“Procrastination is the thief of time” (Edward Young, poet, 1742)
Also, did you know that electronic music sampling pioneers Coldcut formed in 1986, a collaboration between a former art teacher and a computer programmer?
I fully acknowledge the irony of putting off writing this…
Through the magic of internet algorithms, toddler childcare, working from home and distractions galore, I found myself far from where I hoped to be. Allow me to start again.
My name is Adam and I am a professional procrastinator.
Having been through the denial and anger phases, I now accept how my brain works. I have a busy mind. I’m sometimes like a cat when keys are rattled. I will get distracted when I’m not in ‘the right place’ for a task. Let me put it another way: I have too many tabs open, both in Chrome and in my head.
Of course, procrastination is not the best way to work in a lot of situations. For instance, hospital or emergency service personnel can’t really procrastinate. It wouldn’t make for a particularly good outcome.
On the other hand, in certain roles, procrastinating can have its advantages. In the right situation, it can boost creativity and efficacy. By stepping back from a challenge, you empower yourself to have the space to tackle it from another angle.
Think about how many times you’ve been out on a dog walk/on your commute/sitting on the toilet (delete as applicable) when THAT idea comes to you. Inspiration and innovation thrive when your brain is not forced to be creative.
Creative communicators sometimes need other influences that they may not come into contact with in their day-to-day life, or license for their mind to wander. That could be a YouTube documentary wormhole, adding to your interior design Pinterest board, reading (remember that?), or a monotonous task like washing up.
In short, clearing your mind can be as important as filling it.
Moving from the theory into unprecedented (ugh) practice over the past couple of months, I thought I’d share some hints and tips about how to manage your time, and procrastinate creatively.
At the beginning of lockdown, the excitement about the amount of time we would claw back from commutes and inefficient meetings was palpable. Over the weeks, that enthusiasm waned and we realised the abundance of time for DIY projects, fitness, cooking etc., was not truly there.
As this Fast Company piece points out, factors such as anxiety, isolation and WFH burnout are resulting in us procrastinating more, and – as coronavirus drags on – this needs to be actively managed.
If you’re already a natural at putting things off, then your experience probably was more manageable. If it doesn’t come to you easily, the last few months may have been quite a ride…
With that in mind, here are some practical tips that you can use across any project, task or issue:
- Just start – in Brian Tracy’s book Eat the Frog, he references the saying “that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that it’s probably the worst thing you’ll do all day”. Whatever the task causing your anxiety, be it replying to an email, making that call or starting a massive project, the sooner you start, the better you feel.
- Break it down – a huge challenge can always be split into smaller pieces, it just depends on how you break it down. There is only one way to eat an elephant. One bite at a time.
- Fewer distractions – working from home had its perks, but many can’t wait to get back to an office/collaborative workspace. If you’re still at home, try putting your phone into airplane mode, putting in some headphones (regardless of how rude you may feel), or close those pesky browser tabs.
- Mindfulness works – I’m a big advocate of trying this. Check out the Headspace app, or Ruby Wax’s Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled. This one-min animation is a great explainer for those who are getting started.
- Utilise tech – turn off notifications, mute apps, use snooze, and try tools like Focus Keeper.
Best of luck with your pro-crastination journey and let me know how you get on; I hope these ideas can spark a new friendship with ‘the thief of time’.
PS: If this blog resonates, myself (and Katie) recommend checking out this hilarious and apt 2016 TEDTalk by Tim Urban called ‘Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator’.