One of the most e-mailed articles in the New York Times a few weeks ago was called “Driven to Worry, and to Procrastinate.” I suspect it was popular because many of us rarely have a work day without frequent interruptions or procrastination.
Procrastination and interruptions make writing tasks especially challenging
I’ve found that writing tasks brings out the worst in a procrastinator, and interruptions make completing any document quite challenging.
Does this sound familiar?
Faced with a writing assignment and a blank document, do you first check your e-mail for the 80th time today? Then reply to that message that doesn’t even require a reply? Quickly check your Facebook newsfeed? Or view the latest Groupon deal? And that thing you wanted to google… how about right now?
It all feels like progress, but when the deadline approaches you have to rush to pull something together. When you reread your documents, you see your work is sloppy, incomplete, and disorganized.
Fight procrastination and interruptions with a few simple steps
- Jot down why you are writing and what you want your readers to do.
Relax for a moment; think about what you have to write. Who are your readers, and why are you writing to them? Do you need them to do anything? Type the answer to each question. The most important parts of your document are done.
- Brainstorm your ideas for the message.
Create a mental outline—but not a traditional academic outline. Instead, think about what you would say in person.
- Make a bulleted list of your contents; if you get interrupted, you’ll have something on paper.
Don’t feel pressured to write complete sentences—you’ll get bogged down. Just type! Think about all the possible questions your reader might ask, and write down the answers.
- Organize your bullets with your actions requested, deadlines, and main points at or near the top.
You have a clear path ahead of you. Just flesh out one bullet at a time to create your sentences.
This approach, though less comprehensive than The Six Steps to Reader-Centered Writing®, ensures that your writing project is interruption- and procrastination-proof.