*This is an assignment from Learning How to Learn online course*
Writing a blog post — isn’t it just trivial?
One thing that I started learning recently is blogging, and creating new posts is both my blessing and my nightmare since then.
It sounds pretty simple — you have an idea, you write down all your thoughts on the matter and post it for the world to see.
Except you don’t.
You want to write a post, and you go around procrastinating.
You think you have nothing to say and that people won’t read it. You are afraid you can’t make it interesting enough. You think it can take a lot of time to write and you’re afraid of committing.
Like it was difficult to start writing this post. Too broad a subject to choose from. Too many questions to resolve before it can be done.
I decided it’ll be useful to create a cheat-sheet, an instruction for myself to beat those dark times and still write stuff that interests me. So here it goes.
To my mind, one of the most effective tools for tackling procrastination is the Pomodoro technique. You just set a timer to 25 minutes and write as much as you can in this time slot.
It shouldn’t be perfect at all. In fact, you don’t focus on the result of your writing, cause precisely this makes you scared and procrastinating, but instead you focus on the writing process. All you need to do is type the words and connect them in a somewhat meaningful way for 25 minutes.
No interruptions, even if you want to add a photo or reference to your text, you can do it later. Now you are just spilling all you have and let it be imperfect, clumsy and erroneous. You can always edit the wrong text, but you can’t edit an empty page.
The chances are, after first Pomodoro is over, you get in the flow and want to continue writing. It’s up to you, but I choose to continue most of the time, cause it’s too much hassle to get yourself into this flow mode, so I don’t want to waste the precious opportunity to get the result out. But if you feel like taking a break, do it for 5 minutes, and then get back to work for another 25.
Okay you got it, the text is out there, what’s next? Buckle down and go edit it to the smallest detail? Not so fast.
Now that the ideas are still fresh in your mind, but perhaps too fresh to see their faults, go take a bigger break. Do something totally different, that still engages your brain, or just exercise. I personally like going for a run, that helps clear my mind and look at the text from a fresh perspective afterwards.
Besides, switching away from your main task, which is writing, switches on the diffused mode of thinking, your mind can play with ideas in the background while you do something else, and it’ll give you a better solution that you couldn’t even think of before.
I want to take this moment of switch and recommend you a book called Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes. It is exactly what it promises to be — a journey into our mind’s work and a set of rules and principles that can help it work more effectively (with some fascinating examples of Holmesian thinking). I found quite a lot of correlations between the Learning How to Learn online course and the book, so I guess it can be helpful for you too.
Back from your run, playing violin and whatever else, you get into proofreading
By the way, did you remember to read your text out loud? This way you can catch such things as word repetition, missed logical connections and less than perfect euphony. Reading the post from the end till the beginning helps find errors in words and missing punctuation.
Text is edited and reading smoothly. Are we done?
Not so fast. You probably need to add some pictures, links and references there, as well as do the final formatting.
And here I procrastinate like a pro. The text can sit in “almost done” state for days. Just because I don’t know where to start. Do you see the solution here?
Yeah, it’s having a clear list of things to do, as specific as possible.
For example, “finish the post” is a bad way to formulate task. It is hardly measurable, unclear and intimidating. After all, the post is never good enough, so can you even finish editing it?
What about “add link to the visa page”. Easy, huh? Measurable, small and trivial. And that’s the way I crawl through it.
I trick myself into work by thinking “I will do just this one little thing, just upload a photo, just proofread a few lines of text.” Before I know it, I am immersed in the task and it doesn’t seem that hard anymore.
And the last extremely powerful tool is showing my work to someone. Having just one more person read it already feels like a shared responsibility. They can tell me if it’s pure nonsense, or if there are small errors that slipped through the cracks.
And they can be the ones urging “push the Publish button! it’s ready!”
And so you push it.