions, like other people and their needs. One I recall with some guilt is writing an article on the importance of staying in tune with your baby, while my baby was in a carrier at my feet and began to cry. “Just let me finish this one paragraph,” I was thinking!
Tips for staying focused on writing:
- Turn off your phone
- Set a timer, 10 minutes if you really feel resistant, and those ten can expand once you get started.
- Set up and start: “A job half started is half done” (as my mother used to say)
- Work in a quiet environment, like the library. (Libraries do not have kitchens to procrasti-bake banana bread).
- Write about or express your resistance aloud.
- Join a writing support group or get coached by Marni Freedman, as she will fill you with confidence and keep you on track!
I have to go now. The timer went off, and I smell my banana bread with toasted almonds on top. At least this avoidance tactic has an upside: yummy food.
Vincentia Schroeter writes a weekly blog on communication tips at vincentiaschroeterphd.com. Her upcoming book: Breaking Through: Communication Tools for Being Heard and Getting What You Want, is based on up-to-date neuroscience and modern-body psychotherapy. She was a practicing psychotherapist for 40 years.
Photo Credit: Vincentia Schroeter