Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Procrastinators Anonymous

Hello everyone. My name is Mark, and I’m a procrastinator.

Good procrastination is an art form. It is a technical skill one perfects over time, common among creative folks (writers), and contemned in those who thrive on the immediacy of action (air traffic controllers).

The best procrastinators are those who spend time musing on the best method of wasting time, swallowing up hours and hours through the simple act of doing nothing in particular. I’m not referring to making an extra cup of coffee or vacuuming the ceiling here, oh no. I’m talking a meticulous plan of wanton procrastination designed to annihilate the arse off your day.

The writer’s form of procrastination is built around the fear that at some point you will have to sit before a computer and actually produce something of value over the next few hours. The bottom-dropping dread that your words might flounder like lutefisk in an ocean of cliché fuels this desire to dither. And so, it begins.

Popular procrastinations include checking Facebook, blogs, emails and chatting with friends. But these are for wimps. These still place the procrastinator right before their computer, where they need to be. You’ll never get any proper work avoidance done that way.

No, you need to abandon the house. Get as far away as possible from your computer. Hop on a bus and remain on it until the last stop. Then walk for miles and miles. Eat disgusting food in a roadside café. Get poisoned. Spend the afternoon retching and weeping on the sliproad off the A8. Hitchhike to Trent in the back of a truck with battery chickens. Catch meningitis off a hobo procrastinating the planning of his first novel. Chip away the hours. Then, go home.

The undisciplined form of procrastination is usually the best: it gives us fodder for our stories for when we feel up to writing them (if ever). But making schedules of work/writing avoidance works too. Douglas Adams’ favourite method of procrastinating was running himself baths. He would spend hours soaking and re-soaking himself, hiding from his terrifying manuscript upstairs.

Sometimes it’s easier just to get on with it.


  1. I have found that the two best procrastinations are:

    1. Preparing to do something.
    Preparation requires planning. Planning requires listing risks and how to mitigate those risks. Discovering risks takes time, you have to review both all previous even slightly similar activities and also analyse sod's law. If mitigation requires buying something, investigate all options for the buying. How to get there, how to save money, lot's of thinking required.

    2. Organising to do something.
    You must clean the house, clear the desk, review how you file things (and reorganise your hard drive), ponder each item before keeping or discarding it, bring in supplies, get several good night's rests.
    A healthy body leads to a healthy mind, so go to the gym or find another form of workout. List all those that need to be told "Do not disturb", but ensure you define the emergencies that bypass that request. Probably it's best to hand deliver that message, personally to each individual - and of course take advantage of the visit to catch up on all the news. News need a good discussion, show that you are responsible.

    A good organising session can take up to a year.

  2. When I have a great idea, I normally get up from my computer and do something else for a while before I actually get down to the business of writing it...just to give the idea time to breathe.

  3. Mike: Ha! Indeed. I was planning to respond to your comment yesterday but I decided to take some downtime to muse on my reply, to read up on how to speak to a well-travelled man of leisure, and to eat a pancake.

    Derek: Take your time.

    Chris: Hello! I don't have a part of my brain that differentiates good ideas from bad ones. Hence my penchant for randomnesses and arbitrarinesses. Hello!

  4. Ah, a kindred soul...

    As a self-proclaimed procrastinator, I obviously HAD to read this. I think I'm still in the rookie stages, but the potential is there for me to eventually possibly reach the higher levels. I need to dither some more first though before I decide to take things to the next stage.

  5. The rewards are there! Or not there, as it were.