I wear many hats (so to speak) as an author, blogger, game writer, speaker, literary agent, and man-about-town. People sometimes ask me how I get it all done. Usually I answer with something self-effacing, such as, “I’m just awesome that way.” But when pressed, I’ll attribute whatever productivity I have to careful organizing, scheduling, and—most importantly—maniacally avoiding procrastination.
Yes, I know writers are creative folk who often frolic through time and space with nary a care. They can’t be bothered with such things as clocks and calendars.
Those writers, with few exceptions, starve.
The rest of us have to pay at least some attention to detail, and I’m tellin’ ya, working writers who eschew procrastination will help themselves tremendously by avoiding at least seven consequences of procrastination:
1. Risk of failure
Waiting until the last minute to study for a test is the prime example, but there are many more. Sure, you may say, “I work best under pressure.” But there’s always the risk of dropping the ball, missing a deadline, or having to choose the lesser of two evils—which, by the way, is still an “evil.”
2. Limited choices
I’ve seen it often (I won’t mention names here, but they’re not “Bob”) that people who have procrastinated end up in a position where they can’t say yes to something new because they’re running so late on something overdue.
3. Heightened stress
I work ahead because deadlines stress me out. But when I’ve crossed off something from my to-do list a few days (or weeks) in advance, it no longer occupies space in my cluttered mind. I can relax.
4. Lesser quality
The more you have to scramble to meet a deadline, the more likely you’ll be to overlook an important detail, make a big mistake, or even just generally cut corners. Not a good look.
5. Higher costs
I booked a flight yesterday for an event that’s nearly five months away—and I’d already been tracking airfares for a couple months. Crazy, right? But obviously, if I’d waited until a month or a couple weeks before I had to make the trip, I’d have been very, very sorry. Avoiding procrastination helps to avoid overspending (including late fees and penalties) in many categories, not only airfare.
6. Increased aggravation—for others
Whether you cancel a date with your significant other because an assignment is due tomorrow, or you absolutely must bow out of chaperoning your kid’s school trip because you just pulled an all-nighter, procrastinating will affect not only you, but also the people around you.
7. Damaged reputation
Do you want to be the guy who’s “always late?” Or would you rather be the person who always delivers (as one of my earliest editors said of me) “good copy, on time?” Or, better, “early.”
I realize that these consequences are probably no surprise to any of us. In fact, I fully expect some readers of this blog to add to the above list (when you get around to it). I look forward to those in the comments. And, if readers would also comment with helpful tips or techniques for preventing procrastination, I’ll take that as permission to quote them in my next post, on the topic, “Stop Procrastinating—Right Now!”
How do I avoid the pit
of ‘putting off’, the reader asks?
Well, to get right down to it,
I set all my daily tasks
before the neighbour’s rooster-crow,
so that I know the needed score,
and, moreover, that I know
the thing that is in store
for me as the day runs on,
without an isle of rest;
obligations are discharged and gone,
and only when I pass this test
will the time of blessing come
unless my wife’s been at the rum.
So creative and true. I had to read it twice. When it comes to poetry double the pleasure double the fun.
Veronica Marilyn Ogilvie
Not all 7 but yes, I hate to say it, you’re so right! By this, I am motivated to finish what I’ve started.
Here’s another for the list of 7: Loss of self-respect. Not doing something on time or letting someone down–your editor, your spouse, your boss, your kids–can lower your own opinion of yourself so you place yourself in the “I’m such a loser; I can never do anything right” category. It’s a hard pit to crawl out of!
Good post, Bob. I love that the title opposes your actual life! Thanks for these excellent tips and for leading by example. Blessings! 🙂
Right on the mark. Thank you for it. There’s some that I can identify with in myself. Better tackle the to-do list. Have a great day!
Great reminders, Bob!
I have a daily schedule (on paper . . . yeah, I’m a bit retro) that lives right next to my laptop. I look at it every day, sometimes several times a day. Absolutely everything I have to do goes on that schedule, and if I don’t finish something on today’s schedule, it goes on tomorrow’s schedule.
It’s the best thing (except for my stories, of course) I’ve ever created. 🙂
Thanks for calling me out on working “best under pressure.” While true since college (over forty years and counting), I needed to hear the risk component that comes with that. Time for a change.
Batching and self-imposed deadlines have saved my bacon more times than I care to remember. I always start with the end date of a project and work backwards to today’s date. That gives me a clear understanding of what needs to happen and when.
Bundling my least preferred tasks (like social media and marketing!) in blocks of time on a weekly or monthly calendar also allows me to both forget about those tasks and do them in a single block of time.
I’ve helped many writers develop their own schedules as part of writing coach business as well.
Excellent post, Bob. Perhaps you have an alternate calling as a life coach? Clearly there are more people than just writers who could benefit from reading (and embracing) the potential benefits of avoiding these all-too-common consequences from procrastination.
I review items left dangling on my to-do list and consider why I haven’t completed them yet. That often leads to a simple step to get started.
Great advice, thank you for the reminders. I think I’ll print this out and keep it on my mirror. As a teacher just hitting summer break, I’ll need to not relax into procrastination.
Great wisdom! My blog goes out on Thursdays so Monday is my start time. In so doing, I have Tuesday and Wednesday to review it. I always find a mistake or a way to rephrase a thought or move a sentence to a spot that better fits. Then I can go ahead and schedule it for delivery at 4:00 A.M. Thursday and it’s done!
Thank you for your helpful list. You mentioned that you are a “game writer” and requested “helpful tips or techniques” to help with procrastination. Perhaps the “game” is to do what you loathe or dread first, and everything else will fall into place and become a reward.
I was convicted by my answer. God makes the list, and if we put Him first in our lives and in the number one position—He will organize and prioritize our lives. Starting each day with Him in number one place in our hearts and minds will make everything else fall into alignment! Encouraging!
Procrastination is an evil (yes, it can be a sin) we need to avoid at all times. How I write: Start with some notes and a beginning characterization. Chop the story out as fast as I can. On occasion go back to spell check. During all this, increase both notes (do your research!) and characterization. Get up a lot, wander around, make the blood flow to the brain. Eat well–no carbs or very little.
When the story is done, that only means it’s ready to begin to finish. Read it from front to back, then read again and make notes, spell-check, begin to work on grammar and always convert any telling (journalizm0 to showing (painting). When finally satisfied it’s ready for any intelligent, eager editor, put it away for 3-6 months and edit again till it’s polished. Then, as I do, put it away again for a wile and find something else while it ages. I tell you the truth, no story is ever finished. Like our children, it must be coddled and cared for for a long time before it can stand on its own, and even then may take a while before it can exist on it’s own.
20 years from now, you’ll find the publisher’s copy in your library and open it with pride. I did that. And as you read you’re jaw will drop on seeing all the mistakes you made. Yet, enough people love your work you kept improving the skills, and how-to on so many things. I write for God, not me, and ask His help always. He, not I, is the important one. Walk in His beauty
I like this
Ann L Coker
Something I’ve put off: contacting Guideposts to ask why you are not included in “contributing editors” on the masthead up front. Who is the correct person to direct my request? Your column in Guideposts is one of the first I read. Appreciate your insights.
THANK YOU FOR THIS FRANK ARTICLE. IT IS ALL SO TRUE! IT DOES FEEL GOOD, HOWEVER, TO KNOW SO MANY OTHERS ARE LIKE ME! I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER NOW!
If you worry, you die. If you don’t worry, you also die, seems to be the innate culture within which I live here in SA. ‘I’m sorry,’ is a general answer to procrastination. Scheduling and organizing work the best for me. Thinking at night about tomorrow, next week, month… helps, as a reminder at times. ( do they call it worry?) When my inputs overrule my outputs, and memory fails…, I tend to run into difficulties. And of course, due to interruptions from my grandkids- any answer to that?