The Procrastinator’s Guide to Writing That Thing You Need to Write

I started wondering where Dean Rieck’s latest guest post was a few weeks ago. I mean, he’s usually… well… not so erratic in delivering. Just a bit. Sometimes. Anyways, he sent in this great guest post, and I wanted to post it up on a Friday, but then there was… that… thing I had to do. And so it was going to be Monday, but then I got busy. Real busy. Color coding stuff. And… well, it’s a bit late but… I finally got this post up for you to read (to the end) and enjoy. I’m sure none of you can relate to this. At all. Nuh-uh. No sirree.

Sleep in. You work hard. You’re tired. You deserve a few more minutes of shuteye.

Break your alarm clock. You know you’re sleeping in. You don’t need that thing to keep beeping at you.

Fix a healthy breakfast. You’ve promised yourself you’ll stop munching on half a box of donuts and chugging a gallon of coffee every morning. Oatmeal, grapefruit, orange juice. That’s what you need.

Look for the donuts. You don’t have any oatmeal, grapefruit, or orange juice.

Make a grocery list. Include oatmeal, grapefruit, and orange juice. Oh, and a new alarm clock.

Floss. Those donuts will rot your teeth. And you promised your dentist you’d floss at least once a day from now on. Use the ribbon floss, not the round kind that gets stuck in your teeth.

Revise your grocery list. Add ribbon floss. Mint flavored.

Call your dentist. Ask how to get that round floss out of your teeth.

Check your voice mail. You thought you heard the phone ring this morning but you aren’t sure. Could have been a dream.

Check your email. You want to get it out of the way so you can start your writing project.

Wait for inspiration. You want to write something special. An idea will hit you as soon as all that donut sugar kicks in.

Doodle on a note pad. This should shake things loose and get the ideas flowing. Draw a smiley face. Draw a house with a curly wisp of smoke rising from the chimney. Draw that 3-D box where you can’t tell whether the open end is pointing up or down.

Sharpen pencils. Doodling doesn’t work with a pen because you can’t erase mistakes.

Go to OfficeMax. You don’t have pencils. But you’ve been meaning to buy some. There’s something comforting and familiar about good old-fashioned number 2 pencils.

Get a sharpener while you’re at it. Yeah, they still make those. Look for your favorite color. Purple. No. Green.

Browse the folder section. You’re into GTD now, so you need 43 folders to get organized and productive.

Have lunch out. Might as well. Good thing you brought your laptop. You can get some work done. You love to work in public restaurants. It makes you feel so …. productive.

Watch some YouTube videos. Who are you kidding? You can’t eat and type at the same time. Just relax. The video with the talking monkey is a hoot.

Post the monkey video on your Facebook wall. Your friends will love it.

Tweet about your writing project. You really need to tweet more often. You’ve been ignoring your social media accounts.

Go home and check your voice mail again. You’ve been gone longer than you expected.

Listen to your voice mail message. You’ve never liked it. You had a cold when you recorded it.

Write and record a new message. It’s important to present yourself professionally. Record it several times to get it just right.

Look for some inspirational writing music. You should have thought of this before. Music always helps you think of ideas and write better.

Make a categorized list of inspirational writing music. It will save you time and make you more productive next time.

Get out that fancy quill pen and foolscap your grandmother got your for Christmas. This is the way writers used to write. Maybe this will get you in the right frame of mind.

Look up “foolscap” on Wikipedia. I mean, what the heck is that anyway?

Dust your desk. Who can work at a desk that looks like this?

Straighten up your files. You have notes and background information all over the place. Time to start that 43 folder thing. No time like the present.

Oh, hell, clean your whole office. It’s a mess.

Check your Facebook page for comments on that monkey video. Nothing? Okay, back to work.

Write the headline of that thing you’re writing. Hey, not bad. You’re off to a good start.

Program your DVR. Sheech. You almost forgot. That program is on tonight and you don’t want to miss it.

Get a cup of coffee. You always feel a little sleepy in the afternoon.

Write the first sentence. Nice. Now you’re starting to feel the momentum.

Look at your email. Wow. Where did all that stuff come from? Better read through it all and handle it now. Inbox to zero, baby!

Check Facebook again. Why isn’t anyone commenting on that monkey video? You need new friends.

Color-code your day planner. You’ve been meaning to do this for a long time. Think carefully about which colors you use for which items.

Read that long chain email someone forwarded to you. You hate those things. But this one is really well-written.

Forward that chain email to all your friends. You don’t believe in the bad luck thing if you break the chain, but why take chances?

Write a detailed apology to the friend you sent that chain email to who asked you not to send stuff like that anymore. You just forgot. It was an honest mistake.

Think about where you’d like to go for vacation. You’re really stressed and deserve some down time.

Write the first couple paragraphs. Okay. You have a headline, a strong first sentence, and now a couple paragraphs. You might make that deadline after all.

Increase the type size on your computer so it’s easier to read. Seriously. Why do they make the type so small?

Call technical support. You don’t know how to increase the type size on your computer and you screwed up something.

Post a rant on Facebook. All your friends are ignoring you. Did they even watch the video? Idiots.

Stare at your computer screen for a while. Uh oh. Time to panic. You’ll never get this thing written. And why try to rush it? You can’t rush good work.

Send an email to your client. Explain how busy you are and that you won’t have that thing written on time. Ask for another couple days. Apologize profusely.

Make a to-do list for the next couple days. You have some time on your hands now and you should make the most of it.

Reorganize your GTD folder. If for no other reason, do it for the irony.

Dean Rieck is one of America’s top copywriters and never, ever procrastinates. Usually. He stays busy writing for his many clients and providing copywriting tips for smart copywriters at Pro Copy Tips. He really wants you to visit his blog today. Don’t put it off.

Want to really kick procrastination? Check out these two great resources to finally getting it done:

You'll be on your way to finishing what you've been putting off.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. I enjoy reading Dean’s blog. The ironic thing is that I was reading this article procrastinating a phone call I know I need to make… *sigh*
    .-= Chris Mower´s last blog ..5 Ways to Trim the Fat from Your Next Project =-.

  2. Oh, this is just hilarious. And reminds me that I really should go floss my teeth, and that I’ve always wondered what the precise definition of “foolscap” was …
    .-= –Deb´s last blog ..Review of an Important Offer! =-.

  3. I’m glad I’m not the only one who does these things. 😀

    Awesome, awesome, awesome – and freaking hilarious.


  4. I laughed so loud while reading this 😀 It’s just brilliant! It made me laugh…but also realize that I was procrastinating again (and that my friends tend to ignore the videos I post on my Facebook wall. Maybe I should get some new ones too…)

    I should study for my geography test of tomorrow, but first I must check my Flickr account. And reorganize my folders 😛
    .-= Ksenia´s last blog ..Apathy {Russian salad recipe} =-.

  5. Jeez, I feel like you were just in my head. That’s creepy. 🙂

  6. Thanks. I needed this. I have to start on the new travel guide I’m writing for my publisher and have made it to an outline, which I think is pretty kick ass.
    .-= susan´s last blog ..Would You Sign an Emotional Prenup? =-.

  7. Who me? No. Never! I begin each day by making a neat to-do list and a sure-fire plan to follow its every crossed T and dotted I… And I do!

    For a couple of minutes.

    Then I remember I forgot to check my email at school. While I´m at it, I might as well do that class evaluation I was supposed to turn in last monday. And I really should remind my classmates to do it too, so I post a reminder on Facebook.

    Ooh, look at that funny monkey video! 😉

    I didn´t really know what procrastinating meant,(English not being my native language), but who needs a dictionary? You´ve just described my typical meant-to-use-the-day-to-work-and-study that (too) often becomes ah-heck-I´ll-do-it-tomorrow-and-kick-ass!

    Great reminder. Best get back to studying for that test tomorrow and stop reading blogs…

  8. Oh love it! LOL that’s totally me sometimes. Um.. I mean.. like never! I NEVER do that stuff. ::rolls eyes:: Thanks for the funny read, needed a laugh! 🙂

    Warm regards,

  9. I am a world class procrastinator and would would have written a list like this, but I have been so busy checking Facebook for new pictures of my friend’s baby and watching reruns of Law & Order: CI.

    Actually, the busy day I’ve had this week was Wednesday…I didn’t open up HootSuite. The internet is full of distractions for the easily distracted (that includes me).
    .-= Clara Mathews´s last blog ..She Works Hard For the Money =-.

  10. My favorite way to avoid writing what needs to be written, is to think it through, as if scratching notes on my mind, count the same as on paper (well, metaphorical paper.)
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..Lessons Learned from Seth Godin =-.

  11. Lisa Zahran says:

    LOL. my number #1 crime would be to organise and reorganise things. hehe. oh, and finding the right pen. alright, i get the message. going back to do my work… 🙂

  12. James,

    First things first—best photo ever. 🙂


    Though this never ever happens to me, I have decided never to get on Facebook or read Getting Things Done, because apparently they can make what never ever happens to me, happen to me worse.

    Oooh that would be bad.



    P.S. Instead of using the post to boot myself in the rear (did I mention I would never ever need that?) I showed it to The Kid, who has a major report due in three days.

    Works great on 11-year-olds, too. She got the point.
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Getting the Support You Need at Any Stage =-.

  13. Great post.

    I have to laugh since I am writing this comment while doing checking email, Twitter and Facebook while coming up with ideas for some content I need to get done today! It’s like…ohhh shiny thingie over there…the content can wait…maybe it will…ohh..need to check Twitter again!

    Thanks for the laugh!

    Now back to planning my content…wait…mmmm..need more coffee 🙂
    .-= George Passwater´s last blog ..Why You Need a Backup Plan =-.

  14. Excellent !
    Just what I need to read to be at the top !
    I don’t read this like a list but run it like a process, and when I think it’s becoming to easy, back to step 4 or 6
    .-= Jean-Baptiste´s last blog ..Bien exploiter les conversations twitter =-.

  15. Hmmmm… does making comments on other people’s blogs count as well?

    Since I have an almost clinical issue with procrastinating, the thing that I like to do most is to make sure that I finish my post without doing anything else.

    It’s akin to putting your toys away BEFORE you take out another one to play with. It may seem slower, but multi-tasking and too much pre-planning can become a procrastination nightmare.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire
    .-= Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire´s last blog ..Entrepreneur Skips Buying Coffee and Becomes Independently Wealthy =-.

  16. I can definitely relate to procrastinating except that I never use cleaning to procrastinate. You should see my desk. Wait you can’t. It’s covered in stuff.
    .-= Susan (5 Minutes for Mom)´s last blog ..Ghirardelli Million Moments of Timeless Pleasure =-.

  17. Mark Tanney says:

    I do NOT procrastinate. You’re wrong. It’s not true. You’ve been given bad information. Seriously. Get off my back.

    But now I really want to see that monkey video.

  18. Haha — I’m laughing out loud because I’m reading this instead of working on my next blog post, ironically enough about procrastination. Thanks for the laughs this AM. Now. On to writing… though… I am pretty sure it’s lunchtime now.

  19. I just discovered something you can add to your procrastination list. Directly after reading this yesterday and my last comment, I discovered my car had been towed. And it’s now at the tow pound at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where there is no yard nor navy.

    I absolutely cannot wait to drop hundreds of dollars to get it out! You know, because I was suffering from having just a little too much in my checking account. Oooh, I hope there are fines to pay, too! And tickets! So exciting.

    I’m very thankful to the NYPD for giving me a whole new reason to fall behind on my guidebook deadline. Thanks, NYC! You’re the best…
    .-= susan´s last blog ..Getting Your Car Towed in NYC is the Ultimate Procrastination Asset =-.

  20. If you’d like a tool for managing your time and projects, you can use this application inspired by David Allen’s GTD:

    You can use it to manage and prioritize your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    Comes with a mobile version too, and with an Android app.

  21. I find the best way to head procrastination is to set yourself different deadlines during the day and schedule a lot of time for little five minute breaks. I find this easier then setting myself a deadline for the individual project. Seems to work for me!

  22. lubinrho says:

    Wonderful! I had put off reading this until I had the time because I’m always procrastinating about something and I knew this would be a good read to help with that. Ah, irony. Great post.

  23. Jack Busch says:

    Classic. Especially the time spent on the productivity schemes. So true.
    .-= Jack Busch´s last blog ..How College Screwed Up Your Writing =-.

  24. LOL – thank you! I needed that, as a swift kick in the pants after a day and a half of putting off my writing. However, you didn’t mention one of my bad ones . . . writing tiny blog posts, then checking back, then reading all the other good blog posts I’ve missed lately, like this one.
    .-= Tyrean´s last blog ..Bloggerversary! =-.

  25. I can relate. Do too much and nothing gets done.


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