So if you didn’t know by now, I’ve been working on a book. And let me tell you, it’s going to be great.
But that’s not what this post is about.
I have a LOT of work to do for this book. I have 23 other designers contributing a total of 27 designs, in addition to the ones I’m working on. There are contracts to be sent, e-mails to be answered, patterns to be reviewed and funneled on to tech editors, charts to be revised, copy to be written, and notes about props, sizes, and colors to prepare for the photographer. And, oh yeah—I have to knit up and write patterns for my own three designs.
A few weeks ago I hit a wall. I buzzed uselessly from the computer to my knitting project and back again. I stared at the computer screen for long minutes on end. I checked in on Facebook to see if other people were living more productively. I ate a lot of cookies. I thought really hard about all the things I had to do, but I was increasingly, desperately aware that I wasn’t really doing anything.
Last night I was finally able to bind off the last stitches of my first design and block it. The pattern is mostly written and just needs some tweaking and the jacket itself (I can tell you it’s a jacket but I can’t reveal anything else) doesn’t look too bad. I’ve already made decent progress on my next design. And I’m slowly making inroads on the paperwork; I even feel caught up enough that I can spare a few minutes to write a blog post(!).
I have a lot of late nights ahead of me over the next five weeks but I’m increasingly confident that it will actually all get done. I’m no expert on getting past slumps and blocks, but here are a few things I’ve found helpful in getting past the procrastination and on with the work:
- Step AWAY from the computer. If you’re a click-through junkie like me, simply turning off your internet connection for a few hours might help you focus. But there’s something about a computer screen that encourages mind-drift and unhealthy perfectionism. It’s too easy to caught up on refining a single sentence when there are still pages left to write or to fuss for hours getting just the right shade of violet in a colorwork chart. To the extent that it’s possible, turn the computer off and work it out with pen and paper first, or work on the physical side of things—like the actual knitting.
- Write it down. I have a million ideas flitting through my mind. Things I have to do, things I should do, things I might do if I can get everything else done. Each thought is a separate distraction and I no sooner get started on one thing when I’m reminded of something else and begin working on that instead. A list helps me stay focused. I can add things so I don’t have to worry about forgetting them and the crossing items off gives me a sense of accomplishment.
- Screw the housework. I find myself constantly distracted by the never-ending chores that need to be done around here so I’ve made the decision to let most of it go for now. I’ll maintain some basic standards of hygiene but otherwise I’m on strike for the next few weeks. If my husband wants the bed made he can make it himself, my oldest child is quite capable of getting her own after-school snack, and Kraft Mac & Cheese once in a while won’t kill anyone. I hope.
- De-clutter something. This sounds contradictory to the point I just made, but a focused de-cluttering is different from the ongoing drudgery of housework. Choose something SMALL, like a single drawer—this is not the time to tackle the attic. I set aside 20 minutes to go through the inbox that sits on my desk and accumulates everything from contracts to bills to children’s homework. Clearing up the space made a practical difference: it helped me get organized and put my hands on things I needed. Just as importantly, it made a mental difference: having a clear, clean workspace has helped me feel calmer and more relaxed.
- Get out of the house (or office). When there’s a deadline looming, the last thing you feel like you can justify is a trip to the zoo with your kids or coffee with a friend. But I think it’s important to take a break not just from the work you have to do but from the physical environment where you do it. Moving around and literally breathing some fresh air helps put things in perspective and gives you renewed energy to tackle the your work.
- Delegate. Unfortunately, I don’t actually have anyone I can delegate any of my book work to, but if I did, I would. I can ask my family to kick in with more help around the house and less whining about slapdash dinners and ask my husband to take the kids out of my hair for a few hours here and there. And if anyone offers to help me out with anything, you’d better believe I’m going to take them up on it!
- Good enough is good enough. I want this book to be perfect. I’m working with a lot a dedicated people who are relying on my to do my absolute best on their behalf. But I’ve realized that I can’t do everything perfectly. I will focus instead on make the work that really needs to shine be as close to perfect as possible and not drive myself crazy about the rest.
Got any procrastination busters to share?
This post is part of Blogelina‘s 100 Comment Blog Event.
Sarah BarbourKnitting and crochet designer/teacher and stay-at-home mother to three lovely little girls. Recently relocated to Oregon from the Illinois and enjoying my new life as a West Coaster.
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