Today I came across a fun infographic with 20 tips to conquer writer’s block published by PR Daily and began thinking about the steps I take when I feel stuck on a project. Given that none of my personal best practices were listed in the article, I thought I’d share them here.
Best Practice #1: Analyze the assignment and make a list of the steps that can be taken to complete it. Ideally, I like to break the assignment into small steps be completed in 25 minutes or less. For instance, when I am asked to write an article I often take the following steps:
Best Practice #2: Practice the Pomodoro Technique. This is the practice of setting a timer for 25 minutes and then going to work on one of the tasks. After 25 minutes, I take a break and reward myself. I might walk down the hall and talk with one of my co-workers about another project or get a glass of water. These are not big rewards, but I still enjoy them and find it motivating to do something to acknowledge the small steps I am taking to complete the larger project.
The Pomodoro Technique has helped me overcome writer’s block or just get started on something that I’ve been dreading doing. For instance, one of my least favorite activities is reading legal documents. Fortunately, I don’t have many of these to review, but when I do I often break it into 25-minute chunks.
Best Practice #3: You might be wondering what to do when you don’t know what steps to take. When I have no idea how to approach an assignment, I often like to think about my objectives and brainstorm with a coworker. Simply explaining what I am trying to accomplish often jumpstarts my creative problem-solving skills. I can make a list of possible actions and think through the pros and cons of taking them.
Best Practice #4. Finally, I encourage you to remember that procrastination often happens during moments of self doubt or fear. Recently I was chatting with a woman who is revising her first novel. It is a big project and she sometimes starts thinking things like “Maybe this scene doesn’t make sense” or “My writing probably isn’t any good.” This type of thinking can be very discouraging. To overcome this problem, her writing coach gave her some brilliant advice to reframe her negative thoughts and pose them as the following question: “I wonder what I should do next?” By asking this question, you are moving yourself toward action and you are thinking about how to solve your problem. And, let’s face it, if you go negative on yourself, it’s unpleasant for you and can be very unmotivating.
So the next time you’re feeling blocked, I hope you’ll remember these tips. If you have other steps that you’ve taken, please share the ones that have worked for you.