This post is based on episode 167 of the ProBlogger podcast.
This week I want to talk about procrastination, and how to overcome it.
We all have the potential to achieve amazing things – not only with our blogging, but also with other aspects of our lives. Unfortunately, we often put off doing the things we should be doing until the last minute.
And sometimes we put it off for so long that we never get the chance to do it ever again.
When I was about five years old, my mum would give me 20 cents every Friday morning for pocket money. Every Friday at 8:30 (when I left for school) she’d hand over that elusive 20-cent coin. But to earn it I had to clean my room and do some other chores during the week. And if I didn’t have everything done by 8:30 a.m. I didn’t get the money. It was as simple as that.
So did I manage to keep my room clean all week? Of course not. And so at 8:25 a.m. every Friday morning I’d be manically cleaning my room, desperate to get it done before the 8:30 deadline.
And that’s when she started saying something that still resonates with me: “Your life will be better if you take action on the things you avoid.”
It’s a quote I heard a lot during my school years. I left everything until the last minute – homework, essays, studying for exams, even getting to work at my first job. I was definitely a procrastinator. And while I rarely missed any of these ‘deadlines’, there was always a mad scramble at the end.
Deadlines – real and imaginary
We all have deadlines we need to meet. And for a lot of people, those deadlines are the only way things get done. It’s how I pay my taxes. It’s how I get my keynote presentation written for an upcoming conference. It’s even how I buy Vanessa a Christmas present.
But some things in life have deadlines so far into the future that we simply ignore them. Take health, for example. We should all trying to keep ourselves healthy by eating right and exercising. But most people only think seriously about their health when they’re in their 70s and 80s (unless there’s a problem before that).
It’s the same with blogging. Not just with the business side of it all, but also things like starting a podcast or a YouTube channel. There’s no deadline we have to meet, and so there’s nothing pushing us to get started. To achieve these kinds of things we have to set our own deadlines.
And then stick to them.
One of my desk drawers is dedicated to notebooks. For the past 20 years or so I’ve been using notebooks to take notes at all the conferences I go to.
It’s also where I do a lot of my planning.
A while back I was digging around in this drawer and found my notebook from 2009. Every page was full of useful information I’d gathered throughout the year. But near the end I had a page dedicated to my goals for 2010. And at the top of that list were three words: “Start ProBlogger podcast”.
As you can see, I also wrote down what the show should be about, and that it would be weekly.
I can’t remember why I wrote down my goals for 2010 in my 2009 notebook. I’m guessing it’s because I was seeing people such as Pat Flynn, Aimee Porterfield and Chris Dhaka who were either talking about doing a podcast or had already started one.
When 2010 came around things got quite busy. We decided to move (which is a challenge when you’ve got two little kids running around the house). ProBlogger and Digital Photography School were both taking up a lot of my time. And we were gearing up for our second ProBlogger event.
But I was also beginning to feel a little apprehensive about the whole idea. What if no-one listens? What if I sound stupid? What if no-one can understand my accent? What if I suck at podcasting? And then there were the other excuses. I don’t know how to set it up. I don’t have the right microphone. I’ve never done this before.
It never happened.
At the end of 2010, I wrote down my goals for 2011. And once again I put “Start ProBlogger podcast” at the top of the list. But 2011 was even busier (we now had three boys in the house), and all the fears and excuses resurfaced.
Unfortunately, setting myself the goal to start a podcast and then not doing it became a regular thing. It was at the top of my Goals list for 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. And the longer I put it off, the harder it was to break the pattern.
In 2015 I went to Chris Dhaka’s Tropical Think Tank conference in the Philippines. It started on the same day as Mother’s Day here in Australia (which I wanted to be home for), and so I didn’t arrive at the conference until the networking event on the second-last day.
As an introvert, this is my idea of a nightmare. The conference had been going for a couple of days, and so I was walking into a situation where everyone knew each other but I didn’t really know anyone. I was also very jetlagged, having spent more than 24 hours on planes to get there.
I met a few people on the night, including Lane Kennedy who asked me to partner with her in a game of billiards with a couple of other people. None of us were very good, and so the game went on for more than hour. And in that time Lane and I got to know each other and have a chat.
At one point in the game Lane asked me what my goals were for 2015. By this stage I’d had a couple of beers, and the combination of alcohol and jetlag left me feeling a little lightheaded. And so I blurted out, “I’m going to start a podcast”.
It’s the first time I’d told anyone about this.
Lane asked me a few questions, and seemed enthusiastic about it.
“Yes, that would be good,” she said. “I’d listen to that.”
I don’t know whether she meant it or was just making small talk. But it was enough to get me excited about it. I then told her I was going to launch the podcast with 31 episodes in 31 days, based on my 31 Days To Build A Better Blog ebook. The idea literally came to me while I was talking to her.
She seemed to like the idea as she went off and played her shot. And when she came back she asked me a question – a question I still consider a gift.
“When are you going to do it by?”
Still feeling lightheaded, I replied, “I’m going to launch it by the first of July”.
July was only six weeks away.
At long last
Anyone who has launched a podcast knows that six weeks is a crazy timeframe. And once me head cleared and I got some sleep I realized most of my team were involved in other projects and wouldn’t be able to help me set it up. So it was up to me to learn how to set up, record and edit a podcast, and what equipment I would need to do it all.
It was a crazy six weeks. But telling Lane what I was doing and when I’d have it done by is still one of the best things I ever did. She never kept me accountable by asking how I was going? (She may not even remember the conversation.) But telling her about my plans gave me a deadline and killed the cycle of procrastination.
In July 2015 I finally launched the ProBlogger podcast. And it’s been fantastic. Each episode has been downloaded around 30,000 times, and it has provided me with all kinds of opportunities and conversations with my readers and listeners.
Having finally achieved my podcasting goal, I started thinking about other things I’d been procrastinating about. One of the was redesigning the ProBlogger website, which took six months to get off my list. And the other had been hanging around since it was first launched.
I started ProBlogger back in 2004 because no-one was writing about blogging and how to make money from it. And having decided to write about it myself, I then brainstormed to come up with topics I could write about. I came up with the usual suspects – how to start a blog, how to write great content, how to find readers, how to monetize it, and so on.
And of course, that’s the logical order to do it – start the blog, create the content, find the readers, monetize it. But whenever I tried writing about how to start a blog, I began hearing the nagging voices of fear and doubt.
You’re not technical enough.
What if you make a mistake? No one will believe anything else you say.
You need to research more.
You need to get some advice on that.
And so I kept putting it off.
If you go through the ProBlogger archives, you’ll see that for the first ten or so years I didn’t write a single post about how to start a blog. And whenever someone asked, “Hey, I’m sure you’ve written on this topic. Can you point me to the article on how to start a blog?” I’d point them to other people’s articles in our archives or on other blogs.
Enough is enough
Having procrastinated for far too long, I finally sat down and wrote a post on how to start a blog. And as I started writing all those excuses started melting away. Of course I can write this post. I’ve started 30 blogs over the years, so I know what I’m talking about. And How to Start a Blog made its debut.
The results were immediate.
I knew I’d created a useful piece of content, and so I started to share it. It’s also on our Start Here portal page, and in our footer as one of our top articles. And as the post includes a few affiliate links (server providers, WordPress templates, domain name sites, etc.), every day I get emails from our affiliate partners saying “You’ve earned money from this post”.
And every time I get one of these emails I think, Why didn’t I write that post sooner?
And I guess that’s why I’m really writing this post. I don’t want you to have any regrets down the track over things you could be doing now.
Don’t just make plans. Make deadlines as well. And stick to them.
So what have you been procrastinating about? Tell us about it in the comments. And if you’re really game, tell us when you’ll have it done by.
Photo by Syed Ali on Unsplash