“For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.”
—Catherine Drinker Bowen

7 Steps to Procrastinate Less and Meet Your Writing Deadlines

As a writer who wants to be taken seriously, it is important to always meet your deadlines. Always, always, always deliver your articles on time. Don’t be late, ever. Here are seven steps to help you procrastinate less and meet your writing deadlines, counting down from seven.


7 Steps to Miss Your Writing Deadline

Day 7. Write the deadline down in your planner. Writing down the day your article is due will let you know exactly how many days you have until your story is due. For this example, you have one week until the deadline. Because you have one whole week, you don’t have to start yet, because you still have tomorrow to start. There is a lot of time before the story is due, so don’t worry about starting the story yet.
Day 6. Think about what you are going to write about. Think about your article while you wash dishes, rearrange all the furniture in the house, and while you take everything out of your pantry. Label all of your canned goods and put them back in alphabetical order. You don’t have to write anything yet, you still have six days left. Just think about your story.
Day 5. Watch eight episodes of your favorite television show in one sitting. Consider this research. You still have five days left, so you don’t have to worry about starting your story yet. You still have tomorrow.
Day 4. Look at your calendar and your deadline. You still have four days so don’t write your rough draft yet, go and take a nap and dream about writing.  Don’t do any research, or gather any material, you can research tomorrow.
Day 3. Go to the store and buy a new notebook. You will feel like you are being productive, and you might be able to find a notebook that coordinates with your socks. You still have three days left, you can always write your story tomorrow, in your new notebook.
Day 2. Clean our your refrigerator and scrub all of your toilets. Your story is due tomorrow morning by 9:00. It is the night before your deadline. Instead of writing during the day, clean your refrigerator and scrub your toilets.  Having a clean refrigerator and clean toilets will help you focus on writing your first draft later that evening.

After supper, watch another episode of your favorite television show. Don’t let a deadline keep you from watching your favorite actor. And how can you concentrate on writing if your don’t know if Arrow will be able to save his sister Thea from the leader of The League of Assassins, Ra’s al Ghul. (Don’t tell me, I am still on season three.)
It is about ten in the evening now, the night before your story is due.

Write your rough draft.  Now. Write your story now. You have no choice. You have to write, because you will never miss a deadline. After you write your rough draft, take a nap on the sofa with your cat. Around midnight, or three in the morning when you wake up, edit your story.

Day 1. Today is the day your story is due. When you wake up from your nap with your cat at four in the morning, consider sending your editor an email and tell them you quit. Say, “I can’t do this anymore. I am not a writer. I don’t know anything about writing.” Cry into your pillow.

Then check for spelling mistakes and submit your story to your editor. You beat your deadline by five hours. A win.

After you submit your story to your editor write down your next deadline. Then, take a nap, you still have six more days until the next story is due.

Is there a better way?


7 Steps to Approach a Writing Deadline Without Writing all Night the Night Before.

How can a writer actually get a story done early? So they are not typing late into the night the day before their story is due?

Day 7. Write the deadline down in your planner. Block out time for the next five days and schedule when you are going to write. And do what you say. If you block out writing from ten to eleven on Monday. Then write from ten to eleven. Sit in your chair and write.
If your friend asks you to go for coffee on Monday at ten say, “No, I have something scheduled then.” You are a writer. Don’t give away your writing time. Even if you write from home. You can schedule your time.
Day 6. Think about what you are going to write about. Gather material for your article. Research on-line, or go to the Library to get material. Then read the material you gather.
Day 5. Do not watch eight episodes of your favorite television show in one sitting. Today you will write your rough draft. Rough as in you are getting your ideas down. Sit in your chair, or at your standing desk and write. Write. Write. Don’t edit. Just write. After you get your rough draft written you may watch one episode of your favorite television show. Not eight. Now go to bed and get a good nights sleep.
Day 4. Look at your calendar and your deadline. Today you will edit your rough draft. Read your rough draft out loud and re-write any sentences that need work. Does your opening sentence make it clear to the reader what they will learn in the article?  After you edit your story you may take a nap. But, not before. Edit and then nap.
Day 3. Re-read your story and make any final edits. Submit your article to your editor. Ask for feedback. Submitting early is better than submitting your story “just in time.”  When you submit your article early you give your editor time to make suggestions on ways for you to improve your writing.
Day 2. Make the corrections your editor suggested. Re-submit your story after you re-write your article based on the feedback your editor gave you. Now you can watch another episode of Arrow, go shopping for a new notebook to match your socks, clean your refrigerator and your toilets, or take a nap.
Day 1. You can go to bed early. Your story has already been submitted. You can have a good nights sleep or watch eight episodes of your favorite television show. You made your deadline.

After you submit your story to your editor write down your next deadline. Block out time for the next five days and schedule when you are going to write.

How do you deal with writing deadlines? Do you write the night before or do you submit your writing days before the deadline? Let me know in the comments section.


For the rest of this week, schedule a specific time to write. Then come back here in a few days, and share in the comments if having a scheduled time to write helped you actually write.

For today’s practice. Write for fifteen minutes about a writer who keeps putting off writing. What will the writer do instead of write? Walk the dog? Clean the seven litter boxes?

Or write for fifteen minutes on your current writing project.
As always, I love to read your writing.


About Pamela Hodges

Pamela writes about art, creativity, and reflections on life with six cats, two dogs, two birds, and seven litter boxes. She would love to meet you at ipaintiwrite.com.

  • S.Ramalingam

    Just now I read Adam Grant’s ‘Why I taught myself to procrastinate’ an article published in New York Times on 16/01/2016, the Sunday.It gave a quite opposite picture of procrastination.Your article, I feel, may suit active freelancers mostly but not to the great essayist White to whom procrastination was an art.Anyhow I enjoyed your article without any room for procrastination the moment I got the email from Write Practice.Thanks for sharing.

    • Hello S. Ramalingam,
      Thank you for your kind comment. And thank you for letting me know about the article in The New York Times, I will look for it.

  • Sarkis Antikajian

    Procrastination. Pamela, It is funny to read the ways we go through a few of the 7 steps of procrastination stated above, if not all. But it is sad that we keep procrastinating when we know better at the expense of being haunted by guilt that we waste precious time.

    • Hello Sarkis,
      Yes, it is sad to think of all the time wasted. Mind you, the toilets and the refrigerator did need to be cleaned.
      I think the biggest waste when the writing is done the night before, is the writing doesn’t have time to breathe. There is not enough time to re-write.
      I usually write my articles the day before. This week I am going to write earlier.

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    LOL – I was down with flu-like symptoms last week and pretty much stayed in bed and/or watched Friends reruns – 🙁

    I was honest with my client, but this will never happen again. I HATE being late, but I couldn’t do much last week…(a personal setback didn’t help either)


    • Hello Krithika,
      Do you feel better today? I hope so.
      Being sick would make it very hard to meet a deadline. It is hard to wash dishes when you are sick let alone write a story.
      Here is a hug for your personal setback. I hope it is set forward now, and not back.

  • Shreeya Patel

    I’m procrastinating right now by reading this article instead of writing…

    • Hi Shreeya,
      You are funny. Did you write after you read the article?
      (I am answering comments instead of writing.)

      • Shreeya Patel

        Lol, nice. And yes, I did write after this post, but not straight after. I spent about an hour reading articles and blog posts about writing…and then I wrote a little.

  • Christine

    I’m a perfectionist. I know from experience that this HAS to factor in when it comes to keeping deadlines. I’m great at procrastinating, too, but if I actually commit to doing some writing by a certain day, I have to allow room for my perfectionist streak. I’m obsessive when it comes to polishing; I’ve worked over some longer articles about twenty times before sharing them with the world.

    So first I percolate the whole plot/ argument /tale, usually scene-by-scene, in my mind so when I sit down I can write it as I envision it. And then I must allow for at least six revisions, so if I have to finish an article by Jan 30th I need to actually write the rough draft on Jan 24th. Then I’ll go over it again daily until the final hour. I may not get it in a minute before the deadline, but it’ll be ready.

    If I don’t discipline myself to write a rough draft a week ahead, chances are I’ll panic, freeze, and blow the deadline. My problem comes when I lack specific deadlines. That’s what I need to work on.

    My latest work is an editing job that’s proving quite interesting. The Englishman who made up the tale looked for a ghostwriter to write it out for him. He found a friend in Holland who wrote it down for him, but all in Dutch. Then another friend translated it back into English. Recently someone asked me if I’d do the editing. So I’m checking for the usual points, plus turning a lot of sentences around to our English sentence structure.

    • Hello Christine,
      Your method to write early and leave time for edits is so wise. I am going to follow your plan this week. Hopefully I will actually listen to myself. So Pamela tomorrow has to listen to Yesterday Pamela and write when Yesterday Pamela said to write when she wrote down the writing hours.
      Your editing job really does sound fun.
      Wishing you all my best on your story.

      • Christine

        Eh? Pamela which one does what? 🙂

        I just found out this story was written in German, not Dutch — not that it makes much difference. I’m spending hours having fun — and at least it’s appreciated.

        • Ha,
          The Pamela’s get all mixed up. Tonight I will write myself a note. Tomorrow I will read it. And then I have to do what the note says.
          Like write.
          How nice your friends appreciate your editing brain. Maybe tonight you can write yourself a note for Tomorrow Christine. 🙂

  • Katina Vaselopulos

    Good post, Pamela.
    Smart and funny!
    I am not good with deadlines because family is my priority and writing gets done on spare time.
    Perhaps age has to do a lot with it. Perspective and priorities change. Trust that what needs to be done will be done keeps me going instead of giving up.
    Thank you for your sharing your perspective.



    • Hello Katina,
      Thank you. (smile) Learning through something funny is so much more fun. I really have to stop binge watching television shows. I did watch eight episodes of the Arrow at one sitting. It might actually have been more like twelve. But, I lost count.
      Family is a healthy priority. Someone to love and care for.
      Your life is so interesting.

  • joseph athirumkal

    I think before starting to write a story, you may read few paragraphs of a story wrote by famous writer. This will help you to tune your mind. For example if you were busy with other subjects and suddenly coming at 8 O clock to write, it is difficult to get the lines. Or listen favourite music to tune your mind.

    • Hello Joseph,
      What a good idea, for a writer to clear their mind before they start to write. Do you listen to music before you write?
      I like to listen to Brandon Heath when I paint. And silence when I write.

  • Xiza

    Oh my God, I am so busted! That is exactly *how* I procrastinate. Exactly. Cleaning, watching my favorite series, reading something in the same genre I am writing, finding a perfect notebook then I work throughout the night to be able to submit the next morning. I am making a turn around today.
    Thank you a lot Pam (can I call you Pam? after all you just saved my writing butt)

    • Roxanna I am in the cubicle right next to you watching my favorite episodes of my favorite show as I clean and rearrange my desk thinking of what to write, hope my computer isn’t to loud so you cant watch your shows..lol

      If you find a cute blue notebook send it mt way … hehe

      • Hahaha Debra, I thought mine was too loud and I put on headphones.
        What are you supposed to be working on? I’ll swing by your desk to check on you & keep you accountable.

        • My go to episodes are of Mash…. And what I am working on a mystery romance…. its called Mistaken Identity. it sat dormant for years under another name,, but now its going well and I am enjoying writing it again. Sure stop by my desk any time we’ll chat about what we are working on.,.. what’s your go to show if ya dont mind me askin

          • The Voice… =D I have the DVDs for the different seasons. Sometimes I just put in Frozen and do sing alongs…
            I would like to read that Mystery Romance when it’s done Debra. Have you given yourself a deadline for when you want to finish?

          • I’ll keep that in mind. I haven’t thought of a deadline really because last year was so hard. But I am thinking by the end of Feb for the first draft to be finished.

            I also have short stories I write when I can’t think of what to do with mistaken…. even that has added a few twists I didn’t expect so it is still interesting and fun to write.

    • Hello Roxanna,
      How fun that we share procrastination hobbies. Maybe we should do more writing with more deadlines so our house would be cleaner? I usually only clean the bathrooms if we have company coming. But, now they get clean when I have a writing deadline.
      My friends call me Pamela, Roxanna. And I would love to be your friend.
      The non-stick spray, Pam, has kept me using my full name. (smile)
      May I ask what you are writing?

      • Pamela is then 🙂
        I just finished a stage play on Monday morning (spent the night up in order to meet the deadline). I am now working on a short fiction whose draft deadline is in about three weeks. I went back to working on it yesterday after reading your article so thank you.

        Oh, I checked out your ipaintiwrite website yesterday-it is evidence of your super coolness 🙂

        What are you working on?

        • Hello Roxanna,
          Oh, how fun. A stage play. It would be so exciting to see a story in real life, with actors speaking your words. And short fiction too.
          Thank you for checking out my blog. My kids don’t think there is any super coolness here. Well, maybe a little. I let them draw on the living room walls with chalk.
          Right now I am “working on” formatting a book I wrote using Adobe InDesign.
          “working on” means I am cleaning the toilets and procrastinating.
          Thank you for asking.

          • Someone needs to lock those toilets and throw away the keys…

    • noura

      hahahaha same with me I also have 4 kids one of which is a baby with me at home!

  • donaldyates

    Very nice post.

    • Thank you Donald Yates,
      Thank you very much.

  • DiyaSaini

    Down the block, a writer had shifted his base from North to South hall. The word spread like fire, as book sellers still had his best seller on the first rack. My friend shared the same wall being his neighbour, but never spoke a word of praise. He defined & described him as an arrogant, rude, cold blooded person. The winds played “Chinese Whisper”, echoed of standing on his success pedestal, where placing feet on ground seemed difficult for him. His false promises & contracts sealed to deliver, next piece of art with bookmark on time had fallen short of his words. Which made few people curse him everyday as his hollow promises started aching like sore throats. His success was pulling him down with vicious habit of it’s own. Realisation was the only path, which he had to get it on his own. Friends instead of guiding, misguided him through. His bestseller had shifted racks, while others started holding the throne.
    The cycle needs to keep moving, deadline of one has a new beginning waiting in it.

    • Hello Diya,

      You have very strong images in your piece. I love this part. “Which made few people curse him everyday as his hollow promises started aching like sore throats.”
      It almost reads like a poem. Strong clear images.

  • Kathy Mercure

    I really thought the first part was the real story, because (except for the consider writing an email…) that’s pretty much me. I’ve never missed a deadline, and there is something about one looming that springs me into action, toilet cleaning and all. I accept who I am and most of the time don’t even find it stressful anymore… is that a bad thing?

    • Hello Kathy,
      Actually, the first part was real, except for putting the cans in alphabetical order. I watched eight (twelve) episodes of Arrow, and have two weeks between deadlines and not one.
      So good you have not missed a deadline. And it is wonderful you don’t find deadlines stressful anymore. You are even smiling!

      • Kathy Mercure

        It always amazes me how much procrastination I manage to do, and how I never seem to get anything done without a deadline…

        • Hi Kathy,
          How have you been doing with your deadlines and procrastination?

          • Kathy Mercure

            Still fighting the good fight, but I’ve taken to scheduling blocks of time in my days to get things done. It worked quite well yesterday, but I’ll need a bit of time to figure out how much times things take. I’m even scheduling in playtime and journal time, because these things are important to me.

      • Kathy Mercure

        Haha, still fighting the good fight. I’ve taken to scheduling my days quite thoroughly and it seems to be working in the one day I’ve done it. I’m even scheduling playtime and journal writing time. It’s so easy to let things slide.

  • LuAnn Braley

    This is so dang funny! Funny how we find so many things to put in front of what really needs doing.

    • Hello LuAnn,
      The funny part is the first part is real. The only thing I didn’t do was put the cans in alphabetical order. And it was more like twelve episodes of Arrow and not eight.
      The weird part is I actually love writing, and HATE cleaning.

  • LilianGardner

    Hello Pamela.
    I love your post!
    I’m procrastinating less these days and hope it lasts.
    I’ve also set a time for writing in the afternoon when I ‘hope’ I won’t be interrupted, and I’ve decided to work steadily on just one manuscript at a time.
    I need a deadline to get things done.
    Hugs to you, my catloving friend,

    • Hello Lillian,
      So nice to see you again. And bravo, on procrastinating less. It will last, you just have to listen to Lillian what Yesterday Lillian told Today Lillian to do. I like to leave written notes to myself. If I don’t write down my plan for the day, I don’t do anything constructive.
      What a great idea to work on one manuscript at a time. I try to work on eighty0four million manuscripts at the same time and noting gets done.
      Hugs to you too Lillian.

      • LilianGardner

        Thanks for your reply, Pamela.
        For the moment Lilian is getting the upper hand, mind you, without written plans but determination to stick to a routine. I hope Lilian will listen more and more to Lilian to get things done.
        Minnie says you rock and sends her paw shake.
        Hugs galore,

  • Amanda Jeffs

    hahahahaha OMG this is too good!! thank you for writing this in a funny, then helpful straight forward way that is very relateable.
    And OK MAYBE I am guilty of this LOLLL! –> “clean your refrigerator and scrub your toilets. Having a clean refrigerator and clean toilets will help you focus on writing”

    • Hello Amanda,
      Thank you for the hahahahaha. So happy the funny writing was helpful. Well, at least your refrigerator and your toilets get clean when you have a deadline. Maybe we just need more deadlines so we can keep our house cleaner. 🙂

  • Okay my turn… I so procrastinate …. I’m doing it right now… reading these wonderful comments. I didn’t (or haven’t yet) written yet ( I say yet because there is still the rest of the day til I go to bed at 11 or so pm) because I had a phone interview at 1 30 with someone… A phone interview… something to do at home in the afternoon which lasted maybe 30 minutes. So because of that, I cleared my whole day for those 30 minutes …. if you ask me why I can not tell you for I have no excuse…. for shame… now its 4 and I’m reading email and watching t.v

    What do I do all day? Nothing, I am disabled and don’t work so my schedule is free. So what I need to do and am trying to fix, I find myself doing other things dishes taking out trash, laundry, cleaning house… and so many other things not writing,,, so I am working to schedule my day so everything could be planned …. This may be a case of too much time on my hands… cal-gone take me away…

    • Hello Debra,
      It is now 10:26 EST in the evening. Did you write today? Or did you clean your whole house and wash all the windows and vacuum the ceiling?
      I delay writing too.
      I hope your day was filled with sunshine. Did the interview go well?
      Yes, too much time on your hands. Life can take up so much time, we forget to live.
      All my best,

      • Ms. Hodges I am guilty of not writing today,,, its 11:11 pm cst… But I did read the story I was working on, but did not add any new words.

        And today was full of clouds and snow on the horizon. To answer your question, yes the interview went well and I did the dishes, hehe. Thank you.

      • Ok, before midnight I did get in 300 new words on the story… so mini success now to keep that going and thanks to the snowy weather out I will get those in today, no problem.

        • Great news Debra,
          Mini success is success. One word at a time.
          I hope you keep safe. If I lived closer I would shovel your sidewalks.

          • awww thank you. Staying safe is the thing to do,, thank goodness i live in an apt and main takes care of the side walks and such with shoveling and ice salt… the only time i go out is for dr appts and that is out the door and into the van… its just too cold to be out if ya dont have to ..

  • I usually do it the first way & though I don’t miss my deadline, I do lose a lot of sleep!
    I am hoping to get out of this slump & getting to work on “Crime & Impunity in New Orleans.” I told the editor I would send it to him in March or April.
    I have ideas to add to the story & I know ideas will come to me as I write. So, why am I dragging my feet? I thought the 2nd one would be easier?
    Sherrie Miranda’s historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
    Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too:

    • Hello Sherpeace,
      It would be so much better for our sleep habits if we didn’t wait until the last minute.
      Your story sounds interesting. Very dramatic. Do you set daily word goals? I have to write more. I would rather have a book published than clean toilets.
      Wishing you sunbeams and good writing days.

  • ToryLynn

    Replace “editor” with “teacher” and “article” with “essay” and I think I can give this to my students as a great guide!

    • Oh Tory Lynn, What a fun idea.
      Please share this with your students.
      I wonder if the humorous approach will help them get their assignments in on time?
      Please let me know what your students thought.

  • Oh LaCresha,
    Why are your little faces crying? Do you not give yourself a deadline? I rarely give myself a deadline for my own work, because I hate being told what to do, even if I am telling myself.

    • LaCresha Lawson

      Awwww, thank you for understanding. Yes! The pressure is so impactful and the guilt sets in because I may not meet the deadline.

      • Did yesterday go better LaCresha?
        A little each day will keep the tears away. I believe in you.

  • noura

    a great read! one question: is one day really enough to muse over the story and think about it..?

    • Hello Noura,
      hmmmm, good question. Is one day really enough to muse over the story and think about it?
      One day of focused attention can be enough. If I have two days to think about a story, I take two days. If I have three weeks to think about a story, I take three weeks.
      My problem is making up my mind.
      Even after I publish a story, I can think of ways to change it, or say something differently.
      What do you think Noura? Is one day enough?

  • B. Gladstone

    Procrastination. Such a nasty word. Who came up with it? It’s another attempt of society to label, discriminate, accuse and create hostility. I mean, who can determine what is procrastination, when it starts, what it looks like or feels like. Missing a deadline is one thing, but as long as you don’t miss it, go for it your way and don’t let anyone judge you how you did it or when you did it. We know writing is not easy and we know what it takes. I’m just glad I get a chance to do it and participate in contests and submit for publication. If the editor wants to make suggestions before the deadline, the editor should then have a deadline for suggestions and the editor must have a deadline to return with comments and suggestions. And a “two to three days” is not a deadline. Go to bed early should not even be a suggestion with eight episodes to watch, a toilet to clean, coffee dates you need to schedule and a refrigerator to clean.

    • Oh B. Gladstone,
      Thank you for your wise council. Procrastination could be a nice word. A friendly word. Maybe procrastination was invented so writers would actually clean their refrigerator and their toilets.
      If I didn’t have writing deadlines I would never clean my house. I hate cleaning.
      Now back to writing. My cat has a blog and she wants me to type for her. She dictates and I type.

  • 709writer

    I had to chuckle at the first set of seven; it’s so typical to put writing off and say we’ll do it later! It’s good to think about what we’re going to write about, but I know for myself I can take that too far and keep putting it off. Deadlines can scare me, and I’m usually a plan-ahead kind of person, but often when it comes to writing, I put it off a lot. What I need to do is pick either a certain time every day or a set time frame every day to just write, no matter how bad it is and even if I can’t think of anything to write – I just need to do it anyway.

    Thanks for the article, there’s some great advice in here! : )

    • Hello 709writer,
      I don’t know why I watched eight episodes of Arrow, or maybe it was twelve instead of writing a rough draft.
      Did you try picking a certain time to write every day yet? Maybe it is all about making habits.
      Right now we might be in the habit of leaving writing until the last minute. Maybe we could must make an earlier deadline and make a new habit?
      You are welcome. Or thank you for thanking me. Now back to cleaning out the pantry.

  • Joseph Alexander

    I think before starting to write a story, you may read few paragraphs of a story wrote by famous writer. This will help you to tune your mind.Lakers Snapback Caps

  • Pingback: Read These! | Writing 12()

  • Davidh Digman

    I have only just read this piece as I never believe in procrastinating today what I can procrastinate the Tuesday after next.