Journaling for Procrastintors

Use journaling to take control of any procrastinating habits which have an unwelcome impact on your writing.

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My life coach sent me a birthday card with an image of the Four Horsemen of Procrastination: napping, snacks, social media, and minor chores. Procrastination is one of my key skills and had limited every aspect of my life. Successful writers have their procrastination habits under control. They write and publish despite tempting distractions and reasons for delaying. It’s easy to kid ourselves that our excuses are valid reasons. Journaling helps me to be more aware of my procrastination habits, learn from them, and control them.

Most writing projects benefit from being abandoned for a few days of procrastination and then revisited with a fresh perspective. Meanwhile, the writer’s mind is alert to any relevant information which could be incorporated or might alter their view on the subject. The Four Horsemen birthday card led to a total rewrite of the first draft of this essay.

Writing is associated with problematic procrastination such as the dreaded writer’s block. Regular free expressive journaling builds confidence in our ability to write on demand. Our muse is within. Writing is only the start: editing, submitting, and publishing can also trigger procrastination. Sometimes the only effective antidote is a looming deadline. Many of us have experienced an adrenaline-fuelled all-night marathon of writing.

How do you respond to writing project deadlines?
How effective is completing your writing just in time for the deadline?
How does an approaching deadline impact your creativity?

Use journaling to raise your awareness of your procrastination triggers, of your favourite distractions and excuses and of their impact. By responding to a prompt spontaneously, as if you know the answer, you are more likely to reveal your real reason for procrastinating rather than inventing an excuse. Try writing with your non-dominant hand to delve deeper beneath conscious awareness. Awareness brings the opportunity to change our habits.

What aspects of writing do you procrastinate about?
What are your Four Horsemen of Procrastination?
What impact does procrastination have on your life?

Let’s look at each of the birthday card’s Four Horsemen of Procrastination.

The first Horseman is napping, which resonates with me because I keep succumbing to health problems. Needing to nap before I write is a warning signal that my body needs rest to recover or to restore a sleep deficit. Covid-19 brain fog left me feeling too tired to write because struggling to concentrate was tiring and frustrating. Thinking, ‘I feel too tired to write’ and then doing something equally challenging is procrastinating. When you feel too tired to write, take a moment to journal about how you feel.

I feel too tired to write because…

The second Horseman is snacking. Hunger and thirst are my body’s way of demanding a much-needed short break from the flow of writing. The route to the kitchen is filled with distractions which could turn a refreshing break into the end of writing for the day.

What sort of refreshment do you need? How often do you need to take short breaks to write effectively?

The third Horseman is social media which is designed to capture our attention and keep us hooked. Use your journal to record how long you spend on social media in a day. My mornings used to be frittered away on news sites which fed my curiosity, not my wellbeing. Now I start my day by writing and check the news afterwards.

How do you benefit from social media?
What are the unwelcome impacts of your social media habits?
Is it in your long-term interests to spend … hours a day on social media?
When are you most susceptible to continuous clicking or scrolling?

The fourth Horseman is minor chores. They are never a chore when they are used for avoidance of something else. Keeping track of minor chores can clutter up your brain. List them in a journal to unleash more of your brain’s creative potential.

Which minor chores escalate into daunting ones because you procrastinate over them?

Lastly, one of my Four Horsemen of Procrastination: the workaholics ‘too much to do’. Writing to-do lists can be another form of procrastination unless they lead to effective action. My life coach only puts three things on today’s to-do list. Achieving that requires us to make choices, to decide what really matters to us, and to let go of the rest.

Why are you too busy?
Of all that you want to, ‘must’, or ‘should’ do, which really matter to you?
Is repeated procrastination a warning signal that you need to rest?
How much time do you schedule for your favourite distractions?
Write a not-to-do list…

These Horsemen of Procrastination are symptoms. Beliefs and fears are the motivators. Most of my writing projects remain unpublished due to a lack of confidence, imposter syndrome, not wanting to attract attention, fear of repercussions if someone is upset by my words or notices a mistake… The projects hibernating in my laptop, fuel my sense of guilt and of not being good enough…

What beliefs underlie your procrastination?
What fears underlie your procrastination?
What are the drawbacks to finishing/submitting/publishing your writing project?

Is your day overshadowed by guilt about not writing? Ironically, I’ve procrastinated on this essay because the sea and sun tempted me to swim while the tide was in. Swimming boosted my sense of wellbeing and after a nap to recover from the exertion, I returned to my laptop and completed my essay. There were other temptations but submitting my essay days before its deadline will bring peace of mind and a sense of achievement.

What effect will the alternative to writing have on your writing/wellbeing/peace of mind?

Having identified your key procrastination habits and triggers, Thanet Writers have plenty of online and group resources to help you overcome those habits and turn your writing ideas into reality.
Watch out for hidden Horsemen of Procrastination and use your journal to escape them.

Navigating a river of travelogues, whirlpools of free-writing journaling, and plunging into the ocean of fantasy short stories.

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