While some people want to avoid the word “procrastination” as much as they can, others seem to wear it as a badge of honor. Though, I think we can all agree on two things: it’s not good for your clients to think you procrastinate, and procrastination has likely caused the failure of more work from home writing businesses than anything. Do I have a real stat to back that up? Nope, but every writer I know who has left their work from home job has been because they procrastinate.
Whether we are busy, bored, lack motivation, or just prefer to do something instead of writing, procrastination will affect all of us at some time. I think that should be expected. But, the problem is when procrastination begins to affect our livelihood so much that you are not making an income. Keep in mind that procrastination is different than not having work. Not having work means you need to put more effort into finding work. Procrastination is when you have the time to work on projects, but choose not to because you’d rather do something else, or nothing at all.
To be fair, working from home as a writer is much more difficult than people think. You are likely managing a handful or dozens of clients. You may work with dozens of different clients each year. You are the administrative assistant, the accountant, and the bill collector…plus, you need to get the work done. Over time you may be able to outsource some of this, but, for most this would be an added expense than necessary. On top of all of that you are writing for someone else which can at times be mentally taxing.
There is no doubt that you or the people who know you best as a procrastinator have reservations about your ability to be successful. Truthfully, if you are one, working from home can be difficult since you are your only motivator. You are not guided by time clocks, supervisors, or coworkers to keep you going or insist you are on schedule. You have you.
Keeping this in mind, it is also important to know that there are a few things you can do to maintain your procrastination badge of honor and still be a successful writer. Below are five ways to do this, but the caveat is that you need to do these things for them to work. They are not difficult and will not magic-away your procrastinating behavior. But, they are effective and simple which in the end is what a procrastinator needs.
Go for realistic goals, not idealistic goals
When you start your writing business it is easy to set lofty goals. After all, you are just setting out and the thought of failure isn’t on your mind. For someone who procrastinates, setting overly lofty goals is common. A good example is writing a book. If you have been putting it off for weeks your thought process is probably, “Well, I can write 20 pages in a day,” then as the deadline approaches it is, “I can write 40 pages in a day,” and it goes up the closer you get to your due date. The fact is that the harder you make your goal the less likely it will get done.
One suggestion I have is to set a realistic goal. This goal may not help you hit every target, but by having a minimum goal, you will no longer berate yourself with, “If I could have just spent 30 minutes a day on this I’d be done.” The first goal I recommend is two to four hours a day of writing. During this time, all you do is work on your client projects. Over time, this will help you maintain a regular schedule you can improve on.
Now, when I say set a minimum goal, that doesn’t mean you should tell yourself “I’m done after two hours,” but continue to work beyond this goal when possible. What this objective does is give procrastinators an out if you want to do something else that day, but also dedication everyday to your work. Consistent dedication, even in small amounts will produce good results.
Do something everyday
Similar to what we just talked about, doing something everyday will keep you moving forward. If you are like me you will have long-term book projects and several smaller projects such as blog posts. I suggest that everyday you do something. So, on those days you wake up and say, “I’m just not going to be able to work today,” take thirty minutes to do something. Anything. Write 400 words, write a blog post, write ad content, write a quiz. Whatever you write, do something. You don’t even need to complete what you are doing. Just. Do. Something.
Set daily earnings
This is something that helped me. As a writer you can expect extreme fluctuations in income. One month you will make $800 and another you will make $20,000. Really, that happens a lot! These fluctuations can impact your mental health. The less you are making, the less you want to work. Should be the opposite, right? But, unfortunately it isn’t.
I know a lot of writers who set a high daily average for the year, but that isn’t always easy to track when you are looking day-to-day. Like your realistic goal, setting a realistic goal is helpful to overcoming your procrastinating tendencies.
Start with a realistic goal that you can achieve 75% of the time. Maybe this goal is $50 during the week and $25 during the weekend. While this isn’t a lot of money, or even what you expected when you started writing, it is something rather than nothing. Because, if you are putting work off then you are earning nothing.
Similarly to your daily hours, when you write enough to earn your minimum daily earnings, you shouldn’t use this as a reason to stop working that day. Daily earnings are a way for you to ensure you are not fully giving into your daily earnings.
Your goal should be low so that you can achieve it, but high enough to see income hitting your bank account. Over time, as you notice your income gaining, and your procrastination waning (Yep, I Dr. Suesed that sentence), you can raise your daily earnings.
A couple tips to do this:
- Your minimum daily goal should be 25% to 30% of your actual goal. For example, if you want to make $48,000 a year, divided by 365 (days in a year), your daily goal will be $132. 30% of that number is about $40 per day. Not a livable wage, but effective when you feel like doing nothing.
- Set earning goals everyday of the week with weekend goals smaller than weekday goals. With our $40 per day average, you can adjust your daily goals to $46 per weekday and $25 per weekend day.
- The first part of your workday should be focused on hitting this earnings goal.
Now, we are talking pretty small numbers here. The average writer putting in about 25 hours a week makes about $45,000 a year. At 40 hours a week that same writer makes about $78,000 a year. If you’ve been writing for a long time you can make much more. The objective here is for procrastinators to not drop out of their working from home goal due to lack of motivation from money not coming in.
House of kids, TV in the background, Google, and social media all give procrastinators an excuse to not work. It may not be a valid excuse (except the kids), but it is an effective excuse. One way to eliminate these distractions is to work very early in the morning before anyone else wakes up, or late at night when everyone is asleep. Choose a space that has few distractions and if you can work without your smart phone or internet (the last may be difficult).
I’ve known writers you have worked in their garage, a closet, shed in their back yard and more. I’ve done this myself – often. My personal go-to is to wake up at 3:30 AM so I can try to get in a solid three hours of un-distracted work before anyone wakes up.
I find that I can keep myself more accountable with fewer distractions. Hopefully you do too.
Avoid too much work
If you know anything about Thomas Jefferson and his keys to life remember that moderation is good. In fact, one thing I have learned beyond all else in writing is that, less is more.
While at first it may seem like the more clients and work you have the better, you will quickly find that too much work will only make you want to do nothing. This is actually how procrastination leads to writers quitting their work from home careers. You put off work and overtime those due dates and project pile up.
Fewer clients and fewer projects allow you to manage your time better, avoid feeling overwhelmed, and provide you the ability to manage current and potential clients. This is a difficult mix to attain, but over time you will figure out what works for you. For me, I like to keep myself 75% full. This allows me to manage my workload each week and allows me to pick up new clients as I complete other projects without overloading myself.
Writing can be a fulfilling and profitable career, even if you have a tendency to procrastinate. These tips will hopefully provide you with a little insight to help you keep your career moving forward when you can’t seem to motivate yourself to keep up. These are tools I have used for myself and that other writers have mentioned to me in passing.