Tips from A Master Procrastinator

Like sand through the hourglass...
Like sand through the hourglass…

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a master procrastinator. I mean, why do now what you can put off till tomorrow? Especially since I’ve even created a Twitter hashtag for my indulgence. I present to you: #procrastinatey. Go check it out. Yeah now. You can always read this post later, right? Haha, almost got you there.
Uh, yeah. Anyway. I always like to blame my penchant for procrastination on the fact that I’ve been a journalist for more than a decade. Without that deadline breathing down my neck, there’s just no motivation to get it done. I need the nerves, the pressure, the adrenaline. I need the thrill of the minutes ticking down, the do or die. You can tell that I’m procrastinating on getting to the point with all these silly cliches, right?
So I’ve been loving this week’s posts because it makes me feel a little less lonesome here in my own personal brand of crazy. It’s not just me! Yay!
And like the other lovely Debs, I’ve managed to suss out a few things about my #procrastinatey habits. Herewith, I share what I’ve learned.

Build In the Distractions
My husband, a fellow writer, needs peace and some semblance of quiet to work. (I say this because we live with two kids in a one-bedroom apartment in the city, where it’s rarely ever actually quiet.) Me? I need noise. Particularly: the TV. He’s never understood this, and when he asks how I can work this way, I’m usually admonished. But I’ve come to realize that it actually helps me focus. By creating my own mindless background — ideally Days of Our Lives or House Hunters — I can look up, engage with that for a few seconds (or minutes, okay, many minutes) and then get back to the task at hand. If I don’t have this distraction, I’ll go looking for something else — and it will be inevitably be something way more destructive to writing time, like doing dishes, playing with cutie pie crawly babies or folding laundry. So let me indulge in a little Food Network joy. Really, it’s helping me focus.

Keep Track of Your Time
Productivity? There’s an APP for that. Two, actually. I swear by the astounding WunderList, which I’ve mentioned here before, no doubt. It’s like a handy-dandy list (or multiple lists for different arenas of life — even movies to watch later!) that tracks your tasks and lets you cross them off once completed. And it syncs on your computer, phone, tablet, etc., so you can be reminded of all you still have to do no matter where you are. (That’s better than it sounds, trust me!) I use this in tandem with the Pomodoro APP, a two tomato system. It lets you input a task, then use individual “tomatoes” — 25 minute increments — to track how long it takes you to complete, and to keep you focused. In between each hour of two tomatoes is a 5-minute break, which you can then use to Tweet, FB or pee, whatever, before getting back to work. Then, when you’re good and done with the task, you cross it off the list and move on to the next.

Take Small Bites
Yep, I’m all about food this week — tomatoes, Food Network, and now bites! But what I mean is, the 25-minute increment for tomato tasks makes so much sense because it’s not overwhelming. I’ve got a novel to complete by Nov. 1. Why am I not freaking? Because on the Wunderlist, I’ve broken the sucker down into smaller bites to be completed: Chapter 27, Chapter 28, Chapter 29. Those are only about 2,000 words each, which, in the end, is no biggie. And tracking them with the tomatoes, I can see exactly how long it took me to do each chapter. And just so you know, it’ll take me about one tomato to write this post.

Be Held Accountable
May I recommend you all get yourself a Dhonielle? What I mean is, get a taskmaster, an accountability partner, someone who will REMIND that you’ve got a chapter to wrap up by the end of the day. I find that, for a master procrastinator like myself, this is highly necessary. If I know D’s going to be asking about the chapter at the end of the day, it’s not an imaginary deadline — or even one I set for myself. Someone else is waiting on me, which will totally get my ass in gear. D does this for our collaborations — but she actually started checking in on me long ago, back in grad school, when I needed that accountability when I was working on my own projects. And next month, when I get back to that WIP, she’ll be checking in then, too. This is easy enough to set up — but your accountability partner needs to know how to be a hardass about those deadlines. If they need tips, I can put them in touch with D!

 

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An entertainment and lifestyle journalist published by The New York Times, People, ABC News, MSN, Cosmopolitan and other major national media, SONA CHARAIPOTRA currently curates a kickass column on YA books and teen culture for Parade.com. A collector of presumably useless degrees, she double-majored in journalism and American Studies at Rutgers before getting her masters in screenwriting from New York University (where her thesis project was developed for the screen by MTV Films) and her MFA from the New School. When she's not hanging out with her writer husband and two chatter-boxy kids, she can be found poking plot holes in teen shows like Twisted and Vampire Diaries. But call it research: Sona is the co-founder of CAKE Literary, a boutique book development company with a decidedly diverse bent. Her debut, the YA dance drama Tiny Pretty Things (co-written with Dhonielle Clayton), is due May 26 from HarperTeen. Find her on the web at SonaCharaipotra.com or CAKELiterary.com.

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This article has 7 Comments

  1. Oh, we are so alike Sona! Perhaps it’s the journalist thing. What I also love about these posts is how similar we are in our process of writing and procrastination, and all the different tricks we have to get our butts in gear 🙂

  2. Mwhahahahaha! I am available for hire as a task master! As a former teacher, having to look after a classroom full of small people, it has become a routine and second nature (and I need to learn how to turn it OFF). It’s like I have a running list in my head at all times…and my dreams. Just call me a “nag” :).

  3. I need noise, too! This is why I work at coffee shops. I need the hum of the espresso machine, the neighborhood gossip, and clang of dishes as background noise. Total silence makes me nervous.

  4. I’m impressed that you can write with the TV on. I can’t have the visual to look at – I’ll never focus – unless it’s golf, but then I want to nap.

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