Overcome procrastination by establishing an appropriate schedule.

Schedules are extremely important to writers. Documents can almost always be improved with additional revisions, so some writers need deadlines, a line in the sand, to say “Enough is enough!” For writers who tend to procrastinate, schedules can provide an incentive to get started and keep writing.

Tips for Establishing Effective Schedules

The best way to overcome the natural tendency to procrastinate is to set realistic goals for regular, daily writing. Goals that are too ambitious are counterproductive. Be reasonable with yourself. Don’t expect to change your lifestyle overnight. Take your personal habits, preferences, and personality into account, and develop a writing and research schedule that you can live with.
Identify the final due date and identify the number of days you have to complete the project. Establish realistic deadlines for major steps in completing the project, such as:

  1. Date to select the topic.
  2. Date to seek preliminary feedback from teachers, employers, or colleagues.
  3. Date to draft the Document Planner.
  4. Due date for networking with resource people.
  5. Due date for conducting secondary research, if pertinent.
  6. Due date for conducting original research, if pertinent.

Because writing is typically not a step-by-step process, you may need to routinely revise your goals for research, writing, and anticipated due dates

What’s Wrong with Waiting Until the Last Minute?

You can make writing less stressful and write a stronger draft by being careful about how you schedule your time. Rather than “binge writing” (waiting until the last minute to write and then compressing your writing process so you don’t have time for reflection, revision, and editing) you can be most successful by writing a little on your project each day.

Robert Boice, a psychologist who researched productive and unproductive writers, found that people who write in brief daily sessions are far healthier and more productive than people who binge write. Binge writing is likely to produce greater emotional and physical stress. Behaviors associated with binge writing—sitting at a monitor until the words blur and dance, furiously typing nonstop for hours at a time, straining your neck and back by sitting stiffly for extended periods—contribute to a dislike for writing, thus perpetuating a cycle of procrastination. Successful researchers and writers have learned that momentum is essential to success, and momentum is enhanced by regular, daily writing.

According to Boice:

“Structuring your time without being tense about it helps writers find additional time to work and play. And more. If you work with a sense of structured routine, with a present-orientation, with effective organization, and with persistence, you will be more likely to display higher self-esteem, better health, more optimism, and more efficient work habits. Without learning the language of time, you risk depression, psychological distress, anxiety, neuroticism, and physical symptoms of illness. Clearly, writers must learn to deal with time.”

Delaying your research and writing, as well as the binge writing that results, is likely to produce negative consequences. Last-minute writing binges deprive writers of the emotional and intellectual distance they need to critique their writing. And even if binge writers recognize problems in their drafts, impending deadlines allow them no time for thoughtful revisions. When you finish writing your draft, you are too close to it to see it objectively. You need time to let your writing cool before you revise it. Walk away from it for a week, for a day, or even for a few minutes. When you return you’ll see your writing with fresh eyes and a clearer perspective. Regular daily writing gives you the time you need to critique and revise your writing.

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