I wanted to write. I honestly wanted to progress my plot and further the story. It just happened that a comfy couch and a big screen crossed my way. And don’t forget Pinterest and Instagram. And a little bit of YouTube. Wait. Where did the day go?!
Something like this certainly happened to all of us one time or another. Sure, if you just write for the fun of it, it’s perfectly fine. But if you’re ambitious and/or want to make a living as an author (or anything, really) then you’ll have to learn to control your inner couch potato.
If you don’t pay attention, your Instant Gratification Monkey (thanks Tim Urban for this fitting expression) will take over your inner steering wheel and head to your favorite fantasy land. Bummer. Even though letting your monkey lead seems alluring, you will feel the regret when you let it take over control of your life. At the end of the day you’ll have to realize that a novel doesn’t write itself. Unfortunately. Fortunately. 🙂
For all of you who are sick of making no progress, here are some strategies to win your battles.
Write everyday. No skipping. And if you fail one day, don’t let it be the excuse to quit alltogether. According to a study of british scientists it takes around 66 days to turn a regular action into a routine. If you can pull through this time, writing (or rather anything) becomes second nature. It’s a part of your everyday life and you don’t have to fight over and over again to get started. Sounds great, right? Make a challenge to yourself to write every single day for those 66 days and see what happens.
Set clear goals
„I want to write every day.“
This certainly is a goal, but an imprecise one. You want a clear and measurable goal, maybe even a SMART goal. Otherwise your gratification monkey may use the email you’ve written today as the basis for „rewarding“ yourself with watching TV. Certainly not what we want.
Another stumbling pebble is the „want“ part of the statement. Don’t be shy. Say you „will“ do it, with conviction. Here is a better goal:
„I will write for 30 minutes on my novel every day until I finish the whole draft.“
You have conviction, a time frame and a clear expectation, namely 30 minutes writing on your novel.
Use rewards to motivate you further. Whenever you accomplish one of your goals, you deserves some treat. And it doesn’t have to be big goals only, smaller goals and milestones are perfectly valid as well! Maybe writing every day for the week, the month or even the day. Just make sure that the reward matches the work you put in. Writing for one day may not validate binge watching your favorite series for the next five hours.
The reward can be whatever actually feels rewarding, be it watching an episode of this series, or getting a manicure, eating ice cream, going to the cinema or buying a book from your wishlist. Whatever you like and whatever is within your own budget, of course. The important part is, that you are honest with yourself. Only get the reward if you’ve done the work for it (and get the reward if you did the work as well!). Otherwise this loses it’s effect quite quickly.
Search for allies
Don’t underestimate the power of peer pressure and motivation. Your chances of success rise enormously with someone at your side who holds you accountable. They even have to be authors themselves, as long as they have some kind of goal. My own experience tells me that there is always someone among your friends and family who wants to lose weight or do more exercise or whatever else. Reach out to this person and form a bond.
Inspire each other with small successes, keep yourselves accountable by telling each other your progress and push each other in the right direction if needed.
Believe me, it’s highly motivating to get your work done if you don’t want to confess doing nothing for three days straight!
You want to write for 30 minutes each day? Or 500 words? Or something else? Start now. Don’t wait for next week or next Wednesday or even tomorrow. The faster you turn your goals into action the bigger the chance of starting at all and following through. You don’t want to suggest your subconsciousness that your endeavor is not that important, because we delay it. Start now. Reap the benefits. You can do it!
Your inner master procrastinator can be a strong opponent at times, but you can take him on a leash with these strategies. If you want to learn even more about this topic I recommend Eat that Frog! by Brian Tracy.
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