The Procrastination Critter is a sneaky creature. Why don’t you procrastinate a while and read my strategies for defeating him?
I had good intentions this morning. I planned to get up, do a bit of housework, do a couple of writing sprints for the new short story I’m working on, and then write my blog post for tomorrow.
That’s not quite how it turned out.
I haven’t added a word to my short story and I’m only starting this post now. But I did learn some useful things.
I learned that listening to an audiobook makes sorting out recycling more fun.
Listening to the audiobook, I learned why they say you should cut at least 10% of your word count when you edit.
I learned that chickens like uneaten cat food even when it’s mere hours away from reverting to primordial sludge.
I learned it’s easier to be a consumer on the web (to play on Twitter) than a creator (to blog).
I learned that Wattpad is worth another look. Thanks, @JenniferEmbers!
Without further ado (except this sentence denying that more ado is coming), here are the results from my anthropological study of procrastination. (Kidding. I can barely spell “anthropological”.)
Procrastination is a sneaky, sneaky critter
Half the trouble with procrastination is that you don’t realise you’re doing it. But you already knew that.
Instead, let’s consider this situation. You really need to do task A. For the sake of avoiding anything that vaguely resembles algebra, let’s say task A is writing a blog post.
And once you’ve written your blog post you should work on your novel.
But you can also paddle in the Twitter creek (easy! fun!) and pretend you’re building your author platform (hint: you’re probably not), or go trekking in Wattpad-land and meet some of the locals (new! exciting!).
Your conversation with Procrastination Critter (PC) might go something like this.
PC: It’s okay to spend a couple of minutes on Twitter before you start on your blog post. You should see what your friends have done overnight and spread the love with a few cat pics.
You: Whew, I’m glad you think so, because I need a few minutes to work myself up to writing a blog post. Besides, Twitter often gives me inspiration on what to blog about.
PC: That’s right, go on. You’ll only be a few minutes.
[Ten minutes later…]
You: Actually, this is taking a while. My friends are hilarious.
PC: Soldier on. You’re nearly there.
[Twenty minutes later…]
You: Okay, that’s it with the Twitter notifications. But I still don’t know what to blog about. Maybe I should work on my novel first.
PC: You really don’t want to go down that road. It’s your blog post you need to write. If you’re not ready for that, why don’t you check out Wattpad?
You: I suppose I could, but I feel bad about not doing anything useful.
PC: Don’t be ridiculous. You’re a writer. Wattpad is useful. Besides, you’re clearly not ready to create yet. Maybe Wattpad will inspire you.
[An hour later…]
See, PC is super sneaky. Not only does he make you feel okay about not doing the task you really need to do, but he also talks you out of doing anything useful while you’re working yourself up to that big task.
I think his rationale is that if you’re awake enough to write your novel then you’re also awake enough to blog.
What, you’re not awake enough to write the blog post? Then you mustn’t be able to write your novel, either.
More cat memes it is!
What Procrastination Critter might be trying to tell you
I don’t believe Procrastination Critter is evil. He might be confused and upset, having been snatched from his peaceful forest home by vicious hunters with nets, but he doesn’t delight in your misery or failure.
His communication skills might also leave something to be desired.
So when PC says, “don’t do that now” stop and ask yourself if he really means one of the following:
I only just woke up and I haven’t had coffee yet. This excuse works once a day, and only until your first coffee (or tea, or whiskey). Take five minutes. Make yourself that coffee. Then get to work.
This is hard and I don’t know how to do it. I think this is an accurate interpretation of 80% of what PC says. Some tasks are hard, which means painful, and you don’t know where to start.
The Emperor has ordered you to drain a crocodile-filled swamp. How do you even start? Digging? Pumps? Dynamite? Crocodile nets?
Can you break the task down into smaller pieces? Perhaps the first is to gather additional information or to lay out the steps involved in the task.
Go to the library (or Google). Someone else must have drained a crocodile-infested swamp before. Maybe they wrote a manual on it.
Or the librarian might have the number for the local crocodile-wrangling club.
Also ask yourself if you need to stop worrying about making measurable progress, and take some time to consider how to do the task.
If you just start digging, it might feel like you’re getting something useful done, but what if you’re digging on the uphill side of the swamp? What if all you needed to do was pull out the plug?
Thinking might not feel like progress, but it can prevent a lot of nasty crocodile bites.
I feel obliged to do this, but I don’t want to. Did you agree to do something that you really shouldn’t have agreed to? I know all about this–I can’t say no to anything.
Why do you feel obliged? Are you really obliged, or are you just way too nice? How terrible would it be for the other person if you got back to them and said, “I’m sorry, I can’t do this”?
Was it the emperor who ordered you to do this, and will he cut off your head if you don’t? If it wasn’t you have a choice. Even if it was, you can always set a crocodile on him.
Sometimes PC is right: you should decide not to do something.
I hope this moderately unhelpful post on procrastination has given you something to read while you’ve been procrastinating from whatever you should have been doing. If you need to procrastinate some more, you can make me happy by commenting below or joining my mailing list.
What does your Procrastination Critter tell you? Have you come up with a strategy to foil him?