Sunday, December 11, 2011

More on procrastination -- the big picture

Remember the “But, first … phenomenon” I wrote about last time? I want to follow up and remind everyone, including me, that we all have many things keeping us from doing what we want or need to do. The key to accomplishing anything is to focus on what is important. Don’t let what is in front of you keep you from getting what you want. Keep your eye on the big picture.

When I was writing my book, “Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing,” I wrote for a very long time before it looked like a book. And every day there was something right in front of me that I wanted or needed to do instead of writing. But I also really wanted to write a book. So if I hadn’t kept that big goal in mind, it would have been easy to do millions of other things instead of writing the book. As it was, I usually wrote late at night because I was doing all that other stuff during the day, and by the time it was finished, everyone else was in bed. That’s when I was able to write, so that’s when I wrote.

I hear excuses from students every day. They tell me they can’t do an assignment because their printers/cars/computers/jump drives/insert any other items here/ broke. Or they have other obligations. I am amazed at how many people rely solely on my students to get medical care. They tell me they had to take their moms/dads/brothers/sisters/aunts/uncles/grandmas/grandpas/cousins/nieces/nephews/neighbors/neighbors’ cats (yes, I heard that excuse) to the doctor or vet (in the case of the cat).

Something came up. I get that. But when that something is finished, why not do it then? Most of them didn’t leave the doctor’s or vet’s office to come to class. They went home, went to bed, took a shower, ate breakfast, and probably a few other things (maybe watched a little TV to relax?) before they drove to school.  

My friend, Robin, told me we all have the same 24 hours in the day, and we get to decide how to use them. Use the time you have to do what you need to do. I’ve graded many papers sitting on bleachers watching my kids practice sports, in the waiting room of a doctor’s office and in the very early or late hours of a day.

Make a daily schedule for writing, and stick to it. If you plug away for an hour, or two pages, or 100 words, or 500 words, then every day you will be closer to your goal. It’s the people who keep the big goals in mind that accomplish big things.

Write soon,


  1. Mary--I especially love your question of "...when that something is finished, why not do it then?" So simple yet such a great point. (And I'm the Princess of Procrastination. I'm going to change my ways...tomorrow.)

  2. Thanks, I think listening to my students' excuses has made me more aware of my own!