For as long as I can remember, procrastination has always been my nemesis, my undoing, and my Achilles’ heel. From sixth-grade book reports to TV-promo-writing assignments, I’ve let the false promise “I’ll do it tomorrow” bog down and taint every creative and work-related task of my life. That is, until recently.
In the past couple of years, I’ve discovered that it pays to be prolific—quite literally. The more I write, the more I earn. I like to make the most possible. That means I can’t afford to procrastinate. Sure, there are still moments when I can’t get myself to stay seated in front of that blinking cursor. But I’ve discovered a few tricks that boost both my output and my state of mind—tricks that none of those “how to beat procrastination” articles told me. I’ve even used them all to write this piece you’re reading right now.
Here are some of the hacks that I’ve adopted to beat procrastination.
1. Commit to doing the worst job possible
You read that right. In fact, put this on a Post-it: Subpar work is the key to success.
You may have heard the advice to let yourself write a “sh*tty first draft” and to let your work start off messy and mediocre. I’ll go a step further and suggest you strive for messy and mediocre. Forget the “B-effort,” and try for an F. Go for awful.
Chances are, you’ll find it challenging to make it all that terrible. You’ll rebel against yourself and find the work coming out, well, not half bad.
If you aim for a horrendous first pass, you’ll realize that what you have to do isn’t as difficult as you think. You’ll also stop staring at a blank screen because you’re no longer rejecting what you label as “bad ideas.”
2. Procrastinate wholeheartedly, not halfway
Don’t waste your time on joyless, partial procrastination. (Read: Scrolling through Instagram and surfing the internet for “research” while you remain in your work chair and your project lurks in a buried browser window).
When you partly procrastinate, you’re just pretending to work and snowballing the guilt. Pretending to work is far more draining than actually getting the work done. Instead, go all-in for full immersion with your procrastination—and make sure that you partake in activities that recharge you.
Take a shower, go for a walk with a (nonwork-related) podcast, bury your nose in a page-turner, or watch the most indulgent TV show ever. That can be an Emmy-winning “peak TV” series or a dumpster fire of a reality show. Whatever obsesses and engrosses you and takes your mind off the task at hand is fair game.
The point here is, if you’re going to avoid your work, avoid it all the way. Procrastinate so hard, and you long for a break from procrastinating and start craving a dose of work. You’ll feel way more refreshed when you come back to it.
3. Pile on the work
If the project you’re avoiding looms like a skyscraper, take on Mount Everest. Soon, the skyscraper will feel like a child’s backyard playhouse.
I used to dread writing weekly emails to my subscribers. I sometimes ghosted them for weeks or even months, feeling sheepish, delinquent, and like I had nothing new to say—or, more overwhelmingly, like I had too much to say.
But once I started writing my first book—an undertaking that feels massive in both scope and importance to me—those emails became one of my favorite things to do. From opening the blank email form to hitting send, they provide the “done” feeling, often in under an hour. Thanks to the pressure I put on myself with the book, emails transformed from a task to a pastime. Now, I dash off two to three a week.
Nothing lights a fire under me faster than having bigger fish to fry, especially fish I want to avoid frying. As for taking on a project that will dwarf the book, I’m not there yet. But watch this space.
Laura Belgray, founder of Talking Shrimp, is an award-winning copywriting expert and unapologetic lazy person. She has written TV spots for clients like NBC, Fandango, and Bravo. You can read her free guide to copywriting here.