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Category Archives: Procrastination

Don’t ask for directions if you’re not going to start the car.

Slaying your Procrastination Demons. Part 3/4


Today is the 3rd post in a 4-part series on conquering your procrastination demons. In the first post, we identified which of the top 7 types of writer’s block are causing us to procrastinate. In the second post, I talked more about the first 3 types of writer’s block and offered some targeted strategies that can help with these specific issues. Today we’ll move on to look at the last 4 types. And then, in the final post in this series I’ll talk about simple strategies to get you writing with ease.

So let’s get started. Quick recap: We’ve already covered procrastination, work apprehension and writing apprehension. Carrying on from there, the next common type of writer’s block is:

4. Dysphoria

This is a more extreme version of writer’s apprehension (which we covered in the last post). For these folks, writing is truly scary and leads to generalized feelings of being ill; especially abnormal feelings of anxiety, discontent, and physical discomfort. This fear is as real as other phobias; like having fear of flying, being afraid of snakes or spiders, etc. If this describes you, you may need to seek professional help to overcome this fear. The good news is that similar to writing apprehension, positive experiences with writing build confidence and reduces anxiety over time.

The way to develop self-confidence is to DO THE THING YOU FEAR and get a record of successful experiences behind you.


5. Impatience

For these folks, writing is a race. Impatience is characterized by by sense of urgency, where not enough pre-writing gets done (i.e., note taking, reflection, outlining). Impatient writers don’t allow enough time for the preparation that good writing demands; rewriting, proof-reading, error-free form. Consequently, not enough writing gets done in a comfortable, non-fatiguing fashion. People feel obsessed about being behind, incapable of working fast enough. This type of writer’s block often goes hand-in-hand with the second type we covered: work apprehension. Putting things off generally leaves you crunched for time, which can exacerbate the problem for impatient writers.

Improvement depends on developing a willingness to learn new habits of writing: writing regularly, in moderate sessions, with slow, steady productivity.

The key to everything is PATIENCE. (After all), You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.

Arnold H. Glascow

6. Perfectionism

Being a perfectionist can impede progress. It disrupts momentum and because of its circular nature – going back over what has already been written down over and over – it is extremely time consuming. If you are a perfectionist, you likely face the worst blocking during your early drafts, due to the time spent rewriting. Your internal critic can often be traced back to experiences with important authority figures in your life, such as teachers and mentors.

This type of blocking is very difficult to give up since it’s hard to break the pattern of being a closet elitist. In order to do so, you need to implement some writing rules – such as, “I will write freely without any editing (not even to fix spelling mistakes) for at least 30 minutes.” Your mantra should be: Done is better than perfect. Once your first draft is done, you can unleash your perfectionist streak and edit, revise, and rewrite to your heart’s content.

7. Rules

The final form of writer’s block is manifested by those who are overly rigid in how they approach writing. If you find yourself thinking: “I can only write late at night, in my bedroom, with my laptop resting on my knees, headphones on and a specific playlist streaming“, then you might suffer from being blocked by your writing routines. Routines are usually helpful strategies to overcome other forms of writer’s block; but for you, they are overly rigid, inflexible, and stubborn. And thus, they interfere with efficient, painless writing. By focusing on choosing flexible and recursive approaches and pushing yourself to write under novel conditions, you can easily overcome this writing problem.

All right, now we’ve covered all 7 of the common types of writer’s block. By now you should have a good understanding of what it is that stands in your way from becoming comfortable with writing. In the next and final post of this series, we’ll tackle some amazingly simple strategies that will have you writing with ease in no time and clear the way for you to get things to DONE.

Find your spark and start a fire now!


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Writers’ block is not the problem. The problem is not writing.

In my previous post, I talked about how important it is to be a good writer and why it can affect your performance and chances of promotion on the job. I shared a link to a blocking questionnaire to help you learn which of the top seven writing problems affects you the most. If you haven’t taken the quiz yet, you can access it by clicking here. Head back over to my previous post and arm yourself with some knowledge first. Then come on back to the list that starts below and we’ll get to work. Over the next two posts, I’ll describe more about each of the 7 types of writer’s block and offer some targeted strategies that will help you slay your writing demons. In the final post in this series, I’ll talk about simple strategies to get you writing with ease.

Today I’ll cover the first 3 of the 7 most common types of blocking that may affect your writing.

1. Procrastination

As we learned in the first post, procrastination can be defined as a voluntary, irrational, delay in action despite the expectation of a potential negative outcome.  

A study conducted in 2007, led by scientist Piers Steel from Calgary Alberta, identified more than 500 articles in the scientific literature on procrastination. Using a meta-analytic approach, they looked for patterns within all of this data from the 500 studies to summarize the relationships among the factors identified in this literature and procrastination. Based on their synthesis of this evidence, they found four main types of factors that predict procrastination.

  • Expectancy = probability or chance of success/failure (i.e., what you expect to happen). High self confidence or optimism relates to high expectancy, while learned helplessness relates to low expectancy.
  • Value = the pleasantness of doing the task and the size of the reward
  • Impulsiveness = the tendency to lose focus or get distracted on a task
  • Delay = the time between now and the reward or completion of the task


Using expected utility theory, they created what they called “the procrastination equation” (you can read more about this work here), which can be used to understand what motivates people to act (or not):

Procrastination equation

So if you found yourself blocked by procrastination on Boice’s blocking questionnaire, then to take back control, you simply need to identify the main driver in this equation that is keeping you from being motivated to act and then address it.

Let’s see how this could play out with an example:

Suppose you have to write a report on a project at work. You know the project inside and out and are proud of all your achievements. You can (and do) talk about this project all day long to anyone that will lend an ear. But now you’ve been asked to write up a 30-page formal report for senior management. You have to follow a very dry (read: boring), structured reporting template that is a pain to work with due to all of the character limitations imposed on each section of the report. It’s a formatting nightmare to get the text to fit within the prescribed boxes and it’s a headache no one in the office enjoys tackling. Plus, you know that it’s all practically a waste of time – no one ever reads these reports anyway. Getting this report written will take up nearly all of your time this week, when you’ve also got a mountain of other work to complete and you’ve got to get it done by next Monday, before the next executive meeting.

If we look at the components of the procrastination equation: it’s fair to say that you have a high expectancy of success (you know the project really well and are proud of all that has been accomplished). However, the value of the task is pretty low (the report formatting is a nightmare and you know no one ever reads these reports). In terms of time, you have a lot of competing demands and little time available to get the work done. You’d really like to avoid doing this assignment but as far the denominator goes – you have little flexibility to improve things.

So to make this task more attractive and increase your motivation to act, your best bet is to focus on increasing the ‘value’ part of the equation. Perhaps you’re a word processing whiz and you can make the template more user friendly as you go, and maybe you can also work with your boss to make the report more “jazzy” – something that people will be inspired to read – which will get people talking about the project and the work you’ve done and will also make your boss look good to his bosses (a win/win solution).

2. Work apprehension

People who suffer from work apprehension find the act of writing, exhausting. It is typical of people who already write with ease, but find it unnaturally hard work and would rather do anything else to avoid it. Most will complain loudly to anyone who will listen about writing and make excuses to avoid getting started. These types of people make lists of activities that suddenly seem more important to do instead of writing – like cleaning the house, reorganizing their files, etc. I like to call this type of blocking: the “stinky shoe syndrome”.11When you have stinky shoes in the house, you do everything you can to hide them away where you don’t have to look at them (or smell them). You know the saying “out of sight, out of mind”. That pretty much sums up work apprehension in a nutshell.

If this describes you, the best advice I can give you is to get the hard stuff done when you are freshest. Tackle the jobs that you keep putting off on your “to do list” first. Set yourself a time limit (e.g., 30 minutes) that you will stick to for working on these unpleasant tasks each morning without interruptions.

And heed this advice from Mark Twain: “If you know you have to swallow a frog, swallow it first thing in the morning. If there are two frogs, swallow the big one first.”

3. Writing apprehension

This type of blocking can also be described as a “fear of failure”. For people with writing apprehension, they often feel nervous or anxious about writing. They experience an overwhelming fear of failure, or they are afraid of being identified as a “fraud”. This fear or anxiety can lead to panic and often parallels public speaking anxiety.

If this describes you, then the good news is this easiest type of blocking to overcome. Doing it transforms anxiety into enthusiasm. What you need to realize is that if you just get in there and start doing it, you’ll come to see that it’s not so bad after all.

The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear and get a record of successful experiences behind you.

William Jennings Bryan

OK. We’ve made it through the first 3 of the 7 common types of writer’s block. In my next post, we’ll take a look at the last 4 types that can cause problems for your writing. After that, we’ll start to turn things around by tackling some simple strategies that will have you writing with ease in no time and clear the way for you to get things to DONE.

Until then, find your spark and start a fire now!


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Do you put the PRO in Procrastination?

10Let’s start by defining the problem: What does it mean to procrastinate? Procrastination can be defined as a voluntary, irrational, delay in action despite the expectation of a potential negative outcome. While there are many different ways people procrastinate in life, I am going to focus on a really critical issue: how it affects our ability to communicate through writing.

When it comes to writing, have you ever thought any of the following:

“How do I get started?”
“What if my idea stinks?”
“But – it’s not ready to share until it’s perfect”, Or…
“Hmm, I’ll just do it tomorrow…”

If you can identify with any of these statements then you might be a PROcrastinator. This is the first post in a 4-part series that will help you learn more about what procrastination is (and what it isn’t). You’ll also learn what your biggest writing demons are and what you can do to begin writing with ease using several concrete strategies to help you get things to DONE.

Writing is an essential skill needed for so many areas in our lives today. It’s a necessary skill to master for success – in academics, in business, even in our social networks. Students need to write to learn, to take notes and to study. In professional settings, the ability to write well can factor into decisions about hiring and promotion. It brings rewards of visibility and portability. People need to write to think, to process and communicate their ideas and to integrate new ones (e.g., keeping idea journals, sending emails). And, writing offers a unique kind of self-education. But, for most people, writing is a skill that is seldom developed after high school.

Procrastination affects performance

The ability to write and to do it well is critical for success. Yet when it comes to writing,  many people suffer from writer’s’ block. Many studies show a significant negative relationship between measures of procrastination and measures of performance. If you’ve ever experienced writer’s’ block, then you know how painful it can be to break through and get work done.

Knowledge = Power

It turns out that there are many different types of writers’ block that cause people to procrastinate. And each of these challenges require different strategies to break through. The first step to taking back control of your writing is to understand why you are struggling to get work DONE. A great resource to help us move forward is a questionnaire designed by scientist Robert Boice in the early ‘90’s called “The Blocking Questionnaire”. It assesses your writing problems to identify the specific reasons why you are blocked. Armed with this information, you can then take explicit and specific action to solve your writing issues. I have taken this tool and made it available online. You can find at the following link:

In my next post, we’ll begin looking at the seven different types of blocking that can cause problems for your writing. But first, you need to know more about what exactly is causing issues for you. So, click on the link above, and answer the questions. It can take a while, so give yourself a good 15 minutes of uninterrupted time.  When you learn your results, take a screen capture, or print them out… the survey is designed to remain anonymous, so you won’t be able to return and see your results again later. To do so, you’ll need to start the whole questionnaire over again, which would be a major pain. Then join me next time as we start to tackle your personal writing demons and clear the way for you to get things to DONE.

Find your spark and start a fire now!


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