If you struggle with procrastination when writing, it can feel really frustrating and impede your progress. So why not learn from one of the master procrastinators in order to avoid making the same mistakes he did? In this post, we’ll dive into what procrastination really is and uncover 6 lessons Chandler Bing can teach you about managing it.
Procrastination and writing
Procrastination – could it be any more detrimental to your writing?
It can take many disguises.
From convincing yourself today is the day you must sort your Tupperware to find the matching lids, to reorganising your clothes into seasonal sets, you’ve done them all to avoid sitting down to write.
I even built a filing cabinet.
You see, I’m a bit less Benjamin Franklin:
“Don’t leave that until tomorrow what you can do today.”
And a bit more Chandler Bing:
“You know what’s weird. Donald Duck never wore pants but whenever he’s getting out of the shower he always puts a towel around his waist. I mean, what is that about?”
I can pretend anything is important for me to consider, rather than doing the hard stuff.
Procrastination – the ultimate avoidance strategy?
So why do we procrastinate? Well, it’s not as simple as you may think.
According to scientists it’s down to the way we’re wired – and nothing to do with being lazy or unmotivated. It’s actually our brain trying to protect us from negative feelings. You see, all our decisions are channelled through the emotional – or ‘chimp’ – part of our brain first, before any rationality comes into it.
The part of our brain responsible for fight or flight – the amygdala – makes us feel overwhelmed. If we have too many tasks to do or are faced with a difficult one, there is a fight (resistance) or flight (ignore) reaction.
Source: The Next Web
So the next time you begin laminating the kitchen floor, rather than writing, you can simply blame your brain, right?
Well, yes… and no.
6 Lessons Chandler Bing Can Teach Us About Procrastination
Now we understand the way the brain works, we can build in some habits and behaviours that help us when procrastination strikes.
And who better to illustrate them than Chandler Bing himself? Let’s use Friends-esque episode titles too, to really get into the theme of things.
1. The One with All the Planning
Plan the next writing session the day before. If you sit down with a clear idea of what you need to accomplish during the session, things feel less daunting. It might be a section or a chapter or some research.
Whatever it is, write a few notes or bullet points that will help to get you started straight away the following day.
If you know exactly what you need to do when you sit down, the less likely it is you’ll find a way to procrastinate. You’ll feel more motivated to get going. Unlike Chandler, who has no motivation.
2. The One with All the Chunks
Big tasks can be daunting. Break them down into bite-sized chunks so they’re more manageable.
When you think about writing a book, it seems impossible. But what about one section? Or 200 words? That’s more manageable in an instant.
Remember your brain wants to protect you from possible negative consequences. A big piece of writing can make you feel worried or afraid. You might not finish it.
So flood your brain with positivity when you achieve small writing achievements that, when you add them together, make a finished book. Or in Chandler’s case, a fitter body.
3. The One with All the Accountability Partners
A friend/coach who holds you accountable is worth their weight in gold. Find someone you trust and ask them to hold you accountable for your writing. Arrange to send them a daily word count or a weekly progress report.
But don’t choose a soft touch! Your friend will need to have high expectations of you and challenge you if you don’t deliver.
If you know someone is going to ask you at regular, agreed intervals whether you’ve reached your word count, you’ll be surprised how it puts a firecracker up your ass. For more tips on building your support network, read this.
Someone just like Monica Geller would be perfect… She kept Chandler accountable, despite his resistance.
4. The One with The Five-Second Rule
Mel Robbins is a legend and is fascinated with habits. She’s devised The Five-Second Rule and it’s excellent for procrastination.
In summary, she suggests that when encountering a difficult decision, e.g. how to start the day’s writing, you count back from five to one and begin instantly.
The action of counting back snaps the conscious brain into action, thus getting the work done. It allows you to bypass the emotional trigger which could persuade you not to do the writing you need to do.
I’ve used it to get out of bed in the morning, to start a chapter each day and to avoid the Custard Cream packet. It’s highly effective. If only Chandler had adopted this rule when Monica wanted him to go on that early morning run.
To hear more from Mel about The Five-Second Rule, click here.
5. The One with the Timer
Why not use the Pomodoro Technique in each writing session? You write for 25 minutes and rest for 5 minutes. You then repeat this four times before taking a longer 30-minute break.
This technique enables you to be far more productive in short bursts, as well as look after your wellbeing. You’re not staring at a screen for hours on end, potential aches and pains have no chance to develop and it keeps your step count up.
It keeps procrastination at bay too. You’re no longer faced with an hour of writing ahead of you. If writing seems daunting today, you only need to write for 25 minutes before you can take a break.
Inevitably, once you get into the swing of things, you’ll write for ages. But sometimes the prospect of writing for a long period encourages you to find other things to do! Little and often instead of long stretches works brilliantly – despite what Chandler might say.
6. The One with Getting Your Ass into Gear
Procrastination has a scientific explanation, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t alter our thinking quite dramatically by simply sitting down and starting – Mel Robbins is testament to this.
Just starting can make all the difference.
Turn your phone onto airplane mode and just write. You’re not distracted by notifications or phone calls. During your 5 minute breaks, you can check to make sure you’ve not missed anything crucial, but once the 5 minutes are up, it goes straight back on to airplane mode.
Put down the wall filler or the leaf blower. Step out of the garage that just ‘has to be tidied’.
Recognise the jobs that you’re doing to avoid writing. Once you begin to notice your procrastination and take ownership of it, the more you can show it the door.
Don’t be ashamed of it. Feel happy that you’ve noticed yourself doing it and that you can take action to stop it. You’re certainly not letting a lack of awareness whoop your ass.
There is an argument that procrastination can help the creative process – some of your greatest ideas will come when doing mundane tasks.
However, it shouldn’t be used as an excuse as to why you didn’t write today.
If you implement the strategies listed, you should start to see a difference over time. You’ll realise you’re not procrastinating as much as you once were.
And then you’ll finally have time to consider Donald Duck’s bathroom antics – phew!