Introduce Immediacy Immediately!

Sometimes, there’s something you just can’t get yourself to do for the sake of a story or game. It might be research, might be fleshing out a character, might be looking through that dratted rulebook that’s been on your desk for months, but whatever it is, it’s been really hard to get to it. So what are you to do? Run a one-shot, commit to entering a writing contest, try to improvise a flash-forward—anything that will take that thing that you’re procrastinating on, make it immediately useful, and make you commit to doing it in a decently short time frame.

The thing about having something immediately useful to do with the research in question is that it gives you a sort of push. It’s one thing to come up with the plot twist that as far as you can tell is going to show up in about a year or two if you’re lucky and if the maximum time allotted for session doesn’t shorten again, or to realize that you should probably be researching venereal terms for the character you’re going to be playing if the game after the one you’re currently in ever gets off the ground or illumination techniques for that novel you were thinking of writing. It’s another for them to be showing up in tomorrow’s game or Friday’s blog post.

One of the things using an immediate application gets you is deadline urgency. It doesn’t matter with the game that will be on eventually; you’ll get to it eventually, right? Likewise, if you don’t need to get the novel started now, you can just put off the research (which, if the novel requires the research, might in turn become a nasty vicious cycle of delays). But if there’s a deadline involved, if you have to do it by X date or it’ll never be done, then that becomes a reason to do it, to stop procrastinating, and that’s half of motivation right there. Particularly when you’ve got other people who know that’s what you promised to do and aren’t going to let you forget about it (especially if you told them not to let you forget about it) if you fail.

Even perceived immediate need can lead to some interesting discoveries; I once got a plot twist out of one of my players backing me into a corner and my needing some answer for his question, and not long ago a response to one of my posts on my world-building project led to me flash-creating a teacher-character and a bit of her approach to the concept.

The other advantage of setting yourself up to need to use that information now in a situation where other people are involved is feedback. If you’re the kind of person who does best with immediate results, whether good or bad, it’s easy to find yourself ignoring the things with long-term or uncertain results in favor of the ones that will get you comments, possibly even praise, now. So if you’ve set things up so that what you’re putting off is going to be put to use sometime in the next couple of days, that’s a lot more reason to work on it if you’ve otherwise lost enthusiasm than “I know I’ll need it…. eventually.”

Convincing yourself not to procrastinate can be hard if that’s all you’re doing. But if you give yourself a reason to not procrastinate, and make the reward quick, it might make it easier to stop putting it off.

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