How to avoid procrastination when writing


Do you have a procrastination pad? That’s what one writer calls a pad of paper you keep on your desk, onto which you jot down anything that you need to do or remember that occurs to you while you’re doing something else. It allows you to record the note and immediately get back to what you were doing.

Okay, not brilliant. But not a bad idea, either. Because you always have this pad within reach, you don’t have to go scrambling for a legal pad or scratch paper. And because it is dedicated to recording tasks to be done, not data to be filed, you can periodically input your list into your regular task management system.

Of course you can also set up a digital equivalent on your computer. Keep a text file open and minimized, and no matter what else you may be working on, you’re just a click away your electronic procrastination pad.

Or, you can do what I do. I have Evernote running at all times (I’m writing this now in a new note) and when I get an idea, I type it into a new note in my default notebook (my “InBox”). On my iPhone, I open Drafts and either type or speak-to-text the idea and send it to my Evernote Inbox.

When I’m writing, I often get ideas I want to record. Something I need to research, for example. I know if I stop writing to do the research, I’ll lose momentum and perhaps get lost down the rabbit hole that is the Internet. To avoid procrastination when writing, I make a note of what I need to know or do, and keep writing. I could record this elsewhere, but I find it best to write it within the text I’m working on.

Wherever I find myself stopping, I write a note to myself, within the sentence or paragraph. I put the note [in brackets] or preface it with my initials, “dw:”, to identify it as something I need to do. This allows me to keep writing, which is especially important for a first draft.

Once I’m done with the piece or section, I go back and find all of my “notes to self”. When I do the research later, I don’t have to remember where to insert it, I just go back to my note.

In addition to notes about research, I also make notes about passages that don’t sound right (i.e., “re-do this”), that need elaboration (i.e., “expand this”), or that might belong somewhere else (i.e., “put in chapter 2?”)

By separating the writing from the research, editing, and thinking, I procrastinate less and write quicker and better first drafts.

For more on how I use Evernote for research and writing, check out my ebook