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August 25, 2010

Besetting sin...

It may not be mentioned among the ten commandments, but to the fledgling writer, no sin is more damaging than procrastination. I foolishly thought that once I'd pushed through imagined barriers and achieved the incredible - actually finishing a writing project - I was clear of the dreaded thing. I imagined that I'd outsmarted it, that I knew how it worked. Never again, I vowed, will I let its tentacle-fingers trap me in my chair, while its seductive voice whispers Just check your email...

Well, more fool me. Procrastination, my friends, is alive and well.

My emails are all beautifully up to date, my kitchen is tidy, and I'm even looking at the laden fruit tree outside my window and considering making a batch of kumquat marmalade.

Meanwhile, of course, the word count on the current work in progress languishes dismally.

"I'm having thinking time," I've been telling myself. Which would be fine - except my 'thinking' time has grown from days into weeks. So I thought I'd share with you a technique which has lifted me out of this hole before, and will, I'm sure, do so again. It's called structured procrastination.

The technique is pretty simple. It basically involves making use of the fact that the average procrastinator will do almost anything to avoid that most important 'thing' which is at the very top of their to do list. In order to accomplish great things, and even earn a reputation as a very efficient person, all you have to do is structure your list of tasks to do in order of importance, with the list headlined by an item which seems terribly important, and urgent...but really isn't. To avoid doing this all-important something-or-other, the procrastinator, in full avoidance mode, will happily work on items lower down the list.

Now, I've known about this technique for some time. Unfortunately though, thinking I'd already dealt with that procrastination thing once and for all, I've had "Work on current novel" clearly in the number one position on my list of important tasks for some time now. For a normal person, that would probably be okay. For a procrastinator (even one who may have been in denial at the time) - big mistake.

Predictably enough, I've achieved very little on that top-billed item, or in general lately (except the aforementioned tidy kitchen, which let me tell you, was way, way down the list).

So I'm back on the wagon. I'm officially a procrastinator. And I really, really want to be a functioning, efficient structured procrastinator who gets lots done through artful self deception. As of this minute, I am publicly announcing that the number one task I really have to get done is my tax return. It's already months overdue.

In order to avoid this very important thing, I'm hoping I might do other less important tasks which are much further down the list. Like oh, say, finish a novel.

1 comment:

Rachael Harrie said...

Ooh, I love this. Think I might jump on the structured procrastination bandwagon as well!!!

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