Sep 17

How to Stop Procrastinating: A Fool-Proof Way to Conquer the World

For the majority of my life, I felt I didn’t know how to stop procrastinating. I fell into the trap of putting stuff off, and kept telling myself that I needed the pressure to actually get shit done.

How to Stop Procrastinating

Original photo by Milos Tonchevski

This is stupid and false, and the same damn trap my students fall into right before they stay up all night to binge-write that brilliant paper that will earn them a  low C if they’re lucky.

Why I needed to stop procrastinating

So, I’ve been trying to open up an Etsy shop since spring. And now it’s September. But because I live in Oklahoma, I had to get a sales tax ID to sell physical products online so I could charge my customers sales tax.

This shouldn’t be that hard, so I filled out the paper work and submitted my application. Then, I waited for everything to come in the mail.

When it arrived, I got a notice that I wasn’t approved because of the classification of my S Corp. My S Corp sells creative services, not products, and I’m listed under a specific industry code for services.

I stared at that rejection for like a month. There was a spot to write some information and send it back. Only, I didn’t 100% understand what I needed to put there.

One morning, I called the Oklahoma Tax Commission. I was literally on hold for 2 hours and 48 minutes. (I just left my phone on speaker and went about grading papers.) When I finally spoke with someone, they didn’t know what to do either.

I’m not kidding about that. If you’ve ever dealt with the Oklahoma Tax Commission, I suspect you have a similar story.

So I kept putting it off. Sure, I wanted to get my shop set up, but like, there are always 18,000 other things that can be done too. And then I moved, and unpacking took roughly ONE THOUSAND HOURS.

But a couple weeks ago, I finally just emailed my accountant. And in less than 48 hours, she gave me the simplest answer. She told me EXACTLY what I needed to write. And then I did.

And yesterday I got my sales tax ID in the mail.

It was so easy, but I built up this big wall in my head. And I waisted MONTHS.

It was so easy, but I built up this big wall in my head. And I waisted MONTHS. Click To Tweet

Do you need another example of why I need to stop procrastinating?

This week, I gave my students their first test. Some students take their tests in the class room, and some students take their tests in the disability resource center. While the test in class is given online, some students who test at the disability resource center need a paper copy of the test.

It’s not a big deal to make a paper copy. It just takes time. And it’s something I usually have the graduate assistant do. However, after a big mess that is absolutely no one’s fault, we don’t have a graduate assistant this semester. This isn’t a big deal, because I don’t have a lot that I need them to do.

But I just wanted to have someone else make this test.

So I put it off until the last possible minute. And when I started to make the test, I took a look in a folder in the very back corner of my Dropbox.

Lo and behold, I had actually created the test last semester.

Had I thought logically about it, I would’ve realized this. I would’ve remembered doing that. But nope. I just shoved it to the back of my mind and refused to deal with it at all until the last possible second.

What I’ve learned about why I procrastinate

I procrastinate when things get a little hard or uncomfortable or inconvenient. I procrastinate when I remember how soft my couch is. I procrastinate when I remember that at the end of the day, I still have a day job paycheck coming in.

I procrastinate because I’m in love with easy shit. And I hate that about myself.

To be fair, I know that no one loves doing the dirty work or the hard things. But damn. I wish I could just bite my lip and make it happen.

Like had I gotten my sales tax ID sorted, I would have an established Etsy store already.

Or if I had tackled that test earlier, I could’ve sent it to the disability resource center, and gotten to bed on time the night I found it.

But let’s not dwell in what ifs. There’s no reason to be mad at past Marisa, because present Marisa is the same Marisa. So, I forgive you and your procrastination, Marisa. Just don’t let it happen again.

How you can stop procrastinating

For me, the first step to stop procrastinating is this: Realize that nothing you do is really that hard.

I mean, yeah. You do hard things.

But the daily hard things aren’t the big things that deserve to hang over our heads. Let the big life questions be the daunting things. Let them keep you up at night.

The daily hard things aren't the big things that deserve to hang over our heads. Click To Tweet

Those things that are mild irritations/inconveniences/hoops to jump through? Know that you can tackle them. Know that you’re making mountains out of molehills. Know that you’re giving way too much time and energy to a thing that straight up doesn’t deserve it.

I know it’s hard to think in those terms. As stated earlier, I’m basically the queen of putting things off. (BOW TO ME, PROCRASTINATION PEASANTS!)

So please. Learn from my nonsense.

Ask yourself if one person can answer the question you have. And once you get that answer, can you finally move forward? If so, YOU BETTER ASK THAT QUESTION.

Ask yourself if you’ve been there before. And if you think the answer is yes, then ask yourself what you did when you were in that position. Rely on what you did in the past, because you can use that now.

Ask yourself if the thing that’s tripping you up is actually hard. Or if you’re just using it as an excuse to procrastinate. If you are, knock it off.

How to Stop Procrastinating Click To Tweet

What little things have you procrastinated doing? What tricks do you have to help people stop procrastinating? Are you as excited as I am for my soon-to-open Etsy shop?

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Nov 16

10 Ways to Make Time for Writing Even If You Think You’re Too Busy

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a writer in possession of an idea must be in want of some time to write. But let’s be real. The hardest thing about writing is figuring out how to make time for writing.

10 Ways to Make Time for Writing

In undergrad, I majored in creative writing. One of my best friends at the time was pre-med. Once I told her that I couldn’t go see a band play because I had to write. Her response was “I wish I had time to sit around all day and write.”

Wish you had time to sit around all day and write? YOU DO. #amwriting #NaNoWriMo Click To Tweet

To this day, it remains one of the shittiest things anyone has ever said to me, even though I doubt she meant for me to take it that way.

The thing is, everyone has time to write, and I find it hilarious that she didn’t see what I was giving up something to MAKE TIME FOR WRITING. But whatever.

Anyhow, that’s what this post is about. In honor of #NaNoWriMo, I thought I would bring you a list of 10 ways to make time for writing. So, if you’ve fallen behind a little in your word count goals, don’t stress. There’s always time for writing, and here’s how I make time for writing.

001: Wake up early.
I’m a morning person, so it’s easy for me to wake up, brew a pot of coffee, and settle in to write. There’s just something about grabbing a notebook or laptop and getting your brain out on the page before anything else has a chance to dilute your thoughts. Plus, coffee just tastes better when you’re writing.

002: Use your lunch break.
When I worked at the job from hell, I used to take my iPad with a bluetooth keyboard to the foodcourt at the outlet mall. I’d buy some frozen yogurt and type my heart out. The foodcourt was nice and quiet during the middle of the day, and it was the best way to escape for just a bit. While I didn’t really write anything that turned into something bigger, I was able to crank out a lot of words.

003: Embrace your phone’s notes app.
I think one of the biggest complaints I have about everyday life is the amount of time I waste waiting on other things. Standing in lines, sitting in waiting rooms, or just killing the next 15 minutes before a meeting DRIVES ME CRAZY. Ideally, I’d never have these weird lulls so I could get everything done and then head home for the day. Unfortunately, that’s not possible. So, instead, I use my phone’s notes app when I find myself in those situations. Generally, I just outline stuff, but occasionally I’ll be able to bash out a whole scene while I’m waiting for my day to resume.

004: Say no to an invitation.
Remember when I told my friend that I couldn’t go see a band play? I made time for writing by saying no to an invitation. We are currently in that time of year when there are no less than 76 billion invitations to various events. You’re going to have to say no to some of them, especially if you’re going to write.

005: Call in sick.
Okay. So, this isn’t always advisable. But sometimes, it’s necessary. I know that most writers are hustlers. By that I mean that if you’re a writer, then you probably also have a side gig. And when you couple that with family and life obligations, it’s easy to see why calling in sick might be the only way a writer can get some time to hit their word count. When I was in grad school, I called in sick to work because I had approximately 9 hours to write a 20-page paper. So, if you’re way behind in your word count and you have the paid time off, call in and take your day.

(P.S. I made an A on that paper.)

006: Batch other tasks.
I absolutely hate taking time out to cook dinner every night. If I’ve worked out, gone to my day job, and dealt with life in general, there’s no way in hell that I’m going to also cook dinner. So, on Sundays I prep all my meals for the week. I make enough for lunches and dinner. Overall, this takes about 2-3 hours on a single day, but it makes big windows of uninterrupted time in the evenings on week days. Instead of having to make something, I can pop a plate in the microwave, and have a full meal. Then, I have the rest of my evening to write and not babysit a pot on the stove.

007: Never turn on your TV.
I am one of those horrible millennials who doesn’t have cable. But I definitely like to binge watch. And, even when I’m not watching Netflix, I’m totally addicted to PBS’s Create channel and all the great cooking shows they have. (Do you think Jacques Pépin wants to be my French grandpa?) If I’m not careful, I’ll spend way more time in front of the TV than I intend to. And that goes double in the morning when I’m sipping coffee and listening to Charlie, Gayle, and Nora on CBS This Morning. So, if I know I need to get something done, the TV has to stay off.

008: Take away what makes you procrastinate.
It’s really easy to tell yourself that before you hunker down to write, you need to check your email and Twitter. And then, before you know it, you’ve lost the whole hour you had to write. So, to make time for writing, you have to take away what makes you procrastinate. I’m always more prolific when I don’t have an internet connection. Recently, I purchased a used AlphaSmart 3000 on Amazon, and every time I sit down with it, I get a lot of words in fast. Why? Well, because it’s a word processor that doesn’t have an internet connection. That means I can’t stop writing and Google information that I probably don’t need in the middle of a writing session. (That’s what editing is for, dammit.)

Writer tip: Take away what makes you procrastinate.#amwriting #NaNoWriMo Click To Tweet

009: Do it first thing on your day off.
I don’t teach on Fridays. This means that while Chris is at work, I’m home alone. I try to take advantage of this time as much as I can. While my to do list is generally jam-packed with every sort of teaching administrative task that I can’t get done during my office hours, I prioritize writing first. That means I have to bash out some words before I will allow myself the privilege of putting grades into a spreadsheet. And once it’s done, I feel so much more productive and motivated to get other things done.

010: Live in squalor.
Okay. Maybe this is an exaggeration. But if you’re trying to write something, that means you have to let something else fall by the wayside. And you know what’s really easy to give up to make time for writing? Cleaning. I’ve read interviews where both J.K. Rowling and Rainbow Rowell have stated that while you’re writing, the house is going to be a mess. And I have to say, I’m fine with that.


So what about you? How do you make time for writing? Any tips or hacks for making time during #NaNoWriMo?

Sep 16

10 Self-Care Strategies for When the Universe Is Conspiring Against You

Self-care strategies are important because there are so many ways that everyday life wants to ruin your day. Even when you do everything you possibly can to ensure you have a good day, that doesn’t mean that the universe isn’t trying to ruin it.

10 self-care strategies for when the universe is conspiring against you

I’ve been using these self-care strategies lately for the times when other people’s chaos tries to get me down, or when I find myself in a situation that’s completely out of my control. Granted, none of these self-care strategies fix any of the external problems, but they do make it easier to deal with the problems. So today I thought I’d share my 10 self-care strategies for when the universe is conspiring against you.

10 Self-Care Strategies for When the Universe is Conspiring Against You Click To Tweet

001: Move.

I am by no means an athlete, and if you try to convince me to sign up for CrossFit, I’m gonna roll my eyes so far back in my head that my retinas will detach. Instead, I think everyone should focus on a workout that they enjoy, and stick to that. There are far too many terrible things we have to do in the day without adding another thing you don’t want to do to the list. For me, my favorite way to move is going to yoga class, or watching TV on the treadmill or elliptical. But never underestimate the power of getting up from your desk and just walking around for a few minutes. Seriously. It feels good.

002: Read.

I cannot express the joy I feel when I unplug from everything and cuddle up with a book. I love shutting out everything else, and getting absorbed in a completely different world for a while. And when I’m done, I always have that feeling of renewal because it’s like I’ve taken a break from life for a while.

003: Write.

I used to be in the practice of journaling every morning, and it was seriously the most mind clearing thing I have ever done. While I no longer do it religiously like I once did, I always reach for a pen when I need to get my head right.

004: Eat.

For the longest time, I would feed myself whatever garbage I was craving, and that was fine until about a few years ago. The older I get, the harder it is to eat junk. In fact, junk food now gives me hangover-like symptoms. (Aging is a joy.) So, now, to take care of myself, I’m eating more fruit and leafy greens. And even though I would love a pile of cheese fries or a gallon of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream at all times, I know I can’t have that and still be a productive person. A healthy meal goes a long way when it comes to my mood and overall well-being.

005: Primp.

Weird thing I’ve been into lately: moisturizing my cuticles and nails. I’ve noticed that my nails are super strong, and my cuticles no longer look like they were chewed off by a pack of wild dogs. And while how my nails look isn’t that important, it is important that I’m taking some time to do something for me that makes me happy.

006: Work.

There’s just something about scratching something off your to do list that’s good for the soul. I’m addicted to getting stuff done before noon, because it feels so good to know that I have the rest of the day to not stress about the things that I haven’t done. Sure, I forget this sometimes and procrastinate the day away. But I’m trying remind myself on those mornings when I want to slack how utterly terrible I will feel at the end of the day. And that tends to keep me in line.

007: Rest.

It’s taken me a long time to realize that resting is not scrolling through Instagram or reading all the tweets from the past 2 hours. Sure, I’m generally laying down when I do those things, but I’m not letting my mind have a break when it needs it. Instead, I’ve recently become a fan of the power nap. It’s a great way to take 20 minutes to recharge, and I wake up ready to go. And if I’m not feeling the nap that day, I like to rest by stepping out into the backyard with Rosie. We like to sit in chairs on the back porch and just watch the squirrels jump from tree to tree.

008: Listen.

Over the summer while I worked with the Institute of Reading Development, my record player was piled under tons of books. Now that everything is all cleaned up, I’ve been listening to a few special edition 45s from The Gaslight Anthem, and it’s made me fall back in love with just sitting and listening to music. I’ve even taken this into my work life. When people or technology issues get tough, I pick a playlist on my phone, and play it through my bluetooth speaker. Sure, it doesn’t fix the problem, but it calms me down enough to deal with it.

It doesn't fix the problem, but it calms me down enough to deal with it. Click To Tweet

009: Laugh.

This is perhaps one of the most narcissistic things I do, but I feel I should share it with you so you can also enjoy this silly tactic. I like to think of funny things I’ve said or done, because it makes me laugh out loud. I am my own biggest fan, and I’m sure I’m the only one who can fully appreciate my jokes. And thinking about my old jokes invariably leads into thinking about all the great jokes I will tell in the future, which is a great way to cheer up. Now, you don’t have to sit around and bask in your own comedic glory, but you absolutely should take some time to laugh. So, whatever makes you giggle, go for it.

010: Bond.

Whether I’m looking into Rosie’s eyes while I scratch her ears, or I’m talking about my day with Chris, I like to spend one-on-one time with people (yeah, Rosie’s a people) I love. And I think the one-on-one is important. No one bonds with a large group of people all at the same time.


What about you? What are your self-care strategies for when the universe is conspiring against you?