How to stop procrastination, build a productive daily routine + free up time in your creative business
I’m going out on a limb here.
You feel that 2019 is the year that you’ll finally get started on that creative project you’ve been dreaming about for so long. But putting the finishing touches on your big idea is difficult for you, because you feel like it could be just a little bit more perfect.
If this is ‘check, check, check’ for you, then you know what it’s like to be stuck in procrastination station. You’re not alone. I’ve been there.
Procrastination is the curse of the (online) creative. You create something with your heart and soul and then you have to put your creations out there for the world to see, judge + criticize. That stuff is scary. No wonder you procrastinate.
As a recovering perfectionist, one of the problems I ran into most is procrastination.
The perfectionist’s way of thinking is:
“Why start a project when I know I won’t be able to do it perfectly? Maybe I should wait a few months to get better at it first.”
“Nooooo, this project isn’t done yet and I can’t move on to the next thing, because there are so many details that aren’t perfect yet!”
I’m sure you recognize this.
[P.S. Are you tired of struggling with your need for constant perfection? Need a little help with overcoming your perfectionism, so that you can start making those big ideas you have for your creative business a reality? Then make sure to download my popular (not to mention FREE!) ‘4 steps to ditch perfect’ workbook, right here.]
The thing is, though, you don’t have to remain stuck in procrastination station.
That’s why I’m sharing these sure-fire tips that will help you stop procrastination, build a productive daily routine + free up time in your creative business.
A little disclaimer upfront, this isn’t going to be one of those blog posts that you skim through and move on without implementing any real changes.
No, you’ve got work to do, my friend. I’m going to leave you with a lot of homework. So, grab a journal or notebook to take notes, write down questions + reflect on your answers.
What we’ll go through in this in-depth guide:
Why mental blocks keep you in a state of being frazzled and frustrated instead of achieving the goals you’ve set for yourself
How you can turn procrastination into purposeful productivity
How to tap into your purpose to create a daily routine that gets you organized
The steps you need to take to build a daily routine and master a purposefully productive work and life, so that you can put an end to all that exhaustion and overwhelm
Plus, actionable tips on how to put your daily routine into practice, so that you no longer have to spend nights and weekends glued to your computer, jumping from task to task, watching as everyone else makes it look effortless
Sounds right up your alley? Great! Let’s get started.
Throughout this blog post we’ll be using my super serious + official (*cough cough*) STOP framework.
The STOP framework is made up of 4 steps:
/ 1 / Self-awareness
There are 3 types of procrastination: procrastinating in the beginning, the end, or the middle of the creative process.
3 types of procrastination
/ 1 / THE BEGINNING
If you’re the type of procrastinator that procrastinates in the beginning of a process or project, it means that you’re overwhelmed by the sheer scope of all the things you want to do and the endless list of tasks and to-do’s that need to get done.
You don’t know where to begin to get you started and you push tasks or projects off. You likely have a lot of dreams and ideas, but you fail to take action on them.
/ 2 / THE END
Society glorifies end results. You’ve probably internalized all of those cultural messages about how great it is to finish the race + cross the finish line.
That creates pressure. And pressure leads to procrastination.
If you’re the type to fuss over tiny details trying to make it perfect, worried about what people will think + afraid to press publish or declare a project finished, then you’re likely the type of procrastinator that procrastinates at the end of a process or project.
/ 3 / THE MIDDLE
The third type of procrastination is somewhat of a forgotten part when it comes to procrastination and that is the messy middle. The hard part between the “yeah, this is what I want to be doing!” and the pat on the back you receive when you finish a project.
Personally, I’m definitely this type of procrastinator. It’s the middle part of the creative process that’s hard for me, because the middle part is messy. The middle part is hard. It’s where the work gets done. It’s where difficult decisions need to be made. And for me, it’s oh so easy and alluring to shy away and not lean into the discomfort of that hard middle part.
Okay, over to you!
Which type of procrastinator are you? Do you procrastinate in the beginning or the end of project or are you more likely to procrastinate in the middle of a creative process?
Knowing this could make all the difference for you as you can foresee when the procrastination bug will strike and take precautions.
A heads up, it’s entirely possible that your procrastination type changes in different situations. You might be a productivity rockstar in your personal life, but when it comes to working with clients you’re the queen of procrastination. Or you might be rocking it on social media, but that big house renovation project doesn’t get done.
So, ask yourself…
Which type of procrastinator are you?
Are you always this type of procrastinator?
Or do you switch it up under different circumstances?
Before we go any further, I want to leave you with this. Because this is important to remember when your motivation is at zero.
Occasionally, you have off days, unproductive days, or days when you just want to watch Netflix and ignore everything on your to-do list. And then you feel bad for not being motivated and not getting anything done.
Is this you?
This is important for you to remember: it is literally not possible to be 100% motivated, productive + excited to work and do the things you need to do 5 (or 6 or 7) days a week, 52 weeks each year. It’s just not.
No matter how on top of it you are, there will still be days when you sit down to work + it just isn’t happening. Days when closing all your tabs and turning off all notifications on your phone and forcing yourself to focus still won’t get the job done.
Why? Because no matter what type of job they do, every single person in the history of the world has days when they just can’t make it work.
I still have days when creativity and motivation are just not happening + I work all day long to only end up with one thing finished. I have days where 95% of my to-do list feels like lifting an entire car over my head with one arm + that leaves me at my computer thinking “Ughhh I do not have time for this. Why can’t I get it together?”
This is my permission slip for you: cut yourself a little slack.
It’s okay, do it. It’s totally normal and, in fact, expected to have days where you cannot be as productive and creative as you want to be. You have to learn to be okay with that.
Everyone has their own set of distractions and certain tasks that knock them off track. Distractions come in the form of tasks that seem necessary and may be urgent, but they don’t really help you get to your goal.
Distractions are also things that take your mind off the task at hand. Distractions are everywhere. In a digital world where anything and everything is shared in an instant on social media, it’s no wonder you have a hard time staying focused + in your own lane.
Distractions aren’t all bad, though. They can be fun and enjoyable + sometimes necessary and functional. Where distractions take a turn toward the bad side is when they begin to run your schedule.
The first step in overcoming distractions is to recognize them.
Once you recognize those things that throw you off course, you’ll then be able to dodge them the next time they come your way. Take some time to think about what your distractions are and write them down.
These are just some examples of common distractions:
Questions from said family/children/friends/roommates/co-workers/clients
notifications and pop ups
Sights outside your window
What are your mental blocks? Can you write down a limiting belief or fearful thought you have that, in turn, leads to your procrastination?
What’s really holding you back from doing your work? The belief that you’re not up to the task or that you won’t be able to do things perfectly? Maybe the fear of how much time it will take to finish the work?
Make a list of the things that are your biggest distractions.
Brainstorm ways to lessen the impact of these distractions or prevent them.
/ 2 / Transformation
Productivity, getting things done, work/life balance… these are all hot topics these days.
You can’t listen to a podcast without this issue being addressed + there are lots of blog posts and pins on Pinterest promising you “the 5 quick ways to never procrastinate ever, ever again” or “get astounding results with these ultra useful apps”.
The thing is, though, that much of what’s being said about and written on the topic of work and life is utterly negative.
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Usually, the story goes something like this: a frenzied, stressed, overwhelmed female is doing her best to balance a career and a personal life. A breakdown happens, either a physical breakdown in the form of burnout or a mental breakdown where said female questions the mere foundations of her life. This leads to an epiphany that something must change and she goes on to find ways to become more productive and/or to scale back with hopes of reaching that elusive balance. She spends tons of time and money buying software or apps to help be more productive.
That’s the narrative we usually come across, isn’t it?
But like all popular narratives, this one has some holes in it:
Plenty of people are able to combine creative entrepreneurship, families, creative life + personal time just fine.
Balance is presented as yet another measuring stick, another thing for us creatives to measure up to. And productivity is presented as the tool to achieve that balance. I don’t have to tell you that the message of “if only I had balance in my life, then I’d be happy and successful” is a dangerous one.
Productivity is being presented as synonymous with busy. For a lot of people, being productive means working more, hustling harder + getting much more things done than you normally would.
Through this blog post I want to reframe the way you think about productivity. And I’m going to present you with a framework of how to do that.
I’ve created this definition of a new kind of productivity:
A day where you got a lot of work done but there was no time for self-care is not a productive day.
A day where you got a lot of work done but you didn’t make time for your relationships is not a productive day.
A day where you got a lot of work done but you didn’t fuel your creative fire is not a productive day.
A day where you got a lot of work done but you spend the majority of your time doing things to please others or to win approval is not a productive day.
The productivity trap
Believe me, I fell for the productivity trap too. At times, I found it difficult to find the motivation to even get started tackling the things on my ever-growing to-do list. I was so overwhelmed just by thinking about what I had to do that I started to make excuses as to why I couldn’t do it. I had trouble staying on top of things. Sometimes I missed the deadline for doing the things that I wanted to get done and other times I lost an entire day doing the things that weren’t really important.
I was so busy with no results to show for it. And for the longest time I thought that apps, hacks + courses were the answer.
But then I realized something. I was looking to others to help me solve my problem rather tackling the problem myself. I needed to change my perspective about what productivity was + how it could help me.
That led me to create my own definition of productivity and a very specific process for figuring out how I want to spend my day and what I want to work on.
‘Traditional’ productivity is failing you because it leads to you feeling burned out, feeling guilty for taking time off to enjoy life + having to deal with your self-worth hitting new lows.
But, remember, your self-worth isn’t based on how hard you hustle. Productivity is only valuable when paired with self-care, fulfillment + purpose.
What feelings are important to you?
What lights you up and gives you joy?
Which areas of your life are and aren’t important right now?
What are non-negotiables in your life?
What does success mean to you?
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/ 3 / Organization
Step 3 is all about getting organized in your daily working life. The way to do that is through time management.
Can I let you in on a little secret, though? Time management isn’t actually about time. Shocker!
It’s about something else: priority management + self-management.
Priority management is what you’ve just worked through in step 2 where we talked about purposeful productivity. And we’ve talked about self-management in step 1, where you’ve worked through motivation + mental blocks like distractions.
What we can talk about when it comes to time, it’s actually crucial, is this:
Tracking your time to see what you spend your time on
Getting clear about what your biggest time wasters throughout the day are
First, let’s get some clarity on how much time you’re spending on which activities throughout the week.
My advice is to track your time for at least two weeks.
Write down in a notebook, in 15- or maybe 30-minute increments, what you’ve spent your time doing. Or use a digital tool like Toggl.
I’ve been using Toggl on a daily basis for about 3 years now + it’s helped me gain so much insight into what I truly spend my time on and what some of my biggest time wasters are. Toggl is a free tool and it also comes with an app that you can download and use on your phone, so that you can keep the timer running + stay on top of your time throughout the day.
Another great free resource and app is Rescuetime. It runs securely in the background on your computer or mobile device + tracks time spent on applications and websites. It then gives you a detailed report based on your activity, so that you have an accurate picture of your ‘digital’ day, so to speak.
There are plenty of ways you waste the time you already have on a daily basis. Here are just some of them.
Not using a tool or planner to stay on top of your routine and to-dos. Being organized is one of the absolute best ways to save yourself time on a daily basis.
Not being fully present in the moment. You’re more likely to be distracted and work less efficiently.
Struggling to make decisions. It can be oh so easy to over-analyze every little detail of that thing you’re working on.
Multitasking. I get it, it’s hard to focus on only one thing at a time. But it can be really hard to get much of anything done when you’re bouncing around from one task to the next + you aren’t giving anything your complete attention.
Not automating things that can be automated. Please, make your life easier.
Watching too much tv. Instead of watching hours of tv every night, try reading a great book that captures your attention in the same way that tv does.
Constantly checking social media. Are you someone that is constantly refreshing your Facebook or Instagram feeds looking for the latest updates? Social media can be a huge time suck if you let it be.
Constantly checking your email. You’re likely spending way too much of your day in your inbox. While it’s important to be responsive with emails, especially business-related ones, it isn’t necessary to be checking your inbox 10 to 15 times per day.
Not putting things back where they belong. When you get home from a long day, it’s easy to take the lazy route and toss your coat over a chair, drop your keys on a random table + kick off your shoes and leave them whenever they may land. If you take an extra minute or two to put these items where they belong, you’ll likely save yourself even more time when you’re trying to look for them the next time you leave the house.
Clutter. If you find yourself constantly sorting through clutter to find things, then it’s time to get rid of some of those things.
Spending time with toxic people or people you don’t even like. Don’t, just don’t.
Not having a routine in place. Having a routine in place for your day helps to put your brain on auto-pilot so that you don’t have to put so much energy into figuring out ‘what comes next’.
These are just some examples of big time wasters.
What are your biggest time wasters throughout the day?
Where do you ‘lose’ time?
What strategies can you implement to counteract them?
/ 4 / Practice
The fourth and final step in the STOP framework is to use your calendar, journal and/or Toggl report + start building your daily routine and put it into practice.
A word on routines
Most of us have a tendency to turn up our nose at the word ‘routine’, because we think routine equals boring.
I’m convinced that when you put your daily routine into place and you try out, you’ll see just how much freedom it brings.
You’ll see how much easier and lighter your day is, when you no longer have to spend so much time thinking about what is important, what to do, when to do it and for how long. You’ll see how exhausting it is to have to do that every single day.
The fact that a routine brings freedom might sound like somewhat of contradiction to you. But here’s what creating a daily routine will do for you:
It eliminates noise
It stops you wasting time
It stops you from doing things that aren’t a priority
It helps you create more space to enjoy your life
It prevents you from having decision fatigue
It stops you from being distracted when the pull of non-priorities overpowers you
Building your daily routine
I want you to know that there’s no right routine or schedule. If you’re a morning person, don’t force yourself to be productive at night. And vice versa, don’t schedule to-do’s that require a lot from you in the morning, if you’re a night person. When you find that you do your best work somewhere between 12 and 2pm, schedule an early lunch break and work from 12 to 2pm.
Books and programs try to make you believe there’s only one right way to do things: that if you make better use of your mornings you’ll be more productive.
I don’t buy into that. I believe every person is different. Each one of us online creative folks has different priorities, different personalities, different talents, different ways of doing things, different lives.
And that means there is no one, right, perfect, one-size-fits-all, be all and end all routine. I want you to build on *your* strengths to create the right routine for *you*.
Having said that, it’s now time to start building an intentional daily routine for yourself.
Gather up all of the work you did + the notes you took in step 1 through 3.
Keep your calendar, journal, notebook and/or Toggl report close at hand.
Define your ideal, intentional + productive work day, both in time and priorities.
See if you can batch or combine tasks throughout the day and week to build a routine that you can implement on a daily or weekly basis.
Putting your daily routine into practice
When it comes to putting your daily routine into practice, here a few words of wisdom.
Your routine is not something you’ve set and that you now have to follow for all eternity. Your routine is a living + breathing thing. In the beginning, after working with your new, daily routine, you’ll might find you have to make a few changes. That’s okay.
Priorities change. It happens. So make sure to check back in with yourself every once in awhile, I suggest every quarter, to see if your routine needs a few tweaks to better fit your needs.
Most of the time your routine and, as a result, your work and life just flows. But sometimes it doesn’t. Don’t take that as a sign to throw your routine out of the window. Just sit with it + do some soul searching. It could be that some changes need to be made to your routine, but more likely it’s something else in your life that’s going on.
Be flexible. There are weeks when I stick to my schedule to a T, but there are also weeks when I don’t. I might take a Friday afternoon off, or do marketing-related work in the morning instead of my creative work, or I run an errand in the afternoon. Again, that’s okay.
When you find it difficult to add enough flexibility to your routine to get work done but also take advantage of the freedom that your routine brings, I suggest starting with small things. Take an afternoon walk or go grocery shopping in the middle of the day instead of during your lunch break.
When it comes to productivity and a daily routine, we all have something we feel is holding us back.
“But… I have my children to look after all day so I can’t stick to a routine. But… I run a business and need to make money so I don’t have time for self care and breaks. But… my partner works irregular hours so I have to stick to his or her schedule.”
This is also when we start comparing: “Of course you can be productive, you don’t have children!”
We all go through this. There’s no shame in sometimes feeling like this. When you’re in that space, it’s time to take back your power, your agency + your accountability. You’re in charge of you, your day, your routine.
Holy moly, that was a *lot* of information and action steps!
What I want you to do is this: set aside one hour in your calendar or planner this week to start working through the 4 steps to stop procrastination + start building a productive daily routine.
Don’t put this off. Put it in your calendar, right now, right this second. And if you need a little extra support and accountability along the way, I’m your girl.
You’ve got this, my sweet friend. I know getting to the roots of your procrastination issues + actually do the work to make your big ideas a reality can be scary, but I know you have it in you to thrive in your creative business (and personal life too!).
If you haven’t yet, make sure to grab my “4 steps to ditch perfect” workbook, a step-by-step guide to tackling perfectionism and other perfectionism-related issues + start making big things happen in your creative business.
LET ME KNOW: WHAT DOES YOUR NEW DAILY ROUTINE LOOK LIKE?
Hey, Wendy here!
As a perfectionism coach, I help online creatives #ditchperfect, overcome their perfectionism + take action on the big ideas they have for their business. Let’s work together and make those ideas happen.