I recently popped in via Zoom to a meeting of the Kingdom Writers Association, a Christian writers group here in San Diego. My hosts, the wondrous Wyckoffs, asked me to reprise something I’d shared at an earlier writers conference. I call it my Anti-Procrastination Formula.
Rare is the writer who doesn’t struggle with procrastination. I remember sitting on my front porch once in the mid-90’s, eating Cheese Nips from the box and intentionally procrastinating, fully conscious that I was probably watching my yet-future writing career circling the drain.
Well, I reformed that habit, and you can, too. All you have to do is follow my simple Anti-Procrastination Formula:
(b + c) – (i + p)n
Now, don’t freak out. It’s not really algebra. Let me decode it for you:
- The “b” in the first term stands for “butt”— as in derriere, rear end, backside. The “c” stands for “chair.”
- Simplified, that means put your butt in a chair. That may sound obvious, but don’t give up on my formula yet. You haven’t yet seen the magic of the math.
- Now for the next term: the “i” stands for “internet.” And I’ll bet you can already guess what the “p” stands for. Yes, “p” is for phone.
So, solving our Anti-Procrastination equation so far, we have put your butt in a chair and subtracted the internet and your phone. Sounds so obvious it’s almost insulting, right? If so, you can stop reading now, because you are far more disciplined than the rest of us. Most of the writers I know will do anything to avoid writing. Sort laundry. Start dinner. Organize a desk drawer. Clean the garage. Shave the dog’s butt. Anything. If you can relate, please read on…
Back to the formula. Now we must solve for the variable n. This is where it all happens, the math and the magic.
The variable n stands for the number of words you can personally write without breaking a sweat. In other words, n is the number of words that doesn’t intimidate you. The number that doesn’t freak you out and switch on your avoidance mode.
My number is 350. I can write 350 words fairly quickly and without anxiety. Your number may be 200, or it may be 1,000. (If it’s the latter, I won’t like you very much, but only because I’ll be jealous.)
So, that’s all there is to it: To break your procrastination habit, put your butt in a chair, turn off your internet and phone, and write only the number of words that doesn’t freak you out.
At first, don’t write more and don’t write less. Make a deal with yourself that when you hit that number, you’re going to stop. Have a beer. Have a piece of quality chocolate. Then do the same thing the next day and the next, and the day after that.
Here’s the math: Let’s say your number is 300. That’s only about half this blog post. Write 300 words five times in a week, and you’ve reached the length of a feature article. Do it five times a week for three weeks, and you’ve got a respectable book chapter.
Here’s the magic: You’ve done all this without being captured by what I call the Soul-Crushing Tractor Beam of Hopelessness dragging you into Cheese Nip Land. All because you’ve taken control of your anxiety and accomplished the work a little bit at a time.
I’ve taught this formula at writers workshops and conferences for at least two decades. Writers still contact me years later to say, “It worked!”
So…is your butt in a chair yet? 🙂