Saturday 15 August 2009

Procrastination - The War Begins

I have declared war on procrastination. Let battle commence.

“What is procrastination,” you may ask.

This short video sums it up perfectly:

Basically procrastination is the inability to perform tasks on time (if at all), preferring to defer them until later. For example, I have been planning in my mind to sit down and write a book. Each time I sit down at my PC, I become distracted with email, games, music, looking at my feet, polishing my desk, reading about the effect of rainwater on gravel and end up spending an unproductive hour wasting my time doing anything but writing.

The word “procrastination” comes from the Latin “pro” (for) “crastinus” (tomorrow), i.e. put off until tomorrow and that’s exactly what I do. And tomorrow never comes.

For me, it is not just writing a book; I know that certain other tasks need to be done but instead of getting up and doing them, I find something else to do, something mundane, something pointless, in fact anything but the task at hand.

Recently I’ve been asking myself why I procrastinate and, quite frankly, I simply cannot answer the question. I am utterly clueless. Why do I sit down at my PC with the best intentions, yet five minutes later end up playing my fourth game of “Bejeweled”? Why do I mentally prepare myself to write a chapter of a book and end up watching repeats of Blackadder?

I’ve even sat there tidying my desk. Why would I do that? Am I insane?
I don’t suffer from this annoying affliction all of the time. When I’m at work, I almost always achieve the deadlines imposed upon me and attack problems with gusto and professionalism. I am commended for it. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I am a workaholic (far from it) but I do achieve what is expected of me; if I were to procrastinate at work I would suffer – so I don’t.

Yet when I get home, I will sit and watch TV rather than start my blockbuster. Why?

It’s not as if I have a deadline. I’ve not told myself that I need to write a book within a year. I don’t have anybody telling me that I should sit down and write the bloody thing. I want to do it for fun. I want to do it as a hobby. I’m not even sure that I will get as far as trying to publish it. The book is for me and me alone.

So what is wrong with me? Here are a few other things I procrastinate over:

(1) Mrs PM and I decided two years ago to take up dancing. Have we done it yet? No!

(2) I convinced myself after a visit to France that I wanted to retire there. Mrs PM speaks very good French. My French is pretty bad and I need to improve a lot. I decided a year ago to enrol in a French course in the centre of Manchester. Have I done it yet? No!

(3) I haven’t done any real exercise for four or five years now. Two years ago I decided to cycle to work at least twice a week during the Spring, Summer and Autumn months. The distance from home to work is approximately 5 miles. It would keep me fit, save petrol (and therefore money) and reduce stress. Have I done it? Once or twice. ONCE OR TWICE!!

What the hell is wrong with me?

I’ve had enough. The only thing that I have managed to keep up outside work is the maintenance of this blog. For some reason, I actually look forward to writing drivel for people to read, criticise, comment on or even ignore. I need to capture the feeling I get from blogging, merge it with the drive I have at work and then apply it to those areas that fester or die due to procrastination. I have done some research and I think I understand the problem. Here are the main culprits:

(1) Disorganisation and bad time management - I am totally disorganised. At work, I keep a “to do” list and manage to maintain it. At home, however, I keep no lists at all and I do not set myself deadlines.

(2) Distraction - I am easily distracted. If I start surfing the web for research, I will invariably stumble across a blog that interests me that has nothing to do with what I am doing. I will spot a game that is just dying to be played; I even end up reading stupid articles about how to take over the world armed with a cat, a pitchfork and a bag of sausages. If Mrs PM is in the other room watching TV I will actually strain my ears to discover what she is watching. I have even stooped so low as to abandon writing and researching to watch Gok Wan on TV. How utterly stupid is that?

(3) Fear of failure – I’m writing a book for myself, not for anybody else. So am I going to read it and then say “Well that’s a pile of crap, Dave!!”

(4) Feeling overwhelmed – Writing a book is not easy. I know – I’ve read books about it. Part of me feels like I have to climb a mountain with a blindfold in the middle of a hurricane.

(5) Indecision – If I am a true Libran, how can I decide what to write a book about? Do I write a horror story or a massive science fiction space opera? Do I write a thriller or romance novel? Or do I write humorous observation?

(6) Low frustration tolerance – I easily become frustrated if something is not working for me – and then I end up swearing and ranting and taking out my frustration on innocent people worldwide by trying to annihilate them on Mario Kart. But I can’t because I’m crap and that makes me even more frustrated.

(7) Paranoia – Will people like my book? Will I like my book? Will people talk about me because my book is crap?

Reading that list back makes me feel really stupid. Do you know why? Because each of the causes above can easily be overcome. I cope with this at work so why can’t I cope at home? Honestly, I feel like a wretched idiot who is making up excuses to feed the procrastination monster within; he is so full of pathetic excuses that he is obese and can barely lift his fat bloated body.

So here’s what I am going to do. I am going to declare war on that fat, ugly bloated monster within me called “The Procrastinator”. The first assault has just begun – this blog post. I am going to tackle each of the problems above as follows:

(1) Disorganisation – I will set myself deadlines and a list of things to be done by certain dates and I will try my utmost to stick to them.

(2) Distraction – I will reward myself for meeting my deadlines by allowing myself to do bits of fun stuff like getting my arse kicked on Mario kart. I will plan football matches into my schedule as well as Mrs PM time and other fun stuff. I will not allow myself to be distracted until a task has completed.

(3) Fear of failure – I am failing by not writing a book. My book is for me – if nobody else likes it, who cares? I will have achieved something even if it’s the worst book in the world ever.

(4) Feeling overwhelmed – I have a superb book about how to be a writer with tips about how to plan your work, so I am going to follow the advice in it. That way I will be able to tackle the huge amount of work by breaking it down into bite size chunks. There is no time limit on my book (I don’t have a publisher to drive me) so I will take my time and conquer the beast slowly.

(5) Indecision – I have an idea or two, so I will allow myself some time to decide and then simply go for the best option at the end of that time period.

(6) Low frustration tolerance – I appreciate that walking away from a problem or a mental block can be therapeutic. However, rather than yet another Mario Kart grand prix I shall go for a walk with my camera and then return to the problem at hand, hopefully refreshed and not frustrated.

(7) Paranoia – who cares if nobody likes my book? If I like it, that’s all that matters. If I don’t like it I will write another one.

So, dear reader, that’s it. Let battle commence.

If you have any tips or tricks to help me, I would be delighted to hear from you. Have you overcome procrastination? Do you suffer from it yourself? Please share your thoughts, no matter how trivial or pointless you think they may be. Every wise snippet will help (as will any funny ones).

I will let you know how the war progresses – starting tomorrow.

10 comments: said...

great blog keep up the good work

Plastic Mancunian said...

Thanks very much. I aim to do just that.



Kath Lockett said...

Oh I hear ya, Plasmanc. I may have written one book (Work/Life Balance for Dummies, in which I actually DISCUSS procrastination) but I had THREE measly MONTHS off work in which to write it, and boy, when there is a life or death deadline you stick to it!

However, at home, it's very different. Home = no work, relaxation, loved ones, goofing off.

I still somehow manage to submit the (paid) articles I need to, despite lurking on quality sites such as this one, LOLdogs, Go Fug Yourself etc. It's just that instead of being distracted by staff gossip, endless meetings and fighting off the plague-infested staff kitchen, I'm at home. And I have to say, our house has never been tidier - THAT's procrastination for you!

Plastic Mancunian said...

G'Day Kath,

Yup - I understand exactly what you mean. I've found myself doing anything but the things I NEED to do.

I've noticed that you have written a book but I didn't know you had mentioned procrastination in it. Sounds like an interesting read.




Unknown said...

There is a lot in there! I have to say I think if you both really wanted to go dancing, well you would have done it.
I reckon cycling to work is one of those things you decide to do becuase it would be healthy...find something you like doing to keep healthy instead ;)
Now, the crux of everything "the book"....
I think you will be ok once you start. You will create your own deadlines and research program but you need to start it. As for not caring if no-one like it, well you will. I tell myself that I don't care if no-one likes my art BUT I do.....but, I think you can deal with those feelings, well most of the time at least ;)
Your book has to have humour in it, that subtle dry wit is a must.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Chrissy,

Thanks for a great comment.

I have already started planning the book and laid out a rough plan - so I'm getting there.

Mrs PM really does want to dance and I think that will benefit as both as that is healthy and may even replace the cycling - plus it is something we can do together (learning French, writing a book, blogging and cycling are a little anti-social).

You are correct of course when you say that I WILL care what people think - I can't kid myself on that score.




Lidian said...

I can relate to all of this and often find Blackadder and Bejeweled (and many other online games) far more entrancing than working on my so-called mystery novel. And then when I write a few sentences I celebrate by taking weeks off!

I tell myself that it will all be different when the weather turns colder. Cannot think in hot weather, you see. It's always something.

And you have a great blog, so you ARE keeping up with your writing.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Lidian,

Glad to see somebody else has the same problem - well I'm not glad but, well - you know what I mean (hopefully).

The weather has no effect for me. If it's nice I find crap to do outside, if its nasty I find crap to do inside - any old crap (sorting out CDs, watching crap on TV, even tidying up).

Writing a blog post isn't too bad because they are small and self-contained. A book on the other hand is a different kettle of fish.

Anyway, good luck with the mystery novel.




Dorothy said...

I think procrastination often exists because we are overwhelmed and don't know where to begin therefore we begin nowhere and it makes newer and more overwhelming problems.

Best of luck and I hope you are able to overcome the cycle.

Dorothy form grammology

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Dorothy,

Being overwhelmed is an issue in my case but as I said, there are steps to overcome that - which I hope to follow.

Thanks for the encouragement.