Procrastination: Make It a Movie

Procrastination: the Movie? Yes…making a movie is one way to overcome the temptation to procrastinate and build good writing habits, day by day.

Yesterday, on the first day of NaNoWriMo, I had such good intentions. But my novel idea looked overwhelming to me (and rather stupid, I must also admit). I dinked around, trying to get started, until 3 p.m.!!! Major procrastination. I got a few other things done, but mostly I wasted precious writing time. I only got 635 words written, way short of the daily 1,667 words needed to meet the 50,000 word goal in November.

Then I remembered an old trick I once used to break other bad habits and decided to use it this morning to cure the procrastination temptation. (This works for all kinds of procrastination, from avoiding exercise to avoiding the keyboard.)

Make a Movie!

Being tempted to do any of the things we do to avoid writing (watch a movie, eat sweets, play on the Internet) deals with avoidance and some kind of instant gratification. We want to feel better about our procrastination and time wasting. When you “make a movie,” you move beyond the instant “feel good” aspect of your contemplated activity–and play the movie out to the end.

You don’t concentrate on how good you’ll feel if you stop and watch TV and eat half a gallon of ice cream. You play out the whole scenario. An hour or two later, how will you feel? After you waste the whole day, how will you feel? What will it cost you today, in terms of productivity and lost self-esteem? What will it mean in the long run if you do this all the time? (No career? Death from some obesity-related disease? No self-respect?)

Borrow This Template

When faced with a procrastination temptation, turn to this questionnaire (below) which I keep in a document template on my computer. I filled it out in detail this morning before writing almost 2,000 words (yippee!), and after I blog, I will probably fill out the questions again because “afternoon slump” is starting to set in. Feel free to copy this questionnaire to use. It’s a great technique for helping you look past the instant fun of procrastinating to what you can accomplish if you take the long view. Here’s the form to fill out:

Pause when facing any kind of temptation to procrastinate (by eating unhealthy food, or watching TV, or surfing the ‘Net, etc.) and fill in these answers in writing:

  • I consistently struggle with the following bad habit:
  • When I play the tape through to the logical conclusion, the end result of this habit makes me feel:
  • and does the following to my self-respect:
  • typically produces the following results in me:
  • If left unchecked, the behavior will probably lead to the following long-term consequences:


  •  If I play the other healthy tape all the way through to its logical conclusion and choose NOT to give in to my bad habit, I feel:
  •  and my self-respect is:
  •  typically produces the following results in me:
  • If I keep away from this bad habit, I will benefit from the following long-term results:

Whatever temptation you’re facing right now, take a few minutes and make a movie. Follow your intended actions to their long-term consequences. Is it the life you want? If not, make another movie. In this movie, you resist temptation and make the right choices–consistently. Take time to linger over the final credits of this movie. If you want, it could be your life!

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