Am I procrastinating other things to write this? Well, yes. It’s the only way I get anything done.
I’m writing about Social Media at the moment; hoping to get a rough chapter draft to my supervisor before my meeting on Wednesday morning. More than anything I’ve ever worked on, this is a minefield. There are legitimate reasons behind wanting to look at forums, read blogs, flick through Facebook updates and trawl through Twitter. In all directions lie time sinks that will happily distract me for months – let alone the next 36 hours.
A few years ago, I wrote about using procrastination as a way of doing important things, instead of focussing on all the stuff you aren’t doing. I later discovered that I was hardly the first person to write about it, as John Perry coined the term Structured Procrastination back in 1995. It’s pretty straightforward, and seems to be working for me so far.
Essentially, I need to have lots of jobs to do. I’m a multi-tasker, and feel completely lost with only a single task to focus on. Fortunately, lots of tasks are easy to find. Among other things, I’m halfway through a PhD; working various jobs as a research assistant, painter and publisher; managing a forum community (with 8,000 members at last count) and trying to make sure two people have enough uncluttered space and food to survive in my house. So, overload successful. What next?
Occasionally, “next” involves collapsing under the weight of all the jobs, and wondering how the hell I’ll manage to survive them. Let’s not focus on those times, though.
On happier days, “next” involves starting work on something important. I’ll sit down and open up a file, briefly re-read what I wrote last, and then get stuck in to it. For about half an hour, or until my mind starts to wander…
Then, I grab for another important thing on the “to do” list, and throw myself at it. It satisfies the channel-surfing part of my procrastinator’s brain (by giving it something different to look at), and still gets things done (by incrementally working on something else that was still important). Rinse and repeat as needed.
By the end of the day, I haven’t spent eight hours on the one project. That’s okay, though, as I don’t believe that kind of mono-focus works for me unless I’m painting. Instead, I’ve managed eight hours of productive work, spread between the important things that needed doing. All the procrastinating time becomes productivity on other tasks, instead of wasted time.
Today, it means that I’ve used my lunchbreak to update this blog after a morning of writing various different chunks of the chapter. I’m about to get stuck into writing again, but next time I change tasks I’ll take advantage of the fact that I’m working from home today, by riding over to the gym to get some exercise. All things I wanted to get through today, but none of them likely to follow an office-hours schedule…