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This morning was rough.
Actually, it started off beautifully. My morning self-care routine is solid these days. My magical morning of journaling, meditation, affirmations, and a long sunrise walk is the bedrock on which I build a life of meaning.
I’m aware that’s an obnoxious #humblebrag, but this routine was hard won. It took over three years to craft into an automatic ritual. Yeah, the “28 days” theory is total caca.
Most days, my morning routine sets me up nicely for a few hours of solid writing. I feel focused, calm, and ready to face the blank page with courage.
Today, however, was rough. For no particular reason other than it’s Friday, and my energy reserves are on E after a long week.
I sat down at my dedicated writing time at 8 a.m. and opened a blank Google doc. Instead of typing, guess what I did?
Yup, opened Facebook in a new tab. 🙄
I let that sneaky voice trick me. She likes to whisper, “You’ve got plenty of time! Why not see what’s happenin’ on the socialz?”
Has this happened to you? You click over to Instagram or Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn thinking, “I’ll just check.”
One hour later, you’ve scrolled through your entire feed, had a long conversation with a good friend via Messenger, and liked a dozen or so puppy videos.
Yes, I literally spent an hour on Facebook when I should have been writing. Yuck!
At this point, I had two options:
Say, “Welp, I guess I’m not feeling it today” and quit.
Forgive myself for procrastinating, turn on my social media blocker, and get to work.
You’re reading this post, so you know I chose option 2.
But two-years-ago-Renee? She would have chosen option 1. She would’ve beat herself up, called herself lazy, and then binged on Panera’s beastly sourdough bread bowl and creamy tomato soup.
2019 Renee knows that sometimes we get distracted. When we’re pushing really hard, struggling with anxiety, or simply not getting enough sleep, it’s really hard to exercise willpower. And that is why the bedrock of my morning routine is so critical.
My morning routine isn’t a magic bullet that makes me a fearless, distraction-free writer. But this is what it does:
Builds my courage muscle
Grounds me in the present moment
Lets me practice self-compassion
Builds my grit muscle (aka resilience)
Brings awareness to negative self-talk
Reminds me I can always begin again
To me, those truths are more important than perfection.
Do distraction and procrastination pull you away from writing?
If so, congrats! You’re normal.
If you’re struggling with distraction and you’re unable to start or finish your projects, just hear me out for a second:
You are NOT lazy.
You’re probably tired. And stressed. And maybe burnt out.
And you’re scared.
Spoiler alert: so are the rest of us.
So you have my permission––nay, my COMMAND––to stop beating yourself up for not writing. Join me in beginning again, friend.
You have the support and courage of every writer who’s come before you. That’s a lot of life force!
Now that you’ve stopped the self-crucifixion, here’s a deceptively simple and easy trick to reduce procrastination, manage distractions, and get the work done:
Own Your Autonomy to Stop Procrastinating
Want to 10X your drive to write? Research shows that “feeling in control” is a critical element to intrinsic motivation.
I learned this extremely simple language shift from Dr. Neil Fiore’s book, The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play. It’s worked miracles in my personal, professional, and writing life.
It’s so simple you won’t believe me, but give it a go!
Step 1: In your daily speech and self-talk, notice how often you use the words:
e.g. I have to finish my short story today.
e.g. I need to make that doctor’s appointment.
e.g. I should catch up with my best friend this week.
I should write, but I’m too busy.
According to Dr. Fiore, these words trigger an internal conflict. “I have to, etc.” implies a lack of choice. The subconscious believes it’s out of control.
So how does the childlike subconscious respond? By rebelling. All of a sudden, Facebook looks very appealing. On our deepest level, we don’t want to be told what to do, so our brain fights back by giving into distraction.
Of course, life comes with obligations. But every action we take––even actions we don’t like––is a choice between one set of consequences or another. We can’t control the world, but we can control how we move through it.
Own your autonomy and choose! Even when the choices aren’t pleasurable.
Simply notice when you’re using restrictive words. Once you notice, make simple shifts to help the baby brain feel more in control.
Have to → Choose to / Want to
Should → Choose to / Want to
Need to → Choose to / Want to
But → And
I want to finish my short story today.
I choose to make a doctor’s appointment today.
I want to catch up with my best friend next week.
I want to write and I’m very busy.
See how that feels different?
Don’t beat yourself up when you use restrictive language. Just notice it. Eventually, you’ll find yourself automatically making that simple swap.
You’ve got this. The only thing holding you back is fear.
Want to get to the bottom of that fear? Become a LitHabits VIP and download the Distraction Dynamite worksheet so you can get to the bottom of what’s really distracting you and bounce back to writing.
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References & Resources
Fiore, Niel. The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play. Penguin, 2007.