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Forget Willpower: Here’s What You Can Do to Dominate Bad Blogging Habits

This guest post is by Bea Kylene Jumarang of Writing Off the Rails.

You tell yourself you need to exercise, but you don’t do it. You tell yourself you need to write, but then you go on Twitter. Or, my favorite situation, you tell yourself you need to save more, and then you blow out your cash on that shiny new bag.

It’s a vicious little cycle, and you know you need to end it, but you don’t. Of course, you tell yourself it’s your fault, and add in, “If only I had a little bit more willpower.”

Well guess what? Willpower’s no good.

It’s a limited resource and it’s generally a bad one to draw on when it comes to eliminating bad habits. Barring sudden epiphanies, you’re going to stay stuck in your cycle if all you do is tell yourself that you need more willpower.

What I’m going to show you in this post is a different approach, and how you can use it to remove and replace bad blogging habits.

1. Eliminate temptation

Okay, I realize that sounds trite and sort of stupid. Still, you would be surprised at how many things just need to be removed in order to remedy your bad habits. Like Robert Downey Jr. says in Due Date, “If you’re allergic to waffles, don’t go to a waffle house.”

Now, let’s apply that to you. Say you’re a blogger who’s a little too addicted to being online. You know that it damages your productivity, but you tell yourself you can limit your online time just by having more willpower. If that sounds like you, please do take a reality check. You already know it doesn’t really work that way.

Why? Again, willpower’s no good.

So what do you do? Once you open your laptop or tablet, or wherever it is that you write, get your writing done first. The moment your device boots up, go straight to your word processor. Don’t open a browser. Seriously, don’t even think about it. Just click the word processor icon and start getting words on a page. Remember, you’re not a writer until words are on the page, and you’re not a blogger until you have a blog post published.

Got that? Eliminate temptation. It’s the first step.

2. Now, just show up and do it

So here you are. Your word processor’s open, but you’re just itching to close it and come back later. You’re thinking of all the emails you might have, or how many tweets have piled up in your timeline. You’re in the danger zone.

Solution? Tell yourself out loud, “I will not open my browser. Instead, I will write 1000 words.”

You’d be shocked at how a verbal affirmation can do wonders for your behavior. By speaking the words out loud, your thoughts get redirected to the affirmation you just said. And did you notice the 1000 words bit? That wasn’t random. That amount is a manageable daily goal. It’s not that hard to reach, and it’s a specific, measurable number. Remember, getting specific with your goals is always a good idea.

Now you might say, “But I need willpower to reach the goal!”

I get that, which brings me to the words, “Just show up and do it.”

If you’re a writer, just start writing. Turn off your internal editor and just get words on a page. Just write. Free yourself up to write really badly, because at the end, you’ll have something. Far better to have a poor chapter or a flat blog post to edit, than to have nothing at all.

Each time you’re tempted to stop, whip out the verbal affirmation again. “I will not open my browser. Opening it will make me unproductive. I will finish my writing.”

If you just keep on going, you’ll find that you’ve gone over the 1000 word goal, or you’ll have finished the blog post you needed to write.

Here, I’m giving you the template—you can apply this advice to whatever blogging task it is that you want to get done. That said, it’s a good thing to know what your personal limits are. That way, you can customize your affirmations depending on how many words you can normally write.

It’s now time for the feel-good step in this process.

3. Reward yourself

Let’s say you’ve finished your writing goals, or you’ve done your blog post. Congratulations! Two things can happen at this point.

The first possible outcome is that you might feel so good you’ll want to continue. If that’s what you feel, by all means do it. However, if you’re just starting out on the road to dominating your habits, the better thing to do is to stop and reward yourself.

This is pure conditioning, by the way. Studies show that we do what rewards us, and we actively avoid what punishes us. As much as you may want to claim being above such caveman simplicity, in the end it’s a matter of psychology and common sense.

So, what I want you to do is just stop. Go say a verbal congratulations to yourself, and then reward yourself with something that makes you happy. Now would be the time for you to open your browser, check your email or say hi to Twitter in all its 140-character glory.

To be clear, you can only reward yourself if you did what you set out to do. Don’t go cheating (hint, use the verbal affirmations and stop yourself), because cheating will defeat the entire purpose of rewards in the end.

4. Take it a step further: automate

The three steps above are a rinse-and-repeat process. You just do the whole thing over and over again to replace bad habits with good ones. Of course, ones the habits are in place, you won’t need rewards because the actions will be automatic.

However, you can still tweak this process to get even better results. If that’s what you want, my advice to you is to automate. To make it easy, here are some extremely actionable automation posts, courtesy of finance whiz Ramit Sethi.

How can you apply automation to your blog writing?

The answer is, you can’t. The only things you can automate are the things that get you even more writing time.

Let me give you an example. Social media is a huge distraction when you want to get writing done. Usually, that’s because you’re always on the hunt for things to tweet or link to. Now, I love Twitter, so this applies best to that service. If you want to get more time and not have to manually tweet, you can use a scheduler like HootSuite or Buffer. If you’re more of a Facebook person, HootSuite also has scheduling for that.

Throughout the day, you can list content in these apps, then just schedule the updates for the next day. With that method, you’ll have more time to write and get other errands done. Even so, you’ll still have the added comfort of knowing that you’re sharing great stuff.

These are my tips on dealing with the limitations of willpower. If you have some to share, I’d love to know in the comments!

Bea Kylene Jumarang is a fiction writer and the blogger behind Writing Off the Rails. When she’s not working on her books or her blog, she’s writing on tissues inside a Starbucks café, or socializing with people on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. My best tip is to write first thing in the morning. I organize my schedule so that I ALWAYS write for 30 minutes first thing in the morning. Typically, I write my Monday blog entry on Fridays but I lost Friday to an early meeting downtown. So I woke up at 6 am today — a Sunday! — and wrote my post.

    Oh, and if I hadn’t had the weekend to play “catch-up,” I would have gotten up even earlier on Friday morning — say 5:30 am, so I could have written the blog before going downtown.

    If you want to see my blog post tomorrow, go to http://www.publicationcoach.com/blog/

    • Writing first thing in the morning is still the norm for me, and I’ve found that the morning hours certainly lend a helpful dose of focus. Thankfully though, out of practice, I’ve come to the point where writing gets done no matter what hour I start. Morning is still best for me though!

      And as to you waking up 6 am today – nice to hear! I see it’s a catch-up method, and I’ve done the same when unexpected things come up. Mostly though, I don’t have things that infringe on my writing, but things may be different for you.

      Kudos and thanks for the comment, Daphne! PS, I’ll check out your post!

  2. I’m a firm believer in NOT opening your browser when you open your computer. Sometimes I restrict myself and don’t open my email either. It works!

    • It truly does. For me, I tend to schedule and batch my tasks. I do all my writing for the day first, and then when that’s done, I process all the online work that still needs doing. Having gotten used to not opening my browser, it’s easy to get into writing now, but that’s from practicing and resisting the browser urge.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Bryan says:

    I really like your “write badly” idea. Ignoring my web browser is tough for me since my tutorials are based on so much research. I’m thinking I should just have a “research” session and compile all my notes in Evernote. Then I can close my browser and only refer to Evernote.

    • Good thinking, Bryan. Batching tasks does wonders for productivity. I also do quite a lot of research, and I tend to do them in sessions. I focus on the task of research alone, and I’ve found that the focus helps me get more of the research done. Hope your ‘research session’ plan pays off well!

  4. Kim says:

    I was in the middle of writing a post, when I stopped to check twitter and saw the link to this. You’re right, it’s just too tempting when the browser is open! That does it. Browser closing in 3…2……

    • Hey Kim! Thanks for the comment. Browsers are tempting little things, aren’t they? Anyhow, I’m glad you chose to close the browser. They can really sap lots of time when writing needs to be done.

  5. muazfaris says:

    i think it happen to me also.. when i open the social network such as twitter.. all the idea for blogging is suddenly gone.. huhu

    • Hey there! Social networks can be a huge drain of time, so I definitely know what you’re going through. Thanks for this comment. If there’s anything I can do to help you, let me know!

  6. Karan Paul says:

    yea i agree social media distract me from blogging but now i become too addicted to fb so sometimes i forgot to even write blog but never forget to check out my fb notifications haha thats really true it seems to difficult to me to say bye to fb for atleast a day ! :/ but still i like blog on social media and marketing stuff and love blogging :D

    • Hi Karan!

      Firstly, thanks for the comment. I think this is a matter of priorities and selecting what habits you know you need to change. Just think about how much you love blogging, and try to choose in its favor accordingly. Hope you find the tips in the post usable for your own situation.

      Also, I recognize how hard it is to change habits. Do take it slow, the changes will get better with time. The important thing is to get started.

  7. infoinbulk says:

    Its better to write posts offline

    • For me, this is the way of things. I do the drafting of my posts in my word processor, and then I just transfer the draft when I’m ready to schedule it for posting.

  8. James Dean says:

    you are very right, just before going to my blog dashboard, i check my facebook account and then you know, rest of the story.

    • James, I know what the FB checking can do – it’s damaging to productivity, but then social networks make us feel good, right? Anyhow, I think the key thing is to really find what your priorities are. If you prioritize your writing and your blog, making the choice to write first is not too hard to make.

      Thank you for your comment!

  9. Mel says:

    Thanks for this, Bea. I’m in the process of completely reworking how I think about my blogs and how I manage my time for them after coming to the shocking (to me) realization that if I stuck with my old way of thinking, I’d be “working” 12 hours/day and still not get caught up. Some of what needs to change is external, but there are definitely some personal habits that need to be changed as well!

    • Hello Mel! First, thanks for this comment, and second, I’m glad you came to your realization. Regarding the personal habits that need to change, I wish you well, and I hope the journey of change won’t have to be too hard. If there’s anything I can do or anything you need further help with, I’m here.

  10. Shelby Roth says:

    Great post! I really do assent with the tips above; they are truly charming and positive. I happen to fall under the same trap whereby I tell myself I need to exercise, but fail doing it and also when I go to my favorites social media, everything MI would have done better on my writing goes off! I now can believe that everything have to go with a habit held-up with someone’s personal desires in order to enjoy the change that always awaits! Thanks a lot for helping out. I’m at most inspired!

    • Hi Shelby, and thank you for commenting!

      I’m glad this post had value for you, and I’m humbled to learn that it inspired you in some way. For me, that end result is what keeps me writing posts like these. Also, it’s good to hear that you can relate to the post. I see that relatability as a positive indicator that I must have done something right. Hope you’re well!

  11. You have got to do what you have to do at times we have to sacrifice to get somethings going. Social media is good but can be addictive one has to be carefully how to balance the two if you don’t want to find yourself in the loosing end.

    • Sacrifices do need to be made for the things we care about. For me, one danger of social media is the instant gratification it provides. With the way our culture promotes this instant gratification, we tend to lose sight of the fact that the best things take a lot of time.

      Balance is also key, and I agree with you on that count. Thanks for the comment, Carmen!

  12. Now this statement…

    ‘If that sounds like you, please do take a reality check. You already know it doesn’t really work that way.’

    It sounds just like me. After this post; change is inevitable.

    • Glad that change will come for you, Tabetha! It’s the ultimate mark of success for me. Also, the ‘it sounds like me’ bit is awesome, because it tells me that I’m in touch with reader problems. Thanks for your comment!

  13. qadar says:

    thanks for the advice. i’m new in blogging and want to find some techniques that i can use so that i can become like you.

    • Hey there, and thanks for the comment. I’m excited to hear that you’re new to blogging, and that you chose to read my particular post on technique. Also, I’m flattered to hear that you wanna be like me. I certainly feel that way about a lot of the great bloggers out there.

      I hope that the blogging journey goes amazingly for you. I truly wish you the best!

  14. soubhik says:

    Its procrastination that often keeps us from growing a strong blog, I have missed quite a few times coz of the same, but now ” I will get the blogs done ” – verbal affirmation :)

    • Hey, and thanks for the comment. As far as your comment on procrastination, I agree with you. Putting things off and making excuses will keep us from getting things done. Cheers on your verbal affirmation, since it makes me happy that readers are applying the tips in the post. It makes me smile. Thanks again!

  15. I can relate to everything in this article. My top tip is to consciously make a habit change and associate it with the new behaviour. Example….. 2 days a week I set my alarm clock to 6.30am and am at my desk by 7.30. I then spend 90 minutes just writing, nothing else, just writing. This is now a new habit. I know which days of the week I do it and I stick to it. Changing location also works, especially where there’s no wifi or power. I then know I’ve got about 90 minutes before my battery pack dies. There’s nothing like a deadline.

    • Hi Jackie! Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I’m very pleased to see your addition to the tips, i.e. the conscious addition of an action associated with the new behavior.

      I think that really helps with strengthening the new behavior you want to turn into a habit. For me, this began with sitting down first thing every morning and writing 1000 words. A lot of time has passed since those first few tries, and now I write more than 3000 words in a session, on average. Multiply that by at least 2 writing sessions a day, and it’s how I keep up with my books and my blog.

  16. Angela Neal says:

    Great article Bea. I find the older I get, the more able I am to resist temptation. The best advice I ever got inevitably had “get over it” tagged to the end of it. Les Charm taught “no time, no money, get over it. You are an entrepreneur. Be creative and go do.” The wonderful Kim Barnouin says “don’t like healthy food. Get over it Bitches” The bottom line: we are responsible for our own success/health and are far too easy on ourselves, letting whining win over doing.

    • ‘Get over it’ would make a great verbal affirmation, and I agree with the point. So many people choose to whine or excuse themselves from something they don’t like to do. For me, I certainly have some things I dislike doing, but I ‘get over it’ and just do it anyway.

      Over time, I’ve found that the dislike decreases the more I do something, and I end up finding something nice in the activity. Anyhow, I agree with you. We really are responsible for our own triumphs.

      Thanks for the comment, Angela!

  17. Mike Collins says:

    Getting rid of distractions is huge. If you see a little flashing telling you there is a new email or skype message waiting it can be very hard to ignore it and keep writing. Better to turn off notifications altogether to remove temptation.

    • Hello Mike! Thanks for the comment, first of all. Second, I agree with you that eliminating temptations is a huge leap forward. New e-mails, new tweets or new Skype messages are just too alluring, so you’re right in saying that we just need to remove the notifications altogether.

      For me, I write offline, most of the time. In terms of my book, it’s written without a browser being on. When it comes to blog posts, I only transfer the final drafts to the WordPress editor for final formatting.

      In short, being offline is a great help.

  18. So many temptations Bea and not enough willpower! It’s not just the online distractions but real life keeps getting in the way too.

    Having recently been a bit of a lapsed blogger I’m getting back to it now so your thoughts are well timed for me. I like the advice to just write even if it’s rubbish as getting something down is motivating and it can be cleaned up and revised later. I have realised that I do need to be a little more organised too, I have plenty time, I just waste so much of it. I tend to write in the WordPress editor so the browser is always open, maybe it is better to separate writing from browsing, must switch off the notifications too.

    I’m off to reward myself now for taking the time to write this comment without being distracted :-)

    Thanks for your excellent post – your advice has not fallen on deaf ears.

    • Hi Tony, and thanks for two things. One is your follow on Twitter, and second is this thoughtful comment. Having had some lapses in blogging myself, I can also identify with your story, so thanks for sharing it with me. Right now, all I can say is that I hope you enjoy your reward!

  19. Nice “write badly” !!

  20. Karen says:

    I’ve never though about rewarding myself, but it really makes sense. A periodic goodie for being consistent is a good idea. Thanks for this post, very helpful.

    • Hi Karen, and thanks for the comment. I’m glad the post offered you a new technique to think about, and I hope that it works for you in your own situation.

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