Posted July 16, 2019
Everyone procrastinates! It’s a universal issue but, in writing, it can pose an acute challenge to people whose core job function is not writing. Often, these professionals view writing as a secondary side project that is probably easy to put off in favor of regular duties. But that can leave these writers scrambling at the last minute – and even missing deadlines. What can people do to stave off writing procrastination?
Reasons for procrastination abound. Writers may feel insecure about their writing abilities, and they might be nervous about the response they'll get to their writing. By delaying, they put off the pain of rejection or criticism. Some people just plain hate writing. In fact, this hate can fuel chemical reactions in the brain that reinforce procrastination: our brains favor tasks we like by producing more dopamine during those activities, so we put off tasks we dislike in favor of those that are more chemically rewarding. Plus, some people might just be genetically predisposed to procrastination!
However, procrastination makes good writing harder.
In some cases, business writers might convince themselves that procrastination is a healthy and functional way to attack projects. They might think they work better under pressure, for example. However, procrastination is almost always maladaptive. It’s harder to write well when the writer doesn’t have enough time, and they’re rushed to complete the project. “Thus, despite its apologists and its short-term benefits, procrastination cannot be regarded as either adaptive or innocuous,” concluded researchers Dianne Tice and Roy Baumeister after a study examining procrastination and stress. “Procrastinators end up suffering more and performing worse than other people.”
How can you reduce procrastination?
1. Cultivate a writing habit.If people write only occasionally, there's a passive barrier to getting started: they have to overcome the inertia of not writing on a daily basis. Instead, get in the habit of writing for 15 minutes a day, even if it's not related to work. Writing every day means it will be easier to get started on your next project.
2. Develop your writing skills.People are less likely put off tasks if they feel confident in their ability to complete them. Developing a writing habit has a secondary effect: it strengthens writing skills. The stronger a writer's ability, the less inclined she will be to procrastinate. Organizations can also help by providing skills’ development and writing training to their teams.
3. Don't edit while you write.The first draft doesn’t need to be perfect, and taking the time to make it perfect will disrupt the process, interrupt flow, and make the writing project more difficult than it needs to be. Just get your thoughts down on paper first and edit after you’ve completed the document.
4. Use deadlines, particularly those set externally by a boss or another party.A study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology looked at how to stop procrastination. They found that people were most likely to turn papers in on time and get better grades if they were working under externally set deadlines.
About Hurley Write, Inc.
Hurley Write, Inc., a certified women-owned small business (WBENC and WOSB), Historically Underutilized (HUB), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), has been designing and teaching customized onsite and online technical, business, and scientific writing courses for over 30 years. We also develop and teach specialty courses, such as how to write proposals and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and deviation and investigation reports, and how to prepare and give great presentations.
Sources: The Association for Psychological Science, The Next Web, Psychological Science (Journal)