Hello April, where did you come from? Don’t tell me March has been and gone already?
Oh, crap! So it has.
Ah yes, amongst a blur of insignificant events I vaguely recall consuming my bodyweight in Easter eggs and vowing never to eat chocolate again…
Hmm, okay. As you can see, that vow was soon broken. However, scoffing chocolate is not the only thing I have been doing for the past *cough* …
50 51 52 53 54 .. oh, give me a break … FIFTY SEVEN days!
“So, what have you been doing?” I hear you ask.
So, I may have received a few emails sensitively asking if I’m still alive. Fret not! I am still very much alive … and kicking! (Okay, let’s ditch the kicking part!) I have just been…well… umm… how can I put this? Ah yes…
Busy doing stuff. Stuff like…
Thinking about all the amazing things I’m going to write about whilst staring blankly at my computer screen…
Keeping my plant alive …
Taking care of my imaginary puss, Pedro …
Watching box set, after box set, after box set …
Practicing some new dance moves (from the comfort of my sofa!) …
Doing Yoga (meaning; just lying down on the floor and staring vacantly at the ceiling for an hour or so!) …
Playing GrabbyWord …
Googling the answers to many need-to-know questions …
Soaking in the bath until I resemble a prune …
Thinking about how much I need to jump on that rowing machine, getting tired at the very thought and then taking a nap …
And of course, my favourite
pastime time-absorbing chore ….
Buying random shit on Amazon …
That rhino bollock came in very handy, I’ll have you know … umm … collecting dust amongst a pile of other useless Amazon must-haves.
Okay, okay. Perhaps ‘busy’ was the incorrect term. The truth is, I’ve caught a vicious case of procrastination. You see, there are two types of people in this world. There are those who jump on each task the minute it comes up, enthusiastically striking off their ‘to do’ lists one by one until they feel a sense of completion at the end of the day.
And then there are procrastinators – The day is over, and we have nothing to show for it … NOTHING!
The Art of Procrastination
Procrastination. We’ve all been there. Us writers, it’s what we do best, right? We need to write that thing we’ve been meaning to write. It’s on top of our ‘must do’ list. We know that we have to do it, and yet, we don’t. The more we leave it, the worse we feel about not getting it done. We start to feel bad, and worst still, like a failure. It hangs over us like a darkened cloud, ready to inundate us with its shower of disapproval. The procrastination cycle has begun …
We dilly-daddle, lull, linger and bum. We lollygag, mosey, potter and then…
The panic hits us like a slap to the face, our ‘to-do’ list has multiplied and we are sinking deep down under. Do we allow ourselves to be pulled deeper into a realm of no return, or do we face up to a pile of work so high it’s almost visible from the moon?
Hmm, do ya know what? That deep dark realm of no return is starting to sound quite appealing! However, there is no escaping the huge pile of ‘must do’ towering over me like a great big monolith – so huge – that even contemplating how enormous it is, leaves me needing a nap.
In a lightbulb moment, I decide that I’m going to procrastinate no longer, and instead, I’m going to write about it…
Monolith of “must do”, be gone!
So I sit down, stare at my desk for a minute or two, and think, “Damn, my desk is dusty! I couldn’t possibly work when my desk is so dusty!” Out pops the feather duster, and whilst I’m at it, I decide that I may as well colour coordinate my pen collection, rearrange my drawers, vacuum every spot of crumb from my keyboard and make a chain out of paperclips (I don’t want to lose any stragglers now, do I?) With a desk so shiny I can see my panic-stricken reflection, I find myself, yet again, staring blankly at that screen.
“A cup of tea! I couldn’t possibly start writing without a cup of tea!” It’s true; every writer needs caffeine… LOTS of caffeine! So, I get up from my desk once again and find myself in the kitchen … raiding the ‘snack cupboard’. Now, you can’t have a cup of tea without a biscuit … or three … umm … packets! But what to choose?
Bourbons? Jammy dodgers? Oreos?
The answer: most probably all of the above.
Fed Bursting at the seams and watered, I feel better prepared to face that computer screen again. But something isn’t right. Something is missing…
“Hmm, perhaps some music might help?” I think to myself.
Before I know it, I am knee deep in CDs (Yep! I said CDs! What can I say, I was a 90’s kid) succumbing to that burning desire to alphabetise them, one by one, until I reach a state of gratification…
… If only momentarily.
That’s right, as I struggle to shake off the shame of finding a …
CD in my collection *OOPS! What’s that doing in there?* I see a familiar darkness shadowing over me. It’s that floating cloud of “must do!” once again, threatening to rain on my parade of ‘blissful preoccupation’ and kindly reminding me that I have something very important to do!
That blank screen. That dreaded blank screen! It’s pitiful emptiness a reflection of my mind. My eyes wander once more, but this time my attention is stolen by the unsightly walls that surround me. “I really need to re-plaster those!” I think to myself. “They could do with a splash of paint, too! Magnolia is so … Eugh!”
“Mocha, perhaps? Enchanted Forest? Fag Ash Grey? Used teabag? Hot flush? Grandma’s under-garments?
In my head, I settle for …
… but in reality, the walls are still as bare as the word document in front of me. Lionel, it’s not ‘YOU’ I am looking for, I’m searching for the words to fill a page that is begging to be loved. Words that have miraculously sprouted legs. “Haha, you can’t catch me!” they tease, circling my cranium until my head falls helplessly into my arms and I woefully weep…
And so “I have plenty of time,” soon turns into “Shit! I’m running out of time!”. The pressure is on – TENFOLD – and the clock strikes louder than ever.
TICK … TOCK … TICK … TOCK.
So what do I do? Exhausted from all the work I ‘haven’t’ done, I take a break nap, of course! Only to wake up hours later, in a state of sheer panic, questioning how I have wasted yet another day doing… ABSOLUTELY DIDDLY SQUAT! So much for NOT procrastinating! *Deep sigh*
Sound familiar to you?
This, my friends, is procrastination at it’s finest. Some might say, I put the ‘PRO’ in procrastinate <- like what I did there? You see, it takes time, dedication and willpower (Okay, you can skip the last bit!) to perfect the art of procrastination. You heard me correctly; procrastination is an art. You may laugh, but there’s more to this procrastination business than meets the… umm … slightly lazy eye. Most importantly, we have to be highly skilled at avoiding the unavoidable. We know we must reach our destination, and yet the fast lane looks far too straightforward. Us procrastinators, we like a challenge. We liked to work in a deadline-induced panic. Those last minute scrambles really keep us on our toes and push us to our limits. Character building, some might say!
In order to conquer the art of procrastination, we must adopt the attitude of a self-defeatist and the motivation of a turtlesloth. (Umm, yep. That is a mix between a turtle and a sloth!)
Strange looking fella, huh?
The Five Stages of Procrastination
There are certain stages that the
turtlesloth I meant ‘procrastinator’ must go through in order to master their art. First comes the ‘Productive Avoidance’ stage. This might involve expressing the sudden urge to clean…and by ‘clean’, I don’t just mean a quick scurry around with the duster, I mean – ‘DEEP CLEAN!’ Like, pull on our rubber gloves and put some elbow-grease into it! During this stage, we might also feel the desire to take on activities such as arranging, alphabetising, washing, folding and even ironing. Once we can see our face in every shiny surface, we can assume that this stage has been completed.
So, what do we do when there’s nothing productive left to busy ourselves with?
…to avoid not doing that thing we are supposed to be doing right now. Things like; pretending the floor in our office has suddenly turned into HOT lava, trying to master the art of folding an origami swan, seeing how long we can hold our breath without passing out or whether we can touch our nose with our tongue (You just tried that, didn’t you?) But mainly, this phase has us twiddling our thumbs, staring at the walls and imagining and reimagining made up scenario’s in our heads (Seriously, the amount of time I spend doing this is borderline unhealthy!)
The next stage takes us to the door of our old friend, ‘Denial’.
“I’m not a procrastinator, I’m a hobbyist!”
“I’m not lazy, I’m relaxing!”
“I’m not wasting time scrolling random Instagram accounts, I am a highly experienced Instagram spy!”
and my favourite…
“I’m not wasting time tweeting, I’m getting my fingers used to typing so my article will be easier to write!”
Nice try. But no one is buying it! You are just plain lazy. You can’t be arsed. You’d much prefer to do anything (Yeah, even giving a helping hand to an elephant with bowel trouble) than do that thing you need to do.
And, for the love of God, can we stop making lists?! Trust me, creating a 9-stage-model of how we are going to achieve said task doesn’t make us productive – it makes us time wasters!
Which brings us to the last stage; “Panic and self-loathing’. Yep, this is the stage where we find ourselves rocking back and forth in a dark corner as piles of work tower over us, ready to crash down on our trembling souls. We aren’t so cucumber cool now. We are dripping in sweat and hyperventilating. We have long passed ‘reasonable’ delay and have entered the long lost land of last minute scramble. Are we doomed? Only time will tell …
Yep, we’re doomed!
As you can see, being a procrastinator is not for the faith hearted. It’s exhausting work trying to convince oneself that you are too occupied to do what you are supposed to be doing. I mean, there’s only so many times we can fold and refold the socks in our sock drawer (and let’s face it, who folds their socks anyway?) There’s only so many times we can check and re-check our facebook pages, so many colours we can paint our nails, so many hours we can waste making paper aeroplanes and building forts out of blankets.
The blanket fort is pretty cool, right? You see, It’s important to set the right
sleeping working environment.
Who am I kidding?
No amount of draped blankets can block out the fact that we are head deep in unfinished business. The overwhelming sense of dread looms once again, engulfing us in terror and dragging us deeper into the pits of despair. We curse our lack of progress and try to make ourselves feel better about the situation by tucking into yet another packet of biscuits. But soon the sweet taste of prolonging wears off and we are left with nothing but the bitter taste of failure.
It’s time to step away from the jammy dodgers and realise that there is no prolonging the inevitable. That piece of coursework isn’t going to write itself, nor is that deadline going to magically disappear. And if you think a fairy is going to enter your house late at night and complete that dissertation that’s been troubling you for the past five months, you have another thing coming! By putting off such tasks, we are not only creating – but heightening – feelings of anxiety, guilt and shame. These feelings are not a good combination when, in reality, all we really need is a bit of willpower and perseverance. In fact, these feelings will most likely make us feel less productive. It’s easier to say, “I’ll do it tomorrow!” because, as we know, tomorrow never comes, and so the repetitive loop spins on.
Let’s be realistic. Will we ever be ready to do our coursework? Study for an approaching exam? Start that new health regime we’ve been thinking about for the past three years? The answer is most likely NO. A snuggly nap in our blanket fort, however, seems far more appealing! But deep down, we know that – long term – the former option is the option that will free us from this self-sabotaging cycle we call “procrastination”. A self-sabotaging cycle that has us twiddling our thumbs and debating whether we should watch yet another episode of Geordie Shore. I mean, these botox-loving lager louts feel like family now. One more episode won’t do any harm, surely? “Why aye, man!”
And so more days fall from the calendar and land at my feet with a mighty CRASH.
I’ve cleaned my house from top to bottom. I’ve watched every box set imaginable. I’ve over-fed the cat, killed off my Cactus and Amazon has now banned me from making any further
perfectly reasonable ludicrous purchases …
Hold that ‘Yodel-Ay Eee-Ooo’, my precious pickle. I’ll be back for you!
What’s the matter with me? Why can’t I focus? I yearn to be productive, but yet I can’t. For some God-forbidden reason, I cannot physically or mentally drag myself from out of this procrastination pit of pure patheticness. Everyone else seems to have their shit together, so why not me?
I’ve always felt slightly envious of those people who ooze with motivation. Those people who seem to have it all under control; who have checklists sprouting from their backsides as they juggle a dozen tasks in one hand while tapping out some masterpiece article in the other…. and all without a bead of sweat dripping from their cucumber cool faces, may I add. Heck! You could probably throw in some spinning plates and a unicycle just for fun, and they’d still barely break into a sweat.
But I am no circus act. I am Amanda, the procrastinator. The girl who gets distracted way too easily – “Oh, look! A dancing cat!” – The girl who will climb mountains to avoid something that can be achieved in a flatland stroll. The girl who is forever caught in a cycle of “Maybe tomorrow!”
I will always leave things last minute
I will always stress myself out
I will always waste my time
It’s who I am!
I’ve cleaned, I’ve listed, I’ve side-tracked and I’ve panicked. But, lo and behold, a miracle has happened. Tomorrow – that mystical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation and achievement is stored – has finally ARRIVED! I can collect my honorary ‘champion procrastinator’ badge and wear it with pride.
Look how beautiful it is! *sniff sniff*
And as I type out the last words of my way-over-the-word-count-limit
article non-sensical ramblings, I whisper with relief….