Hi! I'm Joe, and I'm a writer.

3 steps to stop procrastinating

Published almost 2 years ago • 3 min read

Hey Reader,

People fail to accomplish their goals, in large part, because of procrastination.

You've felt this, I'm sure. The desire to do something, the knowledge you should be doing something, and yet the complete inability to get started.

Or even if you've started, the visceral, deep-seated need to do anything else, to distract yourself because you're out of ideas, or it's too hard, or it's a bit boring.

You might even realize that you would be a more successful, even happier person if you could just get your stuff done.

But you can't.

Of all the people in the world, I believe writers are the best procrastinators.

Writers find the most inventive ways to put things off (like these 10 things writers do to fail to finish our books).

Writers over-idealize how we think writing should feel to an extent that anything less than rainbows shooting out of our eyes and onto the page in perfect iambic pentameter feels like failure.

Writers are the best at talking about writing, fantasizing about writing, dreaming about finding the time to write, and then when they have the time, not actually writing.

And of all of those procrastinating writers, I am the king. I am a life-long procrastinator of epic proportions. In college, I once waited until 10 pm to start writing a 10 page paper (I finished it, aced the paper, but it was a very long night).

But I've also finished writing more than a dozen books in the last ten years (a few of them without anxiety attacks too).

So here's my 3 step process to reliably defeat procrastination:

  1. Set a deadline. Procrastination is all about this internal belief that you're not ready, that you don't have the necessary skills, ideas, motivation, or "flow" to do your work. A deadline says to this belief, "I know you don't feel ready, but ready or not, here I come."
  2. Set milestones (a.k.a. smaller deadlines). It is possible to pull an overnighter and finish a paper. It is not possible to pull an overnighter and finish a book (hasn't stopped me from trying though). The key to finishing any large project is to break your deadline into smaller pieces and set weekly milestones to finish each piece.
  3. Put it on your calendar. Yes, this matters, and it's actually the most important part. It's one thing to set a deadline, it's another to keep it. The first step to keeping your deadline is to make it official by putting it on your calendar.

Writing a book, like any large project, is hard, but it's not complicated. No, it's all the ways we procrastinate and idealize the process that makes it complicated.

Instead, make it simple, like a job. You set a deadline, you set smaller deadlines, you show up to your calender entries like a job, and over several months, you finish.

It's not sexy or pretty. But it works, and if you care about your project enough, you'll be willing to do the unsexy, not pretty work too.

For more on this, check out my latest YouTube video on how to stop procrastinating.

An invitation

Speaking of, if you'd like to finish a book, I'm working with a small cohort of writers to write and publish their books with me over the course of a year. It's called 1 Year to Publish, and applications are now open. You can apply here.

Make sure to say you came from this newsletter somewhere in the application.

Hope to see you there.

This Week in Photos

You may have noticed I didn't post last week. That's because we were hosting the second of four parties in a row (this one for my boys' birthday), and I was prepping for an epic super-soaker battle.

It was the four grown ups I could convince to be on my team vs. 45 savage kids. Needless to say, I think we won.
The bearded irises are blooming. The number of beautiful flowers that came with this house continues to make moving one of the best decisions we've ever made.

It was movie night on Friday, and we finally got out the Icee maker and popcorn machine we were given as Christmas presents over the last couple of years. I honestly thought these were the worst Christmas presents ever. I was wrong. It was so fun, and the perfect nostalgia bomb. Highly recommended!

Alright folks, that's it from me. Have a great weekend, and see you soon.


Hi! I'm Joe, and I'm a writer.

If we haven't met, my name is Joe Bunting, and I'm a Wall Street Journal Best-selling writer, dad, the founder of The Write Practice, and the author of Crowdsourcing Paris. I've also been known to cry in every movie. In my newsletter, I share tips about the writing process and the business of being a writer. Sign up to get free emails about creativity, deliberate practice, and the writing process.

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