The Practice of Creativity

Ten Tips for Breaking Through World-Class Procrastination

Posted on: December 7, 2015

Last week’s post was about the emotional roots of procrastination. For many of us, the hardest part of a creative project is starting. This week, I thought I’d offer ten tips that I have used to breakthrough bouts of procrastination.

  1. Call up another creative friend and ask for 5 minutes of their time. You get to talk nonstop about how hard/awful/challenging ‘x’ is for you and how scared you are, etc. They do nothing but listen. Then you’ll switch roles and you will be the listener. I used to do this exercise often, with a good friend, when I was writing parts of my dissertation.
  2. I don’t know where I heard this next tip, but I believe this is a cognitive therapy technique: Say aloud to yourself, “I am choosing to watch another episode of Scandal (insert favorite TV show here) instead of doing my writing.” There is something powerful about verbalizing a choice aloud. Sometimes, you may decide, yes I really do want to watch TV instead of writing and consequently, you won’t feel guilty. However, there will be other times that as soon as you actually verbalize what you are choosing to do instead of writing, you’ll make the choice to write instead.
  3. Prepare a small reward for yourself for every 100 words. I have mentioned Mur Lafferty’s excellent I Should Be Writing podcast before. Recently, I heard her talk about using M&Ms as a reward during a particularly difficult patch of novel writing. She’d line up the M&Ms and reward herself with a few for every 100 words. Maybe M&Ms doesn’t do it for you. The point is to have something fun and relatively harmless that can motivate you when you’re stuck. It doesn’t happen often, but there are some days that writing even 100 words feels daunting and I need a reward.
  4. Write a short gratitude list before beginning your creative work.
  5. Start a freewrite with “The gifts of procrastination are…” “My payoff for procrastinating is…”
  6. Assign an inner critic other (impossible) jobs to do while the other half of you is busy with the mad dash of creating.
  7. Try a centering breath (e.g. alternate nostril breathing or watching the breath with four counts in and out).
  8. Write down several of your ideas on index cards–throw them in the air and choose one to move forward on.
  9. Remind yourself that thinking about creating is not the same thing as actually creating.
  10. Take ten full deep breaths and then slowly drink a glass of water. Then ask yourself: What I most want to create right now is? Freewrite or doodle your answers. This is a super easy strategy that works to unblock creativity. Slowing the breath down helps to interrupt whatever negative voices are in our head that are blocking us from doing the next thing. And, much of being creative is about the ability to take the next small step. Drinking a glass of water not only refreshes us, but also helps us to stay in the present moment. Finally, asking yourself a direct question about what’s next encourages your inner wisdom to deliver up some answers.

What are your tips for dealing with procrastination?


4 Responses to "Ten Tips for Breaking Through World-Class Procrastination"

Love all of these! Especially #2! It does sound like a powerful action to take. Thank you for sharing:)


TY! I have been using #2 consistently and it really helps with one’s awareness.


Good tips. Talking to a close writer/blogger friend really helps. I usually freewrite my procrastination away because I’d plan my work for the day during the session, too. Another method could be to blog about our difficulty in this. The blogging community always shows up with encouragements and suggestions for us to get going.


I love the idea about blogging on the issue of procrastination or when we are feeling stuck!


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Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

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