Procrastination – the great time stealer

Posted on: May 24th, 2010

If you’re faced with a difficult assignment or a job you really don’t want to do (like a tricky phone call), then it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to fall victim to the dreaded procrastination.

Here are just some of the displacement activities you might end up doing. (I know, because I’m done them all at some point…)

  • Fill the washing machine
  • Do some filing
  • Clean the cat’s litter tray
  • Tidy a cupboard
  • Phone a friend for a chat
  • Go for a walk
  • Sort out your expenses
  • Make a shopping list
  • Hunt for a DVD that’s gone missing

And so on.

You’ve now got a tidy house and you’ve completed some useful chores but you haven’t got any nearer to tackling the problem in hand. In fact, you feel worse because half the day has gone by and you’ve still got that feeling of dread hanging over you.

Useful tip

Here’s an important thing to know next time you are paralysed by procrastination. When you start to tackle the job you are putting off, actually DOING it is never as bad as you thought it was going to be.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve put off starting a particularly tricky writing project. And every time I finally got down to starting it, I asked myself: “Why was I agonising over it for so long? It wasn’t difficult at all.”

How to get started

A good way to start is by doing the really easy bits first. I’m a copywriter, so if I’m having difficulty knowing how to start tackling a corporate brochure, I will type in the contact details for the back cover. All I’ve done is copy the address, phone number and web address but I’ve at least got something on screen. I’ve made a start.

Remember, in nearly every case it’s the thought of the task that’s difficult – the actual doing isn’t hard at all.

21 Responses to “Procrastination – the great time stealer”

  1. Freelance forums
    May 25th, 2010

    Oh, how I have this problem sometimes :D

    There are days I can work 8 hours without a hitch and others when 8 hours I try to do anything but work. Am still working on my “ways”, but, keeping an agenda of my deadlines and trying to work on the rainy days (we’re not out sightseeing then), helps me keep up with my work. Am currently in a prolongued vacation, but I’d still earn some bucks

  2. Judy Dunn
    May 25th, 2010


    Popped over here after reading your comment on the Biznik Savvy Bloggers thread.

    Although I am technically not a freelancer, I can really relate to what you have to say here. Sometimes a new project will come in and I will think, “I can’t get a handle on this. I can’t write this.”

    My trick is to take my outline (for instance I’m writing website copy for a new client right now and have already created the site outline) and then just start adding phrases, pieces of information—just plugging them in with no regard to sentence structure, flow, etc. For some reason, that kick starts my brain and I am able to start the real writing.

    I have also used the “start with the east stuff” method and I can tell you that that works, too.

    By the way, I just read and left a comment on the Daisy Sprockett Cat Blog, too. What a fun blog.


  3. Carole
    May 26th, 2010

    Thanks for your comments – here’s to a productive working day!

  4. Eldo Barkhuizen
    May 26th, 2010


    Thanks for your insightful post.

    I try to tackle the hardest things first. Then, from there on, it’s a downhill ride all the way!

    Great blog.

    Kind regards


  5. Carole
    May 26th, 2010

    Thanks for your kind words, Eldo. Tackling the hardest things first sounds like a sensible strategy. :)

  6. Mike Thompson
    May 27th, 2010

    Oh I do agree.

    Two things help me – remember the 80/20 rule. Thinking time is still working time.

    Secondly do the post it thing, just write random things on post its and stick them onto a big sheet of paper in columns then move them from one to another, give the columns titles, move them a few more times and add a few more. Before you know you have a structure.


  7. Carole
    May 27th, 2010

    I like the post it note idea. Thanks for that, Mike.

  8. Eldo Barkhuizen
    May 27th, 2010

    Mike’s idea is a good one.

    Also a good idea to make a 6-point list the night before of tasks you have to do the next day.

    Put each point in order of priority.

    That way, you have a roadmap for what needs doing the next day, and you don’t spend time at the start of the day trying to work out what needs doing.



  9. Carole
    May 27th, 2010

    Yes, I’m definitely a list maker. I jot down everything that needs doing and stick a number by each one. That’s the order I have to do them in and I keep it right next to my computer.

    I also have non-work things on the list, like ‘take cat to vet’. ‘buy birthday card for sister’ etc. If it’s not on the list, I risk forgetting to do it.

  10. Eldo Barkhuizen
    May 27th, 2010

    I first heard this from Alex Mandossian — probably one of the most successful copywriters and Internet marketers in the world.

  11. Garry Youngblood
    May 27th, 2010

    If only more people would hear this.

  12. Leta Figueroa
    May 29th, 2010

    If I had a quarter for each time I came here! Superb read.

  13. Lesa Tucker
    May 30th, 2010

    You have done it once again! Incredible article!

  14. Otto Blackburn
    June 1st, 2010

    If only more people could hear this..

  15. Carole
    June 1st, 2010

    Thanks, guys, for all your comments. :)

  16. Hannah Malone
    June 4th, 2010

    You’re so right about the anticipation of a big task being worse than actually doing it. Sometimes the hardest part is just getting stuck in and breaking the back of a difficult piece of work. I often find that once I get through this ‘pain barrier’, inspiration suddenly starts to flow!

  17. Carole
    June 4th, 2010

    Hi Hannah

    I know – I’m not quite sure why the thinking about it is so much worse than the actual doing, but it is!

  18. Amy
    June 6th, 2010

    You’re so right about the anticipation of a big task being worse than actually doing it. Sometimes the hardest part is just getting stuck in and breaking the back of a difficult piece of work. I often find that once I get through this ‘pain barrier’, inspiration suddenly starts to flow!

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