The Queen of Procrastination
The topic of Opinionator this week was stopping procrastination. (Or was it last week? I don’t know, I was procrastinating reading it because who the hell wants to hear how someone else has stopped procrastinating when you know that very little works for you and you’ve tried everything including the no email diet, the devices upstairs diet, and the never-answering-the-phone diet.)
The essay is from a writer who finally learned how to tune out all the distractions and get down to the business of writing by working first thing in the morning. He had a bunch of theories for why we’re so productive in the morning and why it isn’t a good idea to sit down to write at 3 pm. He states that not only are we able to access that right brain creativity early in the morning but,
Conversely, the relentlessly negative voice that comes from your critical parent seems to be a left brain resident and doesn’t like to wake up too early. (And by the way, there is no faster way to bring that demonic harpy voice to consciousness than restless Internet activity. Once you start randomly interacting with anything on the Internet, the delightful relaxation of the right brain has better taste than to stick around.
He says “we” but he really means “he.” People have a tendency to do that; state that people are more productive in the morning without taking into account that while there are people who are more productive in the morning, there are also people who are groggy in the morning and don’t really produce their best work until after the sun goes down. For instance, my negative voice is loud and clear moments after I open my eyes. I don’t even need to get out of bed before I begin berating myself. And I get my best work done some time after 8 pm.
So I think that it’s great that this works for him. And maybe it will work for you too.
Even though I am a HORRIBLE procrastinator (like an I-can’t-believe-how-much-time-you-waste-getting-started-or-keeping-going procrastinator. I call it part of my “process”), I’ve never had trouble with the act of writing. Carving out time: yes, on occasion. Writer’s block: yes, again, on occasion. But for the most part, writing for me is like cooking. There are days I enjoy it more than others and days when I have more time for it than others, but for the most part, in the same way that I can force myself towards the counter and make something resembling a meal, I can force myself into the chair and sit in front of the computer and type. It’s not all fabulous, but it doesn’t need to always be fabulous. Sometimes writing just needs to be mind-nourishing.
But the point is that while this sounds lovely for him, I couldn’t possibly write first thing in the morning. For one, I am a terrible sleeper. I don’t sleep. So waking up in the morning feels horrible. Plus I wake up so many times during the night, I have no clue which one to count as my morning waking. I mean, is it the one at 5:43 am when I stumble to the bathroom to pee? Or the 6:26 am one that occurs right as I start to fall asleep again but I startle myself awake accidentally? Or is it the 7:16 am one where Josh is shaking me gently and I’m calling him unspeakable things for rousing me?
This is how I work: I cannot write a single word until my inbox is clean. It may pile up later in the day, and that is fine, but the writing process needs to begin with my email inbox neatened up. Okay, wait, before that I have to do yoga. And then I have to shower. And have coffee, not exactly while I’m in the shower, but before I jump in and after I get out. So yoga, coffee, shower, coffee, inbox. And then to-do list. I need a to-do list written out on a post-it note.
And then I can write.
But while I write, I need to harvest the crops on my Hay Day farm. And I need to read a few posts in Feedly. And I need to just click on this one interesting-looking link that my friend posted on Facebook. And I need…
Whether or not I procrastinate, I seem to have the same ultimate productivity. In other words, if I cut myself off from distractions, I tend to write 5 pages per day. And if I allow myself to have unlimited distractions, I also tend to write 5 pages per day. Which begs the question: why even try to remove the act of procrastination? Especially when it often kicks off moments of creativity such as when I start writing a blog post like this one as I procrastinate from doing other work by finally reading Opinionator.
What is your biggest time waster during the day? And do you think procrastinating with that time waster is actually detrimental to your work?