01 May, 2012

Professional Crastinating

Is it possible to put off procrastinating until later? As much as I procrastinate, you'd think I'd have figured out how.

I'm a terrible procrastinator, particularly about household finances—taxes, filing paperwork, bills. I do all the easy stuff first and leave all the difficult stuff until later. Pretty typical, right?

But I've noticed that when I do manage to make myself do the difficult stuff, it's never as difficult as I thought it was going to be. So there's really just this initial hump to get over. This same hump gets in my way whenever my wife suggests we do something like go for a walk, or take the kids to the park. I really don't wanna! but then I get out of my chair and get on my shoes and once I'm outside, it's not so bad.

I'm not going to try to analyze the underlying reasons why I'm like this; I'm sure there are some such reasons, but I think it's much more productive to look at the thought processes that occur while I'm procrastinating. There's a lot of internal debates that happen, and if I could figure out how to have the right side win those debates, maybe I'd get more done.

Mostly what I want to do, when I'm at home, is write. So let's say it's just after dinner. I sit down at my computer, and the kids are still awake, and I know that if I start writing I might get interrupted, which is death for productivity. Still, writing in five-minute snatches here and there is still better than not writing at all.

But before I can even open LibreOffice, I see the pile of dead trees on my desk: the aforementioned paperwork and bills. And I think, "I want to write, but I need to go through this paperwork. But I won't want to go through the paperwork. So I'm not going to. But I certainly can't do something I want when there's something that I need to do." And the upshot is, I end up doing neither of them. Instead, I sit there switching back and forth between Facebook and my RSS feeds on Google Reader, even when there hasn't been anything new in the last ten minutes.

Sometimes I even put off things I like doing, because it requires a mental context switch to reload the state—that is, get back to where I was. Writing a novel is awful for this, because there's almost a year of work there. Granted, it's not like I have to remember everything every time I open up a chapter, but it's still a hurdle to get over. Once I actually start the writing, then it's a breeze... but the hurdle's always in the way.

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