The Anti-Procrastination Mindset

This article is reprinted by permission of the author. In his latest newsletter, author Randy Ingermanson discusses the anti-procrastination mindset.

Organization: The Anti-Procrastination Mindset

The Anti-Procrastination Mindset

I met an author recently on a private Facebook marketing group. His name is Harry Heijligers and he lives in the Netherlands. We were talking about how he could market his book better, and I decided to have a look at his cover to see if that might be the problem.

It turned out his cover was awesome. And so was the title—The Anti-Procrastination Mindset. The book looked interesting to me.

I happen to excel at procrastination. I’ve been doing it all my life, and I always thought that was just the way I am.

But a mindset is not something you are. A mindset is something you can put on and take off. So I thought I’d buy the book and see if it might be helpful.

I whipped through it in a few days. Parts of it were actually about planning your life, which is something I’ve gotten rather good at, so I skimmed those. But parts of it seemed like they’d been written just for me.

It’s almost two months later, and I think those parts have made a difference in my life. I’ll talk about a few specific tips I was able to use right away, and then I’ll give you a link to Harry’s book so you can check it out for yourself.

What To Do When You Want To Put Something Off

What do you do when you’re working through your task list and you come to a task that you instinctively want to put off?

The answer is to take a ten-minute walk and think about that task.

That may sound like a completely stupid answer, but it’s actually rather clever. Here’s why.

Your brain has a couple of different systems for thinking. You can read about them in Nobel laureate Daniel Kahnemann’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow. Your fast, intuitive brain works great for dealing with tigers jumping at you, but it’s not so good at algebra. Your slow, rational brain is great for doing algebra, but it’s not so good with the tiger thing.

When you come to a task on your list and your instincts are screaming, “Put that off; it won’t hurt to wait till tomorrow,” that’s your fast brain talking.

Unfortunately, your fast brain isn’t great at planning your life. Your fast brain is terrible at that. But your slow brain is good at it.

So take a walk and think about why you should or should not do that task right now. Take ten minutes. Think about nothing else. Let your slow brain take a crack at the scheduling problem.

When you get back from your walk, your slow brain may very well have decided that it really is a good idea to do the task now, get it over with, and push it off your plate forever.

Or your slow brain might have decided that the task really isn’t worth doing at all, in which case you again get it off your plate.

Or your slow brain might have decided that this task really needs to be scheduled to a different day, because of some good and rational reason.

Most of the time, your slow brain will be right. If you just give it a chance.

So if you take a ten-minute walk every time you instinctively want to put something off, two things will happen:

  • You’ll start getting things done that you’ve been putting off for years.
  • You’ll walk a lot more steps every day, and that’s good for your health.

In the last couple of months, I’ve done a number of tasks that I’d been putting off for years. One of them had been on my To-Do list for nearly twelve years! My wife and I finished it yesterday. My fast brain feels pretty good about that, now that it’s done. And my slow brain is quietly smirking in the background.

Break The Task Down Into Steps

Sometimes we procrastinate because we don’t know exactly how to do a given task or project.

So when you create a new To-Do item, break it down into steps that you know how to do. Some of those steps might be “Research how to _______.” Because if you don’t know how to do it, you can’t do it. But you always know how to research it, or how to ask somebody who knows how it’s done.

Make The First Step Ridiculously Easy

I’ve written about the “ridiculously easy” idea before in the context of building a habit, and it works spectacularly well for that. But “ridiculously easy” also works extremely well when trying to get started on a task or project.

This trick works if you’ve already made a list of steps for the task or project. Tweak your list so the very first step is ridiculously easy to do. Make it something you can do in just a couple of minutes. Something you know exactly how to do.

And the key thing here is that after you’ve done that first step, you’re rolling. You’ve got momentum. And it’s not that hard to move on to the second step, and the third, and keep rolling.

If it’s a short task, you might even finish it all in one sitting.

If it’s a longer project, it might take a few days.

But the first step is the hardest, because the first step isn’t actually the first thing you do. The first thing you do is to say, “Yeah, I’m going to take the first step right now.” And it’s a lot easier to say that when the very first step is ridiculously easy.

Where to Get Harry’s Book

I’ve spelled out three tips above that I picked up in Harry’s book that have been especially helpful to me. They may or may not be all that helpful to you. Everybody’s different.

But Harry has 117 hacks in his book that he’s found helpful in beating procrastination. Some of them might be useful to you.

Click here to see Harry’s book on Amazon.

Please be aware that English is not Harry’s first language. (One of his Amazon reviewers complained about this.) Harry’s English is pretty good (it’s much better than my Dutch), but if you’re a native English speaker, you’ll find plenty of sentences that aren’t written the way you’d write them. If that’s a problem for you, then this might not be the book for you. It didn’t bother me at all. Some of Harry’s sentences gave me a grin, but I was reading for content, not style. I feel like his book has made me a better person. It might make you a better person too.

This article is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, “the Snowflake Guy,” publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.

Thank you, Randy, for giving permission to share this article and for your perspective on the anti-procrastination mindset. We all have obstacles to overcome and goals to reach. Using these steps will help.

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How can you reach your goals when daily life intrudes? By making them S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Today’s June 1st blog post is brought to you by June 4th

How can you reach your goals when daily life intrudes? By making them S.M.A.R.T. goals.Reasons. That’s my excuse for a three day delay in posting this blog. You may like to think of it as “Cheryl’s on vacation”, or “There’s granddaughters to hug and grandsons to cuddle”. No excuses. <segue> Just as there can be no excuses when you make a goal and don’t achieve it. If you use S.M.A.R.T. goals, you’re five steps ahead of the game.

June. Summer. Kids out of school. Vacation. Sounds good, right? I bet your little old writer’s brain is thinking, “long, uninterrupted blocks of time when I can finally start/finish/edit my book.”

Sorry to break your literary heart. Summer is the antithesis of productivity. Vacation time? Spent running from one theme park to the next. The beach? Stop and listen to the surf. Kids out of school? Endless carpooling and answering the whine of “There’s nothing to do.”

Your best time to write, Buttercup, is when you’re busy with everyday life. Truly. No time to write forces you to write. Squeezing words into little corners of time is a surefire way to get it done. Having all the time in the world=”I’ll do it tomorrow.” Take it from one who knows.

So how do you write when your daily life intrudes?

Use S.M.A.R.T. goals to get your work done

What are S.M.A.R.T. goals? S.M.A.R.T. stands for:

  • Specific. Is the goal clear, explicit, firm, detailed? “I’m going to write a book” is not any of those attributes. It’s too nebulous of a goal. Define it further. Write down (and it’s always best to write down your goals) what genre you’ll write. What subgenre. How long will it be?
  • Measurable. Will you write 500 words this month? 50K? How many queries will you send out? How many writing-related books will you read or on-line writing courses will you take part in? Make sure you have a tracking system, whether it’s a spreadsheet, an online tool, or an old-fashioned notebook. You wouldn’t say “I’ll lose 10 pounds by the end of the month” if you never stepped on a scale, right?
  • Achievable. It’s all well and good to say you’ll write 50K words or query 5 editors a week, but are you being truthful or stretching your capabilities? Which brings us to:
  • Realistic. If you’re working three jobs and your mother is dying, your significant other left you, and the dog’s throwing up, you might not have time to write 5K a day. How fast can you write? Can you improve in some way? (dictation, outlining so you’re not sitting down at your computer and thinking “now what?”) Break your goals into smaller, more achievable bits.
  • Time-based. Give yourself a deadline. Will they be daily, weekly, or by the end of the month? Are you looking at word count totals or time spent writing (pick word count)? Throw some milestones in there while you’re at it. If you want to write 500 words a day, and you have 2K written by June 15th, you’re probably not going to meet your goal of 30K by June 30th.

What’s stopping you from making your S.M.A.R.T. goals?

Do you fear failure? Or maybe success? Do you lack ideas? Or have too many and can’t decide on which one to pick? Does your writing normally sizzle out halfway through your book? Is finishing a book tantamount to having a root canal?

Don’t let doubts stop you. Every writer writes a crappy first draft. Every writer, at some point, wants to kill all their characters in a fiery car crash.

You won't have to kill your characters if you use S.M.A.R.T. goals.


The keys to achieving your S.M.A.R.T. goals

  • Consistency.When I participated in the AtoZChallenge, I committed to writing a 800-1200 word blog post for twenty-six days. Yes, it took time away from my “regular” writing, but I learned I could write quality pieces every day.
  • Commitment. I made a promise to myself to finish the challenge. I not only finished twenty-six blogs, I turned them into an ebook.
  • No vague, open-ended goals. Which will get done? “I’m going to write a book.” OR “I’m going to write 500 words a day on my epic, high fantasy novel, committing to at least an hour a day, turning off TV, the internet and all distractions, including my family.”? Having clear, specific goals will help you achieve them.
  • Keep track of your progress. Make it visible to motivate you to continue.
  • Check in often. Are you on track? What steps do you need to take to stay on goal? What’s keeping you from achieving your goal?

Using S.M.A.R.T. goals will clarify what you want, when you want it done, and how to go about getting it done. Don’t be like me, and let a little vacation and a couple of grandchildren delay you from writing your Thursday blog on Sunday. Make your goals S.M.A.R.T., write them down, and go forth and write!



p.s. Check out more AtoZChallenge ebooks, now FREE, at blogchatter.com.

And mine, specifically, here.

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If you’re the owner of an iPad, you’re in luck in getting unstuck.  Whether personally or professionally, this app is great for diagnosing your problem, getting to the root cause and giving you manageable, workable action steps to get unstuck.

If you’re a writer, have your characters answer various questions to give you answers as to why they aren’t behaving.


Here are six action steps to take to get you unstuck:

* First, download the program (FREE) and register (you can use your Facebook logon).

*  Pick 3 of 18 cards that best describes how your stuck moment makes you feel, ranging from afraid to up in the air.  Let’s say you pick “Lost” as your stuck emotion.  Unstuck will ask a variety of questions such as “What are you stuck on?” and “I’m stuck because_____”

*  Use the diagnostic tools.  One is a pack of 20 cards with statements on them which you sort into “So me” and “Not me” piles. From your answers, you’ll assigned a category (ie Avoider) and given action steps, tools, tips, and a cyber kick in the butt.

* Set a goal, give yourself a deadline and outline consequences for not following through.

* Post your goals and deadline on Facebook or connect to the Unstuck community for motivation and accountability.

*  Follow through on your plan and get unstuck.

It’s a great tool, and way lots cheaper than therapy.

What things are you stuck on?


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