procrastination

Working hard at Procrastination

Procrastination. It sounds such a positive activity. We all love Crastination! Crastination for all!

Verb; To crastinate:  to dither about doing anything other than what is required at that time.

Presumably someone who does everything smartly to time, besides being anally retentive and a colossal bore, should be guilty of anticrastination. As I am a definite Pro on the subject of crastination,  I should be a Grand Master Crastinator.

I don’t see anything wrong with procrastination. Lots of useful stuff gets done as a result. I just wish it didn’t take up so much time to put off doing the things that really should get done. There is a time and place for everything, as they say. However finding precisely when that time and place is for certain tasks is profoundly challenging for the Grand Master.

There are a few things I really want to spend time on. These are my noble and cerebral exploits. And given that these are exploits of my own choosing, one would think they would be easy to slot into my working day (now free of any real ‘work’). But no. Grand Master Crastinator that I am, I find attending to the small and mundane tasks to be infinitely more satisfying than the noble deeds to which I wish to assign my time.

I have three personal goals at this point in my life. That’s it. These are the only things I should be focused on right now. So how do I lose days, weeks and months to ‘other stuff’? How do my Time Bandits (© Terry Gilliam) manage to rob me of whole days and weeks?

We all have our Time Bandits. Laundry is so much more vital than revision; alphabetising the book shelf really must be done before the assignment which is due tomorrow. And so is true with my own goals. Even though these are challenges I set myself, things I truly want to accomplish, they are challenging. They are arduous and hard. And so I find myself whiling away the hours on useful, necessary, but not essential activities instead of applying myself to what I really should be doing.

Take writing. I want to write, I truly do. I want to create, and gain wider recognition for my work at some point. But finding the time – there’s the rub. Even with no work to hinder me, the hours and days run away and still no words appear. My latest diversion was to create a calendar so that I could plan out when to write. Yes, I spent time planning when I could have been writing!

Procrastination is the bane of life for so many of us. Why do today what could just as easily be done tomorrow? To quote despair.com:

Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.

Not quite the same – I’m busy, just not doing the right things.

So how do we arrest these pesky Time Bandits? With a Plan, of course (just not as an excuse to actually working), but moreover with a rethinking of Priorities.  I like the tale of the rocks, gravel and sand. You may have read a similar tale:

Rocks, Pebbles, Sand – The Important Things in Life

A teacher took a large jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, about 2 inches in diameter. When the rocks reached the top he asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The teacher then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The teacher took a bag of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “Yes.”

He then emptied out the jar and refilled it in reverse order: Sand, pebbles, then rocks. This time, he could not fit all the rocks into the jar.

“What changed between these exercises?” he asked the students. He saw a sea of blank faces.

“The jar represents your life,” said the teacher. “These rocks? They are the most important things – your family, your friends, your health, your interests. The things most central to your being.”

He picked up a handful of sand and a handful of pebbles. “These,” he said, “represent the little things, the necessary but not important, the routine tasks. As we saw, if you fill the jar with sand and pebbles first, there is no room for the rocks.”

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, mow the lawn.

Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand and gravel.

With this parable in mind, my focus is now more firmly on my goals. So if you drive by my house and see the lawn overgrown, paint peeling and a gate swinging on its hinges you will know. I’ve finally got a handle on my rocks. Either that or the Cialis finally kicked in.

Second Chance at a New Year’s Resolution

It’s been a while since I was here

I apologise for this

I have every good intent to write

But I always seem to miss

*

With life and stuff the days go by

And weeks, and months and years

And with it, the chance to make my mark

Aye, now that’s the root of fear

*

I want to write, I really do

I love the literary flow

I hate myself for wasting time

Watching TV shows

*

The time of year is no excuse

There’s no reason to be outside

The snow banks tower along my street

They make me want to hide

*

Netflix is the culprit,

of that I’m truly sure

There’s always another episode

Another cliffhanger to endure

*

And so we waste another night

Hypnotised by the ghostly glow

As we plow through a season-full

Of the latest must-see show

*

The less I write, the more I fear

I’ll lose my sparkling wit

And then when finally I do write

I’ll sound like a blithering twit

*

There’s always a good reason

For avoiding the written word

They’re all just silly excuses

From the sublime to the absurd

*

The ironing pile, the washing up

The car that must be cleaned

The dog to walk, the food to cook

And yes, the flickering computer screen

*

I will do more I promise you

I’ll turn over a new leaf

My New Year Resolution is

To write you twice each week

*

But wait, New Year? It’s rather late

You’re two months overdue!

Well no, it’s not, if you just accept

A different worldly view

*

Just yesterday on Feb 19th

A whole new year began

Thank you Chinese astrologers

For the Year of the Sheep (or Goat, or Ram)

 

Procrastination Post : I’ll get around to it soon …

Oh dear, Daily Post. You’re beginning to repeat yourself. It’s a sign of age. We all do it sooner or later. Or maybe it’s a sign of insecurity – you know, when you don’t think anyone heard that pearl of wisdom, that witty repartee, that expressed desire to see this movie, or eat in that restaurant?

ahh-procrastination

You see, back in August 2013 your prompt was on procrastination. I know, not because I’m stalking you, but because it took me a short eight months to respond. So where does that leave me, I ask you, with today’s Daily Post suggestion? I could say I was prescient I suppose, and for once in my life I arrived early to the party. I could just rehash my May posting (after all, who reads this sh*t anyway?). Or I could just …. find something better to do with my time and come back to this post later, or tomorrow, or next week, or not at all.

What is it about procrastination? It sounds so positive, don’t you think? You can almost hear the politicians (well, definitely George Dubya):

“Vote for me, I’m PRO-crastination. That other fellow, he’s ANTI everything. Ask him to do something and he just does it, for goodness sake. No chance for you to change your mind, no, it’s done.”

See, there’s the heart of the matter for all us advocates for the great art of Crastination. For those of us who advocate for free choice when it comes to scheduling and deadlines, procrastination is our mantra. Our acts of delay and postponement are actually efficient mechanisms to reduce rework and waste in the process.

funny-procrastination-second-Will-Ferrell

Let me ask you this:

How often have you been requested to complete a task, only to have the OverLord (we will apply this generic term to encapsulate spouses, significant others, employers, cats, spoilt brats, elderly parents and anyone else who carries the misguided impression that their wants and needs are superior to your own) change their mind, give you new direction and cause you to spend yet more of your finite earthly existence to satisfy their spurious desires?

I’m laying odds here that this has happened on many occasions. So surely, it is only prudent for the efficient and expert Crastinator to delay execution of said task, thus enabling the OverLord the opportunity to modify their request for your labours. This simple act of postponement allows all parties to maximise their operational efficiencies whilst avoiding loss of Face and unnecessary interpersonal relationship conflicts. And one should note here the key premise of the Crastination advocate – their postponement of the task deemed superior by the OverLord does not mean they are snoozing on the job. Far from it. The expert in the art of delay and deferment will be fully employed on some other duties. How else do socks get paired, drawers tidied, cars cleaned or pictures aligned?

In my untimely response to the last Daily Post procrastination prompt (and I’m still shocked at the shoddiness on display here. Methinks our Daily Post writer was procrastination herself, and was in danger of missing the deadline so threw us all a bone which had been picked clean in a previous orgy of clicking keyboards), I pointed out that the art of getting a seasoned schedule shifting expert to do your bidding, is to make the alternative even less desirable than the original task for which you procured their labours.

Let me ask you another question:

Q: Who has procrastinated over updating their blog?

A: Quite a few.

Now, who has also turned to their blog as a procrastination solution when faced with another task (like real, paid work for example)? As I thought. You are proving my theory.

The issue for the procrastinator is that they need to feel they are the Masters of their Destiny. They want to feel they control their schedule and they are not behooved to the whims of the OverLord. In the great Circle of Work, all will get done if it is important enough. It has to – otherwise bad things will happen. If, however, said task is not sufficiently important then it will fall of the radar and no one gets hurt. It’s all down to ownership of the scheduling of that work that’s at the root of the issue for Tardy Tracey, Dick the Delay Meister or Postponement Patty. They want to do things on their time. So let their creative juices flow! Who knows, the result might be so much better (okay, so if we’re talking about balancing the cheque book, there’s not a lot of scope for creativity. But then again, unless you’re on a hand-to-mouth budget who really has thetime or anal-ytical mind required to balance a cheque book?).

So to turn now to the question posed in today’s weak excuse for a Daily Prompt: Your go-to procrastination solution. I firmly believe there is no such thing.

If you’re a professional writer, chances are you’ve procrastinated over a piece you need to produce, and you’ve knitted a sweater or painted a bedroom instead. If you’re a decorator, chances are you’ve turned to your blog instead of getting off your arse and turned the room a hue of violet. Cooks – how often did you procrastinate over the menu for tonight, and served up whatever golden coated stuff you could find in the freezer? Did people starve? NO! Will you do it every night? NO! You just had to exert control over one of the mundanities of life.

There is no such thing as a ‘procrastination solution’. Today’s alternative is tomorrow’s avoided.

My advice is just do something. As you work through stuff, the critical things get done, and all the unnecessary drivel will fall through the sifter and no one will notice. What’s then left in your pan are the nuggets of pure gold – and THAT’S the place you should focus your discretionary effort.

procrastinate-productively-work-hacks-02

Confessional

despair.com

despair.com

“Forgive me Blog Lord, for I have sinned. It has been eight days since my last confessional.”

“Bless you my child, we are all weak and suffer the pangs of writer’s block”

“But it was not writer’s block, my Lord. It was worse.”

“What are you saying my child? Surely you are not suggesting what I think?”

“I am, my Lord. I am. I suffered the sin of procrastination. Even after admitting to my affliction, I let the beast within, without. He ran rampage over my timelines in all areas of my life. The beast is now released and I know not what to do to contain him.”

“Tell me more, my child.”

“The beast sits on my shoulder and presses me down, preventing me from accomplishing anything. I said, ‘I cannot write, for I must train for my run.’ Yet I didn’t train, and my run suffered. I said, ‘I cannot train for my run, for I must train my new puppy.’ Yet I have not trained my new puppy, and my shoes, floors and the kids toys all suffered.’ I said, ‘I cannot train my puppy, for I must, I really must write.’ And so on, and so forth. Bottom line is, I’m in a stew and I am here to seek absolution.”

“I can tell you that you can write, and it will be good. I can tell you that you can run, and you will be good. I can tell you, you can train your puppy – but he will still pee, poo and chew. I am not all-powerful. But it is not in my power to make you do these things.”

“ But you must absolve me, my Lord! For how else can I cleanse my soul and move to the next level of Blogger enlightenment?”

“Your Public must absolve you, my child. Your followers and Facebook friends. They are the ones you have let down with your wastefulness and neglect. You fed their hopes, their dreams and their passions with your words, yet now you leave them hungry.”

“But what good are Followers if they are not true Readers, my Lord? The stats cannot lie, surely? The stats show, even with 100 or more Followers, my true Readers are slight. For whom do I toil in my words, oh Lord?”

“We toil for ourselves. If others gain joy through our toil, this is a blessing and we are truly grateful. But your truest, harshest and most loyal critic is within you, my child.”

“I hear you, my Lord, but I beseech you, give me a penance and allow me to cleanse myself through your punishments.”

“I can do this for you, little one. We must be careful in your penance, for your readership is broad and so your penance must be at once appealing to your Followers yet a true ordeal for you. Let me think.”

**** twiddling thumbs ****

“My Lord, are you still there?”

“Hmmm? Oh, it’s you again! Where were we? Oh yes, your penance. You have committed the sins of neglect on your Followers, and so it is they who must decide your penance. Your Followers will provide you with Blog topics, and you must complete a post on each topic provided by your Followers. Your penance will be complete when you have addressed each and every topic bestowed upon you by your Followers.”

“Thank you my Lord. I am truly blessed.”

“Wait, I’m not done with you yet, you lazy, procrastinating, whinger. You disturbed my rest, and so I am inclined to start your penance with my own set of topics.”

“Be gentle with me, my Lord!”

“Gentle my arse. I’m giving it to you full force, to teach you a lesson, mind. I get no pleasure from this. You will write on these girly topics:

    • Barbie Dolls,
    • Pink and
    • Handbag Dogs.

I expect good work, else you will be back in my study once more, and you will find that to be a most painful reminder not to waste my time. Now go, and at least 500 words on each topic, mind.”

“Thank you, my Lord. You have been gentle with me.”

 

Now, my Followers. Can you forgive me my tardiness and neglect? Please allow me to atone and provide me your topics in the comments box. I can then complete my penance.

Procrastination saves the day … tomorrow

Image from the wonderful despair.com

Image from the wonderful despair.com

Back in August 2013, The Daily Post posed the topic of the day as procrastination. Here is my response. Eight months later.

What’s the big problem with procrastination anyhow? I’m a huge advocate. I’m definitely pro-crastination. I try to do a little procrastinating every day. Actually, before I get on with this post – just a thought.

What exactly is crastination anyway? I guess it must mean ‘delaying tasks’. If I’m pro-crastination, I’m in all for postponing my deliverables. So logically, if I were that strange breed of person who sticks to the task at hand and gets things done well ahead of a due date, would I be an anticrastinator? And what would happen, if an anticrastinator and a procrastinator were in a relationship? Would they cancel each other out, as in mathematics, or would they destroy each other and the surrounding environment, as in physics?

Enough of this nonsense. I’ve got real nonsense to write today.

Don’t I get a lot of stuff done when I’m procrastinating? Sure, I may not get to the main event, the critical deadline item. But I do get to lots of other stuff. That kitchen drawer would never get cleared out if it was not for my dilly-dallying on the tax return. The lawn would not look so good had I not delayed completing my presentation.

In my defence – I wasn’t always a procrastinator. I used to finish early, but the dear Mrs Drew quickly pointed out that I most definitely should not be finishing before she was done. Hence the origins of the innate abilities of the male procrastinator – taught on the most critical stage of all, by the most critical of audiences.

When I’m in full-on procrastination mode there is no task too mundane for my attention. I’ve tackled the ironing pile, I’ve made beds, I’ve sorted through my collection of commemorative and US State quarters (I’m about halfway to the whole country – next time I’ve got a critical deadline I will let you know which I’m missing). My attention to the alternative is unwavering when there is a priority to be addressed.

And what about all those times when I did come through and deliver ahead of time? One of two things invariably happened:

  1. I would get more work to do to fill the remaining time
  2. With time to spare, the idle hands of the originator would review my work and dare to suggest changes
  3. Having reviewed my outstanding output, the originator would realise their original request was incorrect. My work would then have been entirely in vain.

Clearly, there is huge benefit to procrastination, and very little downside that I can see. People talk about procrastination like it’s a bad thing. Those would be the anticrastinators, no doubt. But I do my best work when my back’s to the wall; when the deadline is looming like a cliff edge. I’ve no intention of falling over that cliff, so I will dig deep and push through. I will never missed a deadline, and I will always deliver a quality product. Eventually. Hey, most of my blog posts would not be here if not for my own self-imposed deadline (post every Wednesday and Sunday, no excuses).

So it seems deadlines are the crux of the matter for procrastinators. If it’s not due until a week Tuesday, why start it right now? If only other people knew that fact when giving me a job to do, they’d short-change me on my schedule. I could then procrastinate at will, and still hit the deadline!

And if people truly understood the motivators for the expert procrastinator, they would leverage that considerable expertise. They would ensure they approached this procrastinator with a Trojan Horse. The outer wrapper would be another, diversionary task requiring all my abilities of delay and deflection. Within the horse, there would lie the true purpose of their mission – the real task for completion. I would be so intent on deferring the apparent requirement I would apply all my efforts to the alternative.

So there you have it. True irony indeed. A post on procrastination, delivered on time and budget. And eight months after the initial prompt.

Are you a procrastinator? Is this necessarily a bad thing? Tell all below!