An “ODD” Way to Defeat Procrastination

As a writer, I’m always looking for ways to improve my craft. Tell better stories. Write more engaging posts. Develop films that truly move people.

But the fact is, it’s hard to improve your writing when you aren’t actually doing it.

So, the other thing I’m always looking for are surefire tips on how to get my ass moving when everything but the keyboard is calling for my attention.

And thanks to blogger Ali Luke’s wise words, I have found a method that works for me every time I use it.

It’s hugely scientific. You may want to take notes.

Ready?  Here goes…

Open the Damn Document (ODD).

It’s so deceptively simple that it’s tempting to just blow it off. Oh, right. Opening the document is going to magically make the piece write itself.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. But the tiny step of putting yourself – literally – within arm’s length of the page makes it infinitely more likely that you’ll get down to business.

And yes, this works when your project is overwhelming. Especially when it’s overwhelming. Because it’s much easier to stomach the thought of merely opening a file than it is to obligate yourself to War and Peace-level output.

I recently had to put this technique into major practice when I wrote and published my first eBook: Gratitude Adjustment: 5 Simple Shifts To Refresh Your Perspective and Ignite Your Life. Even though it was planned to be a very short book, I was still freaked out by the possibility of…well, everything.

You know nothing about this kind of format. What makes you think you can put out a book on Kindle all by yourself? You are such a techno-idiot, you will probably single-handedly blow up Amazon when you hit the ‘publish’ button. And why do you think anyone cares about your take on gratitude? I’m pretty sure the Dalai Oprah has that one covered.

So – being the wildly enlightened person that I am –  I listened slavishly to the aforementioned bullsh*t and proceeded to procrastinate like a demon.

Oh my God…there’s a science project growing in the toilet. I’d better clean it up immediately or else the dogs might drink the water and die.

Uh, oh. We’re out of vanilla extract. And chocolate chips. I haven’t baked since MTV actually played music videos, but suddenly I’m feeling a Tollhouse cookie deficiency. Hey, it’s a blood sugar issue. It’ll just take me ten minutes to run to the store.

But one sparkling toilet and three trays of baked goods later, I was still firmly rooted in my authorship avoidance.

So, it was time to engage in some ODD behavior.

I went to my laptop and opened the page of notes I’d started for the book. The urge to get up and clean something or have a Betty Crocker relapse was still there. But it wasn’t nearly as strong as before.

Come on, you’ve got your butt in the chair and the page in front of you. Just write a few words. Then you’re free to keep your hot date with the vacuum cleaner.

So, I jotted a few words. Which turned into a few paragraphs. And one hour later, the Hoover was still sitting forlornly in the corner while my book took on a life of its own.

Even if you’re not a writer, the ODD principle is still one you can apply to your own pursuits.

Want to become a great chef? Don’t freak yourself out by trying to figure out how you’re going to afford living in Paris while you train at Le Cordon Bleu.  Buy a cookbook and play with a recipe or two.

Tired of living like a human beanbag chair? Skip buying $1500 worth of clothing racks…um, I mean exercise equipment…and start with a walk around the block.

Goethe was on to this concept well over 150 years ago when he wrote, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

Just choose one step. Keep it simple. Then keep it up.

You’ll be amazed where you’ll go from there.

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8 Comments

  • Reply Kelly August 26, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    OMG – so true! For those of us who write (even peeps like me who write for trades/industries and technical stuff), getting started is epically tough. You’d think the blank page is a multi-fanged death monster or something. This is great Mary! Keep it up!!

    • Reply Mary DeRosa Hughes August 26, 2016 at 2:55 pm

      “Multi-fanged death monster”…LOL! Yep, I think I have seen the page that way too many times. 🙂 But thanks so much for the kind words, and I’m glad that it resonated with you as a trades/industry/tech writer!

  • Reply Susan August 26, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    I can so relate to this–the cleaning (or organizing) AND the baking! Will have to try the ODD method this weekend and see if it works!

    • Reply Mary DeRosa Hughes August 27, 2016 at 8:13 am

      Hey, Susan! Good to know I’m not the only one that heads for the kitchen and/or cleaning supplies when I’m in avoidance mode…lol! Let me know how ODD works for you! 🙂

  • Reply Nikki Blakely-Simmons August 27, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    Love. Love. Love. Great post and words of wisdom, Sis! So very proud of you.

    • Reply Mary DeRosa Hughes August 28, 2016 at 3:55 pm

      Awww…thank you, Nikki! I’m so happy that you loved the post…and it means the world that you’re proud of me. xo! 🙂

  • Reply Elaine F French March 3, 2017 at 7:06 am

    So true – sometimes I will open my document while still standing and will walk away from it, but my computer is set to stay on however long it is idle, so eventually it will call to me and I will type something while standing, and then because that is so uncomfortable I will sit down and write – which as you say – generally gets things going. It’s the opening the laptop and then the document in the first place that is the real sticking point!

    • Reply Mary DeRosa Hughes March 9, 2017 at 11:41 am

      I don’t know why we humans seem to be wired that way, but just sitting down and opening up the project is definitely the hardest part. But kudos to you for sticking with it and getting those words on the page! 🙂

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