When you REALLY don’t feel like writing

This week I’ve been thinking about ways to make it easier to actually start and finish those writing projects that we so often procrastinate.

And I realized that the hacks I employ to make sure I go hiking are essentially the same as the ones to make sure I succeed at my writing projects. I think they’ll help you, too.

Getting to the summit

A few years ago I was standing on top of a ridge, gazing at an incredible vista of mountaintops, beating myself up about “Why don’t I do this more often?”

Like lots of forms of strenuous exercise, hiking feels awesome when you’re done, but it can be hard to get out the door.

So I set out to pre-emptively eliminate as many obstacles excuses as possible. Every day, no matter what the weather, my car’s trunk always contains: hiking shoes and socks, snow spikes, hiking clothes (including pants that can zip off into shorts), a warm coat and a raincoat, and my backpack filled with drinking water, snacks, sunscreen, bug spray and anything else I could want. I made a short list of nearby hikes and the total time it takes to complete them, from the door of my office to the door of my house.

Now I’ve already done all the planning and prep – I just finish a day’s work at my office, choose a hike based on how much time I have, grind it out, snap a pic at the top and get home to get dinner on the table on time. Unbelievably, I now hike 4-5 times a week, year-round.

Here’s the best pic from last Thursday:

Getting to the final draft

You can follow a similar strategy to make it easier to complete those demanding writing projects looming over you. I’ve been using this approach for 15 years, including to write this post every week.

When you sit down to actually write, you should already have everything you need to crank out the draft. You’ve already done interviews and fact-gathering. You’ve already determined the structure of the work product and organized your notes into an outline.

Pro-tip: Be sure to pull any relevant info out of emails especially and paste into your outline. If you open your email during the writing process “just to find that one thing,” 30 minutes later you’ll realize you’re totally off schedule and you might succumb to the temptation to just “finish this tomorrow.”

Block off an uninterrupted chunk of your calendar when you are least likely to be distracted. For me, that’s first thing in the morning. For you it might be the end of the day, after meetings and phone calls.

Then open up the outline, close all your other windows and crank through it. Personally, I found it helpful to give myself a time limit to keep me focused and avoid perfectionism. It’s okay if that doesn’t sound appealing to you, everyone is wired differently.

When you’re done and you still have most of your day ahead of you, it feels awesome :).

This article was originally published on May 30, 2024

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