The clock has long since rolled past midnight and any hope of sleep has flown out the window, where the brightening blue of the impending dawn threatens to mark the new day. Your assignment is due on this new day, and instead of pages of progress, the mocking blink of the black cursor on a blank page flickers and doubles as your eyes have trouble staying focused. Why! Why, you think! There was so much time, but you fettered it all away. Adorn yourself with a black P, for you are a procrastinator.
The Romantic Myth of the Furious Creator
I think we’ve all dreamed of waking up one morning to find whatever project we had been putting off completed. The work is brilliant and thorough and your doing, the result of a maddening burst of inspiration and energy, an intense need to create. After all, artists are artists because they couldn’t survive without creating, right? As for people like you and me, though, whatever we’re working on, it can wait just a couple minutes for that video compilation of stunts gone wrong, right? And what about those emails we were planning on responding to? Might as well take care of them now. And hey, now that we’ve been productive, we deserve a break, and then it’s time for food, and then we’ll need a few moments to digest. And then sunrise punches you in the face with the biggest of smiles.
The Cold Reality
If you’re reading this blog post, then you’re probably not someone blessed with that curse of the need to create. I, for one, am not a Furious Creator. More like... a Pondering Thinker. I’m the kind of person who likes to visualize a whole project, to wrap my head around the whole thing and see how all the components fit together. This works just fine for small things like emails or memos or five-hundred-word blog posts, but tackling larger projects results in absolute, complete paralysis. Suddenly, there are a million other things that need my attention, and the siren song of video games calls to me. The cold, harsh reality is that work is hard, that for people like me, no matter how much I enjoy what puts food on the table, the moment a large project comes along, there are magically a million other things I’d rather be doing.
The Dark Playground
Enter stage left: The Dark Playground. Simply put, the Dark Playground is where many procrastinators go when they’re putting off work. It’s a bizarro world where once-pleasant activities have become tainted by the guilt of a looming deadline. It’s where “This is fun!” becomes “This is fun! But really, you should be working.” The worst part about the Dark Playground is that often, it can make a procrastinator feel bad enough to encourage them to relax more to help how bad they feel, thus entering into a downward spiral into the abyss of lost productivity.
You Have My Permission
As a fellow procrastinator, I say unto thee: You have my permission to enjoy that online video. You have my permission to check your email a dozen times, to catch up on some shows, to start a load of laundry, to pop over to the store for some ice cream. You have my permission to do all of those things, and I ask for only one thing in return: chip away at your project.
Just Chip It!
That’s the secret. Chip away. There is no brilliant burst of creativity that will get that gigantic project done and make it feel as if no time were spent at all. For the vast majority of us and for virtually any large scale project, it is a bloody battle of attrition. Take whatever project is coming up and break it up into as small of chunks as you can muster. I give you permission to procrastinate, but I ask that you only complete one or two or three small chunks. Chip away. The goal here isn’t to complete the project, but to complete some small, simple task related to the completion of the project. Put those all-nighters in your past and just chip away. Slog through it, yes, but slog through it in as short a time as you can handle before rewarding yourself. In my case, those small chunks of projects added up, and once I got into the swing of things, I found myself being as productive as I had ever been but with more nights of restful sleep under my belt. I played games and enjoyed them instead of sweating over a looming deadline.
I believe in you. You can do the thing. Just chip away at it!