Productive Procrastination

Last week I received a great comment from Stuart, a fellow writer: “I realise that I always pick procrastination, no matter what the task, and if I were to be honest with myself, I could actually start doing what it is I’m supposed to right now.” If we focus on what we haven’t been doing we risk getting bogged down by unmet deadlines, and projects still on our to-do list. What if we could see time spent doing ‘other things’ as useful time?

(Stuart’s site is filled with all manner of wonderful writing advice and you can find it here: https://stuartdanker.com/)

Whenever I have a project I want to finish, the first thing my mind does is think of anything else I could do instead. Watch YouTube comedy sketches, watch football, get stuck into a different type of writing, noodle around on my guitar, do the dishes, lie on my bed and just inhabit the space. To give the best chance of overcoming this desire to engage in active avoidance, I try to set everything up that I need before I need it. Before I start my bedtime routine I open my manuscript editing program on my computer and load up my writing playlist, I get my work bag ready for the next morning, and write my list of goals for the next day. There is a temptation to put off going to bed to do ‘five minutes more’, but I’m getting better at putting my computer to sleep, closing my journal, and going to bed.

When I wake up the next morning I have removed some barriers to entering my morning productively. My gear is ready to be picked up so I can skip straight out the door to work. I have also removed several barriers for after I get home from work. The first thing I see when I wake my computer up is the section of my story I’m editing, and the first thing I hear when I push play is music that gets me focussed. If I do what I can to eliminate visual and environment cues which encourage distraction, I get stuck in and within five minutes I’m drawn into the world.

To ensure we don’t burn out we do need to take breaks. The best use of that time for me is to pick up one of my guitars for ten minutes, or to read posts from other wonderful bloggers, or research stories other than the one I’m working on (this requires less mental energy than full-on creation or refining of fantasy worlds).

After some major tasks, like my work day, a game of ultimate frisbee, preparing and eating dinner, or meeting up with friends I need a longer break from focussed work. During these transition times I try and fit in other productive tasks, coupled with something that by itself would be classed as pure procrastination. For example, I’ll wash the dishes, or go through a decent length stretching and strengthening routine, while watching football.

I really like watching football so trying to eliminate it from my life won’t be effective. Instead I integrate it into my routine so that it becomes part of my active resting time between my full-time paid work and full-time efforts to edit my books!

Maybe it’s not watching football for you. Maybe it’s too many YouTube videos (I do that too), lots of TV time, going out all the time, or cleaning the house over and over. None of these things are inherently ‘bad’ but they can take over our time if we don’t actively manage it.

Remembering to practice the art of moderation – when necessary – will help us live our most balanced life. We can’t be productive all the time. Down that road lies darkness and despair. Remember, time to yourself, away from screens and constant activity, is all part of staying healthy.

I pray you feel uplifted by conversation and cooperation this week. Peace to you, my friends.

Cover photo by Nandhu Kumar from Pexels.

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