So. . . did you hear the one about the lady who was preparing a blog post about avoiding procrastination? It took her two weeks to write the damn thing.
Procrastination Rule #1: Jokes about procrastinating are never funny.
I’ve been thinking a whole lot about productivity lately as I seem to be drowning in the details. At the moment, my to-do lists (yes, you read the plural correctly) are spread out over one massive text file, one iPhone app, one notebook, and the backs of one receipt and two envelopes. Crossing things off just puts a band-aid on a gunshot wound.
Living and work away from home for six months has invited some fresh thinking about efficiency and vision. I’ve been taken out of what I thought was my regular life and given the rare opportunity to look at it like an outsider. I’m not going to get all Happiness Project up in here, but I want to move away from the busy trap into the “I totally have time to do that” flexible way of living.
And if the things I love happen to include studying various forms of acrobatics and learning to make good frosting, so be it.
Procrastination Rule #2: Being a procrastinator means that you will spend a lot of time thinking about procrastination.
So here are a few simple things I’m going to try for the next month. . . before I return “home,” or at least the place where a little bit of land and the house on it is being slowly paid off via a loan with my name on it.
Four Pro-Tips for Avoiding Procrastination:
1. Only look at it once.
You ever done this? You get an email. You think, “Oh, I really want to give this the attention it deserves. I’ll wait until I can reply properly!” You will wait until the end of time, and then your inbox will have 662 messages in it (hypothetically.) The secret is to look at it once: delete it, file it, take action. Basta. Those are your only three choices.
2. Use technology wisely.
Those 662 messages that are hypothetically clogging my inbox? One imagines that Google has a ton of functions that could help me organize that mess. I don’t need to buy any fancy app to help me get organized, I just need to better utilize what I already have.
3. Do less to do more.
There are some things I am going to have to say no to in the new year, and I’ve already started to do so (and it hurts.) It’s especially painful for theatre artists to say no. Even the most successful of us swim in a sea of rejection; when somebody wants you, it’s hard not to see it as a lifeline. On the other hand, I’m starting to think that my real lifeline starts with space in my days and my mind, rather than filling every moment and brain cell with a task and a responsibility.
4. Go back to neutral.
If this seems stunningly obvious to you, then you (lucky you!) are not a procrastinator. I tend to leave ten tabs open on my computer at night, thinking “I’ll start with those things tomorrow!” The truth is that I start the next day with clutter and get lost on my way to getting anything at all done. I’m not messy as a person, but I leave these symbolic to-do lists everywhere. At the end of the day, a clean desktop, a clean workspace, etc. opens up the possibility of the next day, rather than reminding you that you’re already behind.
Procrastination Rule #3: Lists make you feel like you’ve accomplished something when you’ve really accomplished nothing at all.
So I’m going to give these ideas a test drive, and the first thing I might do is burn my lists. Then I’m going to make my bed and answer some email. If you’re #661 on the list, hold on, I’m a-comin.