#185: How to Overcome Procrastination as a Writer

Here’s a scenario for you: You have a client deliverable that’s due in three days.

You were given the project two weeks ago. But you haven’t dived into it yet.

Yes, you’ve been busy.

But in truth, if this was something you really wanted to do, you would have found time to do it.

But for whatever reason, you haven’t.

So what happens next?

You work like crazy for the next three days. You pull a couple of late nights — or even an all-nighter!

This is a scenario most of us can relate to.

But it’s no way to live! It’s not fun.

And as a freelance writer, you thought you’d signed up for something different.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way.

In today’s podcast episode, I talk about why procrastination is a serious problem (it’s not just about all-nighters!) and what you can do turn things around.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

The Problem With Procrastination

Whether you recognize it or not, procrastination is a barrier to your progress.

It creates stress and hampers your creativity. It can lead to feelings of shame and guilt. And it feeds your imposter syndrome.

No one wants to admit they procrastinate. If you do, people will think you don’t have your act together. They’ll think you’re not a real pro.

But here’s the truth: Everyone procrastinates — at least to some degree.

If they say they don’t, they’re either lying or in self-denial.

Procrastination is a natural human condition. What you need to do is find a way to deal with it, instead of just feeling bad about it.

Everyone procrastinates! So find a way to deal with it.

Identify the Core Reason Why You’re Procrastinating

Much of my thinking on this topic comes from Dean Jackson and Dan Sullivan (of Strategic Coach).

They’ve helped me understand that procrastination can be a good thing if it forces you to dig deeper and find core reasons behind your procrastination.

Here are some of the most common core reasons:

1. Lack of clarity

You’re not sure what you need to do to complete the task or move it forward. You don’t know how to tackle it or find the right info. You don’t know what you want to accomplish.

Our “lizard brain” is designed to eat, conserve energy and reproduce. When something feels like it’s going to take a lot of brain power to figure out, we resist. We want to conserve energy. So we push it off.

Our “lizard brain” wants to conserve energy and will often resist making hard decisions.

2. Lack of confidence

You’re not sure if you have what it takes to pull it off. You worry that you don’t think you have the necessary skills, information, etc. You don’t feel ready.

3. Lack of skill or capability

You don’t have the skills necessary to get it done based on what the client wants or expects.

4. Overwhelm

You’re so overwhelmed, you don’t know where to start. So instead of starting somewhere, you don’t start at all.

It’s easier for your brain to shut down than to make some decisions.

5. Time management

You try to pack too much into a day or week. You can’t possibly get it done.

You’re either being unrealistic — or you’re not being a good manager of your time and resources.

6. Perceived amount of energy required to get it done

You feel like you don’t have enough energy right now to get the task done, so you put it off for later.

7. The task falls outside your zone of genius or zone of excellence

This idea is from the book The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks.

Tasks that lie outside our zone of genius or zone of excellence bore us and drain our energy. We resist doing them.

Use a “Gateway Action”

Once you know what’s behind your procrastination, you can use a gateway action to get you going.

A gateway action is an action that sends you down the path of taking other actions that get you closer to completing the task.

A gateway action should:

  • Take 10 minutes or less to complete
  • Be simple
  • Feel attractive (i.e. you don’t mind doing it)


  • Take 10 minutes to brainstorm. You have a white paper to write, but you keep putting it off because you’re worried that you don’t know how to do it. You happen to enjoy brainstorming. Spend 10 minutes brainstorming (or mind mapping or outlining) as a gateway act to get you started.
  • Read the first article. You have a bunch of research to get through, but you feel like it’s going to take too much energy to get through it all. Pick a short article off the top of the pile and commit to quickly reading it.
  • Make a quick call. You have a project you’ve been putting off because you don’t have clarity on what to do. Make a quick call to the client to get the clarity you need.
  • Delegate the task. You’re feeling overwhelmed. You ask a team member or family member to take it off your plate.
  • Take 10 minutes to review what you have. You started a project but then had to put it aside to work on something else. Now you’re struggling to get back into it. Take 10 minutes to see where you’re at. Jot down a few bullet points on what to do next.

Don’t Let Procrastination Hold You Back!

Steps to dealing with procrastination:

First, admit that everyone procrastinates.

Second, identify the core reason behind your procrastination.

Third, identify a gateway action that you can take to get going on the task.

Fourth, continue to take gateway actions to build momentum and keep going.

By the way … whenever you’re ready, here are 4 ways I can help you grow your freelance business:

1.  Grab a free copy of my book for ESTABLISHED writers/copywriters.

You’ll discover how to quickly and predictably reawaken dead leads, generate new client opportunities and convert not-yet-ready prospects into freelance writing clients. — Click Here

2.  Download a free copy of my new book for writers who are NEW to freelancing.

I’ll show you the 3 things you need to do to get your business off the ground safely and land your first paying client faster.  — Click Here

3.  Join my implementation program and be a case study.

I’m putting together a new implementation group this month. If you’d like to work with me to grow your income quickly with better clients (and become one of my new success stories). Just email me at [email protected] and put “Case Study” in the subject line.

4.  Get a 1:1 strategy call with me.

Are you a 6-figure writer who’s trying to earn more in less time with less stress? Let’s jump on a quick call and brainstorm some ideas for getting you there. Just email me at [email protected] and put “Brainstorm” in the subject line.