How to Beat Procrastination As a Writer (So You Don’t Fail)

Do you slack at your job?

Workplace procrastination is a real thing, but so is cyberslacking or soldiering when you work from home.

The perpetual state of trying to play catch-up with freelance writing deadlines and staying ahead of your workload causes a lot of procrastination.

How to Beat Procrastination As a Writer (So You Don’t Fail)

And this results in things getting overwhelming, making it easy to slow down your productivity and lose sight of the big picture.

This feeling of being overwhelmed sometimes makes your brain go, “This is too much. I can’t do this. I’ll do it tomorrow!”

Then you find yourself working all hours of the day in a constant state of stress trying to get your writing assignments done on time – and this usually happens at the last minute.

It really sucks the joy out of writing, doesn’t it?

And for me, it’s still a HUGE issue. It’s my personality – and it might be yours too – to wait until the last moment and fight my deadlines.

That’s why I tell my course students to set internal deadlines. If I don’t do that, I will stress about that final deadline.

Writer procrastination has plagued me all my life but I’m still a successful writer.

You’re not only pressuring yourself to complete writing projects on time, but you’ve lost that spark that prompted you to become a freelance writer in the first place.

This writer procrastination can definitely hurt your freelance writing job by either killing your productivity and preventing you from delivering on time or killing your drive to continue growing your business.

What I learned very quickly in the beginning was that, in order to be a successful freelance writer, I had to develop self-control and time management skills.

In doing so, I was able to beat procrastination and increase my productivity levels so that I could build a work-at-home writing business as a stay-at-home mom.

I definitely learned a lot along the way so I want to share with you some proven tips to help you beat procrastination with your new or next freelance writing job.

10 Tips for Procrastination as a Writer

It’s summer when I’m writing this and I don’t know about you but that’s when procrastination hits me the hardest. Beating writer procrastination really comes to having a routine and holding yourself accountable.

Try these things to cure procrastination as a writer.

1. Breakdown Your Tasks & Outline Your Work

One thing I started doing was breaking down my tasks.

This one thing can alleviate the dooming deadline stress you might get about your first freelance writing client.

Otherwise, I was mentally tossing big projects into the “too-hard” pile and avoiding doing the work – focusing instead on the smaller projects that weren’t as hard.

However, when I started breaking down big projects into bite-sized pieces, I felt like I was accomplishing more and procrastinating less.

For example, if you are tasked with writing a huge blog post, start by writing out the outline using headings. Then fill in the content with researched information, finishing off with including what you already know.

This is essential for long-form content. I have to first write the outline to know what I’m writing about and then I can research later.

Here’s a current example of a new BIG blog post and my outline. I add URLS so I can look at these sites later and write about them.

This way, you’re sandwiching the hardest part of the task (researching) in between relatively easier tasks.

You can even take breaks between tasks and work on other projects – I’ll go into more detail on these two tips in this list!

2. It’s Okay to Stop Writing

While you may be sitting at a desk in front of a computer to complete your freelance writing work, that doesn’t mean the job isn’t exerting!

Sure, you’re not working up a sweat but your brain is definitely doing some heavy lifting.

Have you ever found yourself starting strong on a project only to feel your brain going to mush partway through?

Once your brain checks out, it’s easy to throw the project aside and avoid getting back to it.

To beat writer procrastination, you need to give your head a break.

A cool time management technique that can help you with this, and improve your productivity, is called the “Pomodoro Technique”.

Here’s how it works:

  • Work uninterrupted for 20-25 minutes
  • Take a 5-10 minute break
  • Work uninterrupted again for 20-25 minutes

After repeating this cycle, known as a “Pomodoro,” four times, take a longer break of around 25 minutes.

The reason why this technique works is it creates a sense of urgency (not panic!).

Rather than feeling like you have all day to finish your writing, you know you only have a 25-minute chunk to get stuff done.

Also, the breaks help avoid feelings of overwhelm and burnout so you go back to your work with a refreshed brain!

During your breaks you can stand up, exercise, eat or do a chore. The point is to move around, because as freelance writers, we sit too much in a day and it’s ruining our health.

3. Capitalize on Your Zone of Genius

Working at home makes it so easy just to roll out of bed whenever (unless you have kids!) and get to writing when you “feel” like it.

In order to beat procrastination and make the most of your day, you have to capitalize on your zone of genius.

Start by getting up at the same time every morning and getting dressed for work.

It may be tempting to hit the keyboard wearing your jammies but getting dressed helps put you in the mindset of working.

Try to start working at the same time every day and give yourself an end-time. Use the Pomodoro Technique I mentioned above to give your day some structure and ensure that you are getting enough breaks.

However, you will have days where you need some extra motivation to get into the writing zone!

Personally, I like to pump myself up with some music before I start work and even while I’m writing.

Upbeat tunes are a great way to get you motivated for the day while mellow music is perfect for writing and keeping you focused.

Every freelance writer is different, so how you get into the zone will be unique to you. But as soon as you find a way to get into the right mindset for the day, you’ll find yourself easily kicking procrastination to the curb!

4. Cycle Through Writing Projects

I mentioned before about breaking down your projects into smaller tasks. If you find you have a lot of projects on the table, you can break them all down and cycle through each one.

For instance, I run more than just this blog.

I also write content for my blog TwinsMommy as well as FreelancerFAQ and Medium. Along with this, I write emails for my subscribers and handle work from clients as well!

I find if I get too focused on one site or project, I waste way too much time and procrastinate on the others. However, by cycling through all of my projects, my brain never gets bored of the content I’m writing.

Also, every time I come back to a task, I find I can look at it with a fresh perspective.

This is probably why I’ve been freelancing for many years. The different blogs and different topics help make my writing enjoyable and gives me creativity for when I do write for my clients.

If you are just starting as a freelance writer, this can seem like a lot of juggling! Trust me when I say that, over time, cycling through your projects will get easier.

Start on Medium and write about passion topics like psychology, relationships, medication or whatever you want and flex your writing skills.

5. Skip Challenging Tasks and Come Back to Them

There’s nothing that screams, “Let’s procrastinate!” like running into a challenging task or part of a freelance writing project.

I’m sure some of you have had to research or fact check something and found yourself down a rabbit hole of internet information.

What was going to be a quick Google search now has you delving into unrelated topics and articles.

If you find you’re in the writing groove yet have hit a challenging section of your task, it’s okay to skip over it and come back to it later.

You can leave a “XXX” in your document and highlight it before you continue writing. When you’re done writing the content you can, go back and finish up those difficult sections.

This helps keep your writing momentum going and avoids distractions that will lead to procrastination!

Plus, it’s okay if the first draft of your work is not perfect. Sometimes it saves time to bang out a rough draft and go back and fix it later.

6. Avoid Distractions

How many times have you paused during writing to think about something and heard Facebook calling your name?

Or, how many times have friends and families misconstrued the fact that you work at home with being readily available throughout the day?

Distractions can happen within and without.

You may find yourself turning your attention to calls and text messages or thinking about an email you need to send or an Instagram post you forgot to comment on.

To avoid those nagging thoughts telling you to put away your work and complete other tasks, simply write down what you need on a piece of paper.

When you have a break, or when you have completed your freelance writing work, you can start working on your to-do list.

You can also turn off email and social media notifications on your phone to avoid the call of procrastination while you’re trying to be productive.

And let family and friends know what your working hours are and encourage them not to contact you during this time – unless there is an emergency.

Also, there are a lot of cool apps out there that will help you avoid distractions.

One I just learned about is called Forest and, for every 30 minutes of work you do, a “tree” grows. Your goal is to grow a whole forest of trees (and you will also help in planting REAL trees by using this app).

The most important part of avoiding distractions is determining what your distractions are and find ways to eliminate them.

7. Don’t Try to Be Perfect

Perfectionism is a productivity killer.

The more you try to be perfect and fail (because it’s impossible), the more likely you are to throw your hands up in the air and give up on a project.

Trying to be perfect is a trap that can actually stunt your freelance writing career!

The more you focus on producing a perfect piece of content for a client, the longer it takes and the less work you will be able to take on.

Instead of trying to be a perfect freelance writer, focus on the important aspects of good content: Relevant and accurate information, good spelling and grammar, good word flow, etc.

Don’t worry if a client offers constructive criticism on your work. Just use it as a learning experience!

No freelance writer gets it right in the beginning.

Sometimes I reread some of my old work and fight the urge to cringe.

But I look at where I was and where I’ve ended up and my journey had nothing to do with trying to be “perfect” – I simply focused on being better and improving!

8. Track Your Time

One of the most overwhelming aspects of being a freelance writer is getting bombarded with projects and having no idea how to organize your time.

Can you get this article written by Friday? Do you have time to take on a few more?

Plus, it’s easy to procrastinate and avoid a task just because you think it’s going to take up a huge chunk of your time.

Or, you may think an assignment is going to be easy to complete and you put it off – only to find out it’s going to take more time than you thought. You feel demoralized and avoid doing it altogether.

As you gain more experience as a freelance writer, you’ll be able to better gauge how long a project will take you.

However, it doesn’t hurt to actually time yourself to see how long it takes you to complete an assignment.

While this will never give you an accurate timeframe, it can give you a better idea of how long a project will take.

For instance, if you find yourself writing a lot of 2,000-word articles, time yourself and see how long it takes to write one.

Then you can look at the due dates and get a better sense of how much time you will need to complete one.

9. Join a Writer’s Group

Even the most seasoned freelance writers need some accountability from time to time to stay on track and beat procrastination.

You are more likely to follow through and stay on track when you have someone you are accountable to.

There are many wonderful writer’s groups out there where you can find an accountability partner.

And, if you don’t really want to work one-on-one with someone, you can always post your achievements to stay motivated or ask for advice when you feel overwhelmed.

My course Writeto1K not only teaches you how to get started as a freelance writer and earn $1000 in your first month, but it also provides access to an amazing Facebook group full of supportive freelance writers from all walks of life!

In freelance writing, getting jobs can be competitive but the community is anything but.

Maybe because many freelance writers have had to build their business from the ground up, they are excited to share their knowledge with beginners.

No matter the reasons, finding a supportive writing group could be the key to beating procrastination!

10. Create a Writing Schedule

When you don’t have any structure when it comes to what you have to write and when it is due, it’s easy to put off your work or waste your workday.

This is why it’s so important to have a writing schedule!

When you can actually see what you have to work on and when it has to be completed, it’s easier to stay on task and track your progress.

I know some freelance writers who use an old-fashioned paper planner to track their tasks. Myself, I love writing things down on a list so I can feel accomplished while I check things off.

I use the Productivity Planner for Freelance Writers where I can keep track of my clients, pitches, invoices, and goals as well as outline my client pieces in the article planner.

How to Beat Procrastination for Freelance Writers!

There you have it!

Ten awesome tips to help you beat procrastination and build a successful freelance writing career.

The key to avoiding procrastination is to keep yourself focused and in the writing groove so you don’t get overwhelmed and tempted to shove work aside.

Every freelance writer has their own unique system and ways to stay productive and increase their earnings! Hopefully, these tips will help you find yours.

Now it’s your turn: How do you beat procrastination?

Share your ideas with us in the comments below!

Please pin me!

Hi I'm Elna and I'm a freelance writer and mom blogger. I help people just like you become a profitable freelance writer. Within 6 months of starting my freelance writing business from scratch I was able to earn a full-time living as a part-time freelance writer while taking care of my twin toddlers. Check out my free email course Get Paid to Write Online and learn the steps you need to take to be a freelance writer.

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Hello Elna, It was like you had me in mind while writing this article. By the way, I love the way your blog looks. This is awesome. I easily get stuck when I am faced with either an unpleasant task like writing on a topic I find difficult, or installing a new website plugin. My first response is to run away. Thankfully, there are social media platforms to welcome me or I get sucked in a web of information on Google. I learned a lot from this. And my biggest take home is the use of the Forest app. I am going to try that out and see how it works. Cheers.Reply to Toby
Hey Toby, Thanks so much! I am the same with topics I don’t like or take too long to write. I always have issues with long list posts and have to break up that post into small parts (1-5, 5-10, etc..). Thanks for stopping by!Reply to Elna
Great information, so dead on. I think…um, yeah, thinking for too long will make your brain try to find it’s own shut off valve. I start my day with the thought that I am responsible, professional, I want to maintain a good reputation, and, I am glad writing is on the day’s agenda. My neck is not being breathed down upon by some unthankful boss. I can take a break whenever I want but, if I do it too much or too often, I will go to bed with work in my head and wake up thinking about work that is needing done. Why put myself under unnecessary stress.Reply to Kim
Hi Kim, Yes, that’s right! I’m so glad you found value with this post about beating procrastination. It’s hard and for me it’s a challenge right now. I’m a little better since I have a temporary work space now! Yay! But, it will still be a few weeks until I’m in my true office and I can really focus and work. For now, I have to just free write and write for fun! Thanks again!Reply to Elna