There isn’t one writer in the world who hasn’t experienced procrastination, writer’s block and burnout. As someone who has made a career from writing all day every day, I admit to having experienced all three on more than one occasion. And while these feelings simply come with the writing territory, they can be quite annoying and frustrating—especially when you have a deadline looming on the horizon.

In my experience, the best way to begin combating these feelings is to acknowledge their presence. In other words, know when to admit that you are struggling so that you can then develop ways to reboot and refresh your creative workflow. Here are some things that I’ve found work for myself and others who have struggled at the hands of writer’s block, procrastination and burnout.

Tips for times of trouble

1. Count down from five: “5-4-3-2-1-GO”

At the risk of sounding too much like Nike’s slogan, one of the tricks to end procrastination and start writing is to just do it. Author and motivational speaker Mel Robbins said it perfectly when she introduced her 5 Second Rule to the world. This rule says that when you feel the urge to do something that you know you should do, such as get off the couch and start writing, you count down from five and then move into action at lightning speed.

This may sound silly to some who are unfamiliar with the rule, but it really does work. In the words of Robbins, “You don’t have to worry too much about WHY the Rule works. Trust me for now. It really does.” Whether it be going to the gym or sitting down to crank out an article that you keep putting off, try the 5 Second Rule whenever you are faced with procrastination.

2. Start with the first draft

Why feeling uncomfortable can make you a better writer

One of the most common causes of writer’s block, from my experience, is the fear of wanting the article to be perfect. Although quality is important, don’t let this fear get to your head. I reached out to my colleague Alisha Sackett, Social Media Coordinator and Content Writer at Superside, who confessed to understanding this common issue all too well:

“I actually suffer with writer’s block and procrastination a lot, especially on technical and formal pieces,” Alisha says. “I get up in my head about the piece not being at a high enough level and can’t produce.”

The antidote to this issue? Write it out. Start writing the first draft by telling yourself that no one will read it to relieve some of the pressure. And if that doesn’t work, try writing anything that comes to mind, even if it is completely irrelevant to your article topic.

As Alisha says, “Just type whatever comes to mind, even if it is rambling nonsense.” 

3. Eliminate distractions

It’s no secret that cell phones and social media make for terrible distractions. When I have an important article to write, I make it a point to turn my phone on “do not disturb.” This allows me to maintain my concentration by eliminating sudden rings and vibrations that so easily break our line of focus while working. 

The location where you work can also play a big role when dealing with procrastination and writer’s block. Sometimes I need a quiet place with no people, in which case I work from home. And other times, the mere silence of my house is too distracting and I need to find a more public place to feel productive. While it may vary from day to day, discover the things that distract you, as well as those that help you focus best. 

4. Select the proper mood music

I’m not exactly what you’d call a classical music type of person. But when I write, I know that it’s time to crank up the Mozart. And if it’s not Mozart or Beethoven, it’s strictly an instrumental playlist playing softly in the background. 

While I personally opt for classical music while I work, I’ve come across many writers who work their best while jamming out to their favorite pop artists. There are those who listen to sounds of nature soundtracks on a loop while writing. And then there are some who can’t have any music playing at all. 

Whether it be upbeat pop, a soft piano, or no music at all, find what music or sounds help pull you out of your writer’s block and focus in on the task at hand. 

5. Surround yourself with inspiration

Some writers fill their home with plants, some have a favorite café they go to everyday, some like libraries, and some find their basement to be the best place to work. Discover what inspires you to write and surround yourself with it. I’ve come to realize that I need to be near a window when I write and any situation in which I can work outside is even better. 

Regardless of what inspires you specifically, it’s important to foster a creative and positive workspace that brings out the best in your work and makes you look forward to writing. 

6. Pin down your “productive” time

Rarely do I come across a writer who doesn’t have a specific time of the day in which they are at their most productive. It’s taken me a bit of time to figure out mine, but I now know that I am at the peak of my productivity in the early hours of the morning. Edith Wharton was also a morning writer, while the fictional Carrie Bradshaw spent the late hours of the evening working on her column. 

The point is, every writer has a “high productivity” time of the day. Figure out what your most productive time of the day is and save your important, more critical projects for those hours. 

7. Switch up your locations

Another common cause of writer’s block and procrastination is boredom, or rather feeling bored in your usual place of work. This is especially common for freelancers who work in their home every day and understand the occasional feelings of restlessness. This restlessness can easily segue into procrastination or writer’s block due to a lack of inspiration. But one of the many benefits of being a freelance writer is the freedom to work from wherever you want.

This summer, for example, I was becoming slightly bored from working in my house day after day. So I walked across the street to my aunt’s house one morning and spent the entire day working on her patio. It was the most productive I had been all week and when I returned to work in my house the next day, I felt refreshed and finally out of my work funk.

If you are feeling uninspired or bored by your usual workspace, try somewhere else for a day or two. Go to a fun coffee shop that you’ve always wanted to try out. Sometimes even switching to another room in the house can do the trick. 

8. Exercise

Exercise is a fantastic way to combat procrastination or writer’s block, one that Alisha and I both swear by.

“Go exercise,” says Alisha. “Even if you don’t exercise, go for a walk outside by a water feature or near some trees.” 

Exercising or even just going for a walk will allow you to return to your work with a clear head. It is also a great solution when dealing with burnout. Take a Pilates class or yoga. Enjoy a relaxing bike ride or go for a walk in the woods. Whatever form of exercise you choose, give it a shot if you are experiencing writer’s block, procrastination, burnout, or all the above.

9. Know when to walk away

Sometimes the best thing to do when you are at a loss for words in your writing is to walk away. Close your computer and do something fun or distracting. Let’s face it, nothing good is going to come out of sitting and stressing in front of your computer for hours. At the end of the day, writing is a creative art and, as such, requires inspiration and a good state of mind.  

Remember that there is no shame in leaving your work for a bit to go for a walk, read a book, binge Netflix, or anything else that will give you a short mental break. It will only make it easier when returning to your work later.

10. Treat yourself

When you feel good, you work good. If you are experiencing burnout, treat yourself to something that is not work related. It is important to prioritize your wellbeing and happiness to help prevent burnout from overworking in the first place. Go out with friends regularly, sleep in one day a week. I personally make it a priority to treat myself to lunch outside my apartment once a week.

Find something fun to do for yourself that you look forward to and that helps you approach your work feeling refreshed and inspired.