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From Blocked to Blocking: Overcoming Procrastination on a Deadline | Rope Knits

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.


89 Responses to From Blocked to Blocking: Overcoming Procrastination on a Deadline

  1. Angie Nelson says:

    What an undertaking! I often have to shut off my email notifications, etc. to get things done. No matter how much you say you will ignore them, you don’t.

  2. Katie says:

    Last year I was going to write a book. I wanted it out by the end of the year. Guess how much of it I’ve written? Oh, none. Not even any notes (at least not down on paper, I have them in my head!) So I am not sure I am the one to be asking about busting procrastination – but I will gladly try any and all tips posted!

  3. Deedra says:

    I’m so easily distracted. Sometimes I just have to acknowledge my distraction (especially if it’s food related) to get back on track.

  4. Lisa says:

    Working from home I too have to motivate myself to meet MY self imposed deadlines. {and I too eat too many cookies!}

    I call a friend and have her hold me accuntable for my goal. That makes me hurry up and even beat the deadline I gave her so I can “win”.

    It’s ok – I already know I’m crazy!


  5. D says:

    I don’t have any great advice to share but I like your “good enough is good enough” tip. So true!

  6. I agree on all your points — especially on writing with pen and paper (I do it a lot), writing things down (a million ideas going around in my mind) and going for a walk. This last one works miracles!

  7. I’m with Angie – the inbox can be a giant distraction!

  8. I love that “good enough is good enough”. That’s my motto. It is what it is, and that’s good enough for me. Life is way too short to spend it fussing over silly things that don’t matter. When I stand in front of the pearly gates, I’m (almost) positive that no one will be asking me if I made my bed regularly.

  9. Thanks for the tips! I think this is something we need to remember whether we writing a book or not. Life is precious we need to make sure we enjoy it and smell the roses every once and a while!

  10. Jollyjillys says:

    Time is so short we spend so much time worrying I do think we miss out on stuff. I’m always saying that I’ll do this or that then get side tracked lol

  11. andrea says:

    sounds like what i needed – GREAT suggestions!

  12. Nikki says:

    I love these tips, especially “screw the housework.” For me, deadlines really help. I tend to work better under tight deadlines, which is great when I’m freelancing, but when I’m writing for myself, I put things off. Procrastination and self-critical thinking are also two of my biggest blockers.

  13. Just Jaime says:

    Your first tip is the best for me. I can waste so much time online!

  14. Michelle says:

    Getting out of the house always helps me to collect myself and get at it again!

  15. Love the tips! I’m currently working on an ebook and need all the advice I can get. I have a bad habit of checking Facebook too often and letting my mind drift to other things that need done. I’ll be bookmarking this post for later reference!

  16. Lou Lou says:

    Screw the housework! Finally, someone with the same motto as me… if you can stand the mess for a bit, it does leave you time to get through your to-do list! Thanks for endorsing my domestic ungodliness…

  17. I totally agree with you! Internet, housework and facebook get in the way of being productive. Here’s to being focused and getting things done!

  18. cooking lady says:

    I have been going through a lot myself switching over from blogger to wordpress. Driving me nuts. So, I have to step away. Nine times out of ten, when I come back to the project I go straight to what has to be done and boom it’s done. Pisses me off cause I worked till I got a headach! LOL You gotta take a break.

  19. Starlene says:

    Let’s see… I think you pretty much have most of the ones I use covered. I definitely need to turn off my computer much more often than I do. I can always find one more thing to interest me. I’m trying to be more disciplined but it is hard sometimes.

  20. How awesome to write a book. How horrible to be blocked. Yep, walk away from it all and enjoy the moment. Best wishes!

  21. Lyndsy says:


    Agree with the “step away” from the computer.

    Good tips.

  22. Julie says:

    And I thought it was just me doing all that. Yes I have to make lists, lots of lists to get anywhere.

  23. Shelley says:

    Great ideas! I am so easily distracted by my kids and house and computer and life! Good luck with your book!!

  24. Anjanette says:

    Glad to have found your blog – I’m following now and can’t wait to see the results of your hard work! I’m an amateur knitter and crocheter, but I can totally empathize with writers block. I am definitely a click-through junkie. Sometimes, when I want to avoid really working, I convince myself that all of the “research” I’m doing online adds up to a lot more than it really does!

  25. Kecia says:

    Great ideas! I am a horrible procrastinator. I find that making a list and prioritizing tasks helps me get things done…most of the time! 🙂

  26. Katie says:

    I have become quite a procrastinator myself here lately. But you’ve got a great list. I think the computer is part of my problem. Getting out of the house and clearing your mind definitely helps too.

  27. This is such good advice, both online and IRL!

  28. I think you summarized well! During college, I found that writing things down (instead of preoccupying your thoughts with them while working on the task at hand) helps. Also, for me, turning off the computer helps when I want to accomplish a task that doesn’t take my computer. One more thing I might add, is simply having someone hold you accountable. Have goals and have the person help you stick with them.

  29. Julie says:

    ahh… music to my ears. seriously… and I agree, screw the house work. That was one thing I just decided two days ago… focus on the more important tasks at hand, the dishes and scattered toys don’t need immediate attention.

  30. Shelly says:

    I know when I have problem with my writing I just leave it and then at the most unexpected time I can get an idea and go with the idea.

  31. Great ideas here. I often just do what I call noodling – play, experiment and improvise – anything but write and suddenly out of the blue things fall in to place.
    I quite like the idea of letting the housework go 😉

  32. Glenda Cates says:

    Congrats on the book. I too have to turn off the computer and walk away. I do leave a lot of the housework and making dinner to my husband as I just do not have time to do it all with trying to work from home. Sometimes I wonder if it is worth it as it is all I seen to do anymore and when I am not on the computer I feel guilty.

  33. Jeanette says:

    I constantly find myself doing the same thing! And then I even procrastinate on the tasks above! It’s tough, but those are great tips!

  34. Kerry says:

    I find taking a walk, emptying my head of everything and just focusing on what is around me helps a great deal. It gives your brain a break and usually I come back in ready to work!

  35. Brett says:

    when i get “flitty” i try to make myself focus on one thing for 10 minutes. sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t.

    its hard, finding a balance, especially when we have a “block” with a deadline!!great ideas!

  36. First off, congrats on the book! I’m so jealous. I’d love to hear how it all came about… Secondly, I can completely relate to your “block.” I find that getting away from the computer is key as well. And I make lots of lists, too!

  37. Krystle says:

    The no internet and write things down are great things to do. I have to write things down that are going through my head especially at night or I won’t sleep. My mind will just keep running and running. Congrats on the book!

  38. Johnnie says:

    When I procrastinate and can’t get things done, going for a run helps. I find I am more productive when I give myself that time.
    I definitely agree that stepping away from the computer helps!

    Printable Decor
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  39. Amanda says:

    I’m a perfectionist, which doesn’t mean that I actually do anything perfectly. It just means that I won’t start anything until I’m convinced I know everything I could possibly know and have everything I could possibly have so that I *can* do it perfectly. Guess how much ever actually gets done. I love this list. All things I’ve seen before, but all things I need to be reminded of. I love this line, too: “I checked in on Facebook to see if other people were living more productively.”

  40. Yannie says:

    I am a procrastinator. And I’m trying hard to overcome it. but it seems like my mind is not working until deadline is almost coming. Thanks for the tips

  41. Marian says:

    I really want to learn how to knit. I’ll dig your site; I might find tutorials here.

  42. I can totally relate! Sometimes I just have to get up and walk away from the computer…

  43. Congratulations on your book! It sounds very exciting 🙂 One of my aspirations in life is to learn to crochet or knit…hopefully it won’t be in the too distant future!

  44. Unsubscribe to emails. I try to do this a couple times a week. It really will save time reading email. It can also help save money. I don’t need to know about every sale. If I am looking for something, I will check for a sale.

  45. Wonderful ideas. I am reading “Eat That Frog” and have found his practical advice really helps with my procrastination problem.

    Best of luck to you on your book! I know it will be wonderful because your designs are stunning.

  46. LaVonne says:

    Wow! You are one busy woman! Thanks for these tips, I appreciated them. They are good for those of use who need help with time management. Good luck on your book as well!

  47. Emily says:

    When I have a million things on my to-do list, I get anxious and overwhelmed! I try to write a list of 5 things that are the most important and try to do them in order.

  48. Laurie says:

    Writing is quite an undertaking no matter what the content. I am anxious to see what it will be when you are done. I am adding you to my favorites and look forward to your great publication. May God bless your endeavor. Have a beautiful day.

  49. Brenda says:

    Sometimes when I have writers block I brainstorm. Just writing down whatever comes to mind. From all that writing something usually ends up working! Best of luck to you with your book! 🙂

  50. I love this post! My fave = screw the housework. I am sooo with that (unfortunately, only in theory).

  51. Suzy Myers says:

    Loved this post! Very timely for me. Your number one hint- turn off the computer- is probably the one I need to follow the most. I constantly have it running in the background with my email open and I’ll walk by and see I have emails, and there you go…

    Thanks so much for sharing!


  52. Maura says:

    long term planning. Make a big list of all that has to get done, and put it all on a calendar so you know what day you will accomplish each thing (subject to change of course).
    but then once you have the map of how it will get all done, you can stop thinking about “how will all this get done?” and just start doing it!

  53. I needed this last week! I found setting a timer and telling myself I had to have X amount done by then, I get more done. A schedule helps me too.

    I like letting the housework go, but since I already procrastinate about doing the housework, that doesn’t work for me.

  54. kelli says:

    Sarah,stepping away from the computer is one of the best ideas I’ve heard! I did it this weekend and it was wonderful!
    Thanks for a very, very good list.

  55. I have been using the decluttering tip at work. I am overwhelmed at work with too much work for one person to complete in the time alloted and it helps me to stop for just ten minutes and go through a stack of papers or a drawer in my filing cabinet.

  56. heather says:

    Hey, I’m with you on “screw the housework” days! there are just moments/days/weeks that other things need to take priority. This was an awesome list!

  57. Great list! Decluttering always seems to be a task that needs done.

  58. Wendy @ AMFT says:

    Great tips! I carry around a little notebook to write down any inspiration I have while away. However, I never thought about doing chores to get my mind re-focused!

    Around My Family Table

  59. Carrie says:

    Best of luck with your book! I agree about “unplugging”– if I really need to get stuff done (or just think, for that matter), all the screens (and their beeping and buzzing) need to be shut off. Quiet time is quite a commodity these days!

    Thanks for sharing!

  60. Tiff says:

    GREAT tips…but they are incredibly hard to implement! haha

  61. Daily Citron says:

    Great list! The one I find most helpful is writing things down- that way, if I hit a block, I can refer to my list to see what else productive I can do.
    -Viva recently posted Homemade Pizza Dough

  62. Sarah says:

    Amen on screw the house work sister! i am right there with ya. i have 2 kids, a dog and a husband. house works blows and never lets me get the things i really need to get done, done! prioritize for deadlines and don’t clean if ya have too! yes!

  63. I’m a fan of “screw the housework” and “writing it down”! Good luck with the book.

  64. Jill says:

    Good luck with your book, it sounds like a great project! I agree with the declutter part you mentioned! You’re right – it’s different to the basic housework – and a little physical decluttering is good for the mind too!

  65. Niki says:

    Great advice!! I get overwhelmed so easily. It just takes feeling like I have a few things that HAVE to be done and I start feeling anxious. These are GREAT tips for me to remember!

  66. Jamie says:

    This is some really good advice! That computer can suck you in — the Internet connection part of it can anyway! Good luck with your book. That is really cool!

  67. April H says:

    I’m so easily distracted, especially by the internet! And when I clean, I tend to go from one task to another…

  68. Julee says:

    Planning ahead is not something I do even remotely well. I’ve adapted and learned that I work best under pressure. 😉 I’ll be implementing some of your ideas!
    Congratulations on your book…

  69. I think you made some very good points. Focusing intently on something else for a short time and list making are my biggest ways to end the procrastination. I usually have to set a timer when I do choose to use the “do something else for a short time” method, otherwise it is two hours later and I’m still not done.

    Othertimes, I use the timer to say, “I’ll do 15 minutes of X, then I can get up and do something else for 5 minutes.” (thank you flylady)

  70. Judith says:

    Great tips! I used some of them when I did NaNoWriMo in November. The best tip of course is, get away from the internet! And: screw the house work.

    I also like working on something simple, like de-cluttering, because it doesn’t need much attention and it often leads to some great ideas (because you’re not focusing on the actual work you should be doing, the ideas are more relaxed – not forced).

  71. Carrie says:

    It is truly amazing how much I can get accomplished when not distracted by my computer. 🙂 Love all of your suggestions!

  72. Mariah says:

    Facebook is my bigger distraction especially when I am procrastinating!

  73. Lyndsy says:

    I find the best way to deal with procrastination is to not think of it as procrastination, rather you are doing something else that is more important.

  74. Easy2Save says:

    I really enjoyed reading this you wrote true and funny stuff. I noticed your knitting on the side it is very pretty.

  75. I have to make goals for myself and write them down or I won’t get around to them.

  76. As a freelance writer, blogger, grad student and single mom, I KNOW how easy it is to be distracted. You have so much going on inside your head that it’s difficult to sort it all out. in the end, sometimes I do none of it. That’s not good either.

    You have great tips. Thank you.`

  77. Dawn Storey says:

    Great suggestions – I struggle not to procrastinate (I think I’m a natural-born rebel!), but you’ve provided some good strategies here. Thank you! 🙂

  78. good luck on writing your book, that is so exciting… i agree on the walking away!! i usually close the laptop and go do something that needs to be done around the house

  79. Melanie says:

    Eliminating distractions is a big part of busting procrastination for me, especially on the computer. When I really want to work, I turn off twitter.

  80. Stacie says:

    Great tips! I’m a really bad procrastinator (or a good one, depending on how you look at it, lol) I might try these next time I’m feeling the procrastination starting.

  81. clarissa says:

    This is actually similar to my post I submitted for destressing bloggers. I think everyone needs a little FREE time away from their jobs/businesses or even the computer. It definitely helps refresh and sometimes even inspires! Great post!

  82. Congratulations on writing a book! Though I do not have a book in the works, I do hit resistance. When the going gets tough, I focus on what is important today. Setting my priorities keeps me motivated. By the end of the day, I have accomplished something.

  83. Great Tips! I often get writers block, and these may help me get passed my struggle! Thanks!

  84. Jamie says:

    Wow, you are hugely busy. Thanks for the tips, sometimes it’s hard to keep going. Every now and again I think of Dory from Finding Nemo ‘Just keep Swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming’

  85. Wendy says:

    I’ve done some writing. My favorite quote … “the pencil is mightier than the pen.” Keep on gong!

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