How to stop procrastinating and write that report

It can be pretty stressful to have a deadline for a report submission looming and have no desire to even start copywriting it. You put it off, prioritizing everything else before it. Even the housework becomes a preferred chore to sitting down and getting it done. If you’ve been in this situation, you probably also […]

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stop procrastinating

It can be pretty stressful to have a deadline for a report submission looming and have no desire to even start copywriting it. You put it off, prioritizing everything else before it. Even the housework becomes a preferred chore to sitting down and getting it done.

If you’ve been in this situation, you probably also recognise that once you do start to write it, you get into a flow and, once finished, you wonder why you put it off for so long. Of course, the only reason you got it done when you did was because that looming deadline had turned into the next day.

So rather than put yourself through that late-night typing frenzy every time, let’s look at how you can avoid the torture of procrastination and get the report done in a systematic way that leaves you completely stress-free.

Remove the uncertainty

The main reason we tend to procrastinate is because we perceive the task to be painful. It’s hard to sit down and organise thoughts on a page. It’s hard to get information from disparate sources and bring them together in a way that makes sense. It’s nigh on impossible to write anything cohesive if you don’t understand the subject matter well enough yourself. So that’s your first step – read through all your source material and get a first level understanding of the content you have to hand. Once you start doing this, some semblance of a plan will start coming together in your mind. But resist the temptation to start writing straight away. That will send you straight to mopping the floor before you know it.

Mindmap logical content sections

Now you understand the main gist of the report contents, write out the main sub-topics as a mindmap. Write a different letter of the alphabet next to each sub-topic. Now read through your source material once again and underline key points you want to include in your report and annotate in the margin the corresponding letter Copywriting of the sub-topic this information will be part of.

Bring it all together on the screen

Now is the time to start structuring your report in writing. Open up a blank document on your computer, type in your working title and under that list all your sub-topic working titles. Don’t worry yet about which order they will go in. It’s not your focus at this point. Now type out the direct texts you underlined from all your source materials under the correct sub-topic headlines you have listed in your document. For example, list all the texts you annotated with the letter A under the subtopic title that matches your letter A. Once you’ve done this, you should have most of your rough content out onto a single document. It will look like a confused mess at this point, but it’s progress.

Organise the flow

Now you have all the content together, read through and start to reorder the sub-topics into a logical flow of information. Allow yourself permission not to get too caught up on this or spend too much time on it. It’s not set in stone, and you can always reorganise later if you have to.

Begin writing

Now comes the time to begin writing. You have the information you need. But right now, it’s in someone else’s words, or many people’s words. You can’t plagiarise, so obviously you need to rewrite the information in your own words and add your own thoughts if appropriate. The good news is that you don’t have to start at the beginning! You’ve got the whole report on the page already and you’ve organised the content into sub-topics, so you can start with any topic. Choose the easiest one to begin with. Conquer one paragraph at a time. You will find that once you get into the flow and finish one paragraph, you will naturally graduate to the next and the next until the whole report is done.

Leave the introduction and conclusion to last

Think of your report like a sandwich. All the main filling is the sub-topic sections, and the bread is the introduction and conclusion holding it all together. Once you have written the sub-topics, the entire report subject matter will be much clearer to you, and you should find writing the introduction and conclusion sections much easier than if you had tried to tackle them in order of appearance.

Massage the content

Of course, a first draft should never be the draft you submit. You can always do better. On the first reread, you are bound to find jarring sentences, or a section that doesn’t belong, or belongs in a different section. Reword your writing until you are happy with it.

Proofread

Never submit your report without proofreading it. Proofreading is simply looking for typos you’ve overlooked in the writing and editing phases. It’s always best to do the proofreading task a few days or even a week after you have written the piece, otherwise you are still too close to it and your eyes will tend to gloss over sections you think are right and you won’t spot the typos. If you can have someone else look the report over, so much the better.

Planning your time The above are the steps to writing a cohesive report without the overwhelm and stress, but you don’t have to do it all in one sitting. You’ve probably heard the advice about eating an elephant one bite at a time. It’s the same with writing. Plan out the tasks for different days so you are tackling one small bit each day. Do so in a way that allows you to comfortably meet your deadline and, by the time you finish your report, you will have a well-planned, well-written piece to submit, with no late nights involved in the production process.

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